Post contributed by Nancy Card
Middle Prong Wilderness, established by the NC Wilderness Act of 1984, takes in 7,900 acres according to the US Forest Service which manages the land. It’s bordered by Shining Rock Wilderness to the northeast, by the Blue Ridge Parkway to the southwest and received its name from the middle prong of the Pigeon River which bisects the area.
The land, once inhabited by the Cherokee, was settled by pioneers beginning in the late 1700’s. A town sprung up at the confluence of the river’s branches. Lumber companies cut large areas of native spruce, fir, hemlocks and hardwoods and built a railway system to haul the wood away. These railroad beds have become part of today’s trail system for hiking in Middle Prong.
The Mountains-to Sea Trail crosses the southern portion of the wilderness area; that, the Buckeye Gap and Green Mountain Trails are popular. Most hikes are rated difficult - elevations range from 3,200 to 6,400 feet near Richland Balsam – but, visitors are rewarded with views of rugged terrain covered in second-growth evergreens as well as grassy balds atop the ridges. And the river at the heart of it all is fed by numerous rushing streams.
This is a relatively small wilderness area now, but it has been proposed to extend the wilderness northward, nearly doubling its size. This wilderness area is part of the Pisgah National Forest and may be impacted by the US Forest Service Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Plan Revision. To learn more see http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/home/?cid=STELPRDB5397660
Also, click on the image above or here for a map of the Middle Prong Wilderness Are via wilderness.net!