Wilderness Spotlight: Ellicott Rock Wilderness

Ellicott Rock is unique among wilderness areas in that it is shared between three states: North Carolina (3,394 acres), Georgia (2,021 acres) and South Carolina (2,859 acres).  The area was designated as wilderness in 1975.  It received its name for the “N G” chiseled in a rock by surveyor Andrew Ellicott in 1811 indicating the point of beginning of the dividing line between North Carolina and Georgia.  However, two years later, a second rock was declared the true beginning point by commissioners from NC and SC.  Both Ellicott and Commissioners rocks can be seen during periods of low water in the Chattooga River flowing through the center of the wilderness area.

There are two entrances into Ellicott Rock Wilderness on the NC side and both have trails which will lead you to the rocks.  The Ellicott Rock Trail is found at the western entrance, southeast of Highlands, NC.   The shorter, Bad Creek Trail, is accessed from the eastern entrance south of Cashiers on Bull Pen Road.

You’ll find a handful of primitive campsites along Bull Pen Road at Ammons Branch Campground and more in the gorge by the river.  This stretch of the Chattooga is popular with trout fishermen but it’s not easy to reach.  The last three miles go straight down – or up on your return.  The hike will reward you with solitude through rugged terrain, second-growth forests and lush flora created by the near rainforest conditions in the area which averages between 70 and 80 inches of rainfall each year.

Another way to explore the wilderness is from the Chattooga itself. Protected in 1974 by The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, it is considered by most to be the premier whitewater river in the Southeast, though the wildest sections are south of the NC line.  http://www.rivers.gov/rivers/chattooga.php