The Transylvania Times -

By Derek McKissock
News Editor 

Gorges State Park Features New Amenities This Year

 


There are a lot of new things going on at Gorges State Park.

For one, the park has opened two new picnic shelters: Bearwallow and White Pines.

Both shelters come with grills, a rock fireplace, parking and restroom facilities. The park’s loop road will also be open this summer. This fall, the park will open a new 7,100-square-foot visitors center with interpretative and educational exhibits, as well as a park maintenance facility.

Gorges State Park was created in 1999 and continues to grow. According to Ranger Mary Smith, the park got its name from the five streams that carry water through the park along and over the Blue Ridge Escarpment, creating beautiful waterfalls and steep-walled gorges, hence the name.

There is something for everyone to enjoy at Gorges State Park. The park offers Hiking, mountain Biking, horseback riding, primitive camping and picnicking. Trails and roads provide views of the park and an opportunity to explore the rugged terrain, which is home to a diverse range of natural communities.

The area is ecologically rich with nearly 125 rare plant and animal species. Twelve are endangered or threatened.

Gorges State Park is accessible from two entry points: 1) Grassy Ridge Access off U.S. 281 South in Sapphire and 2) Frozen Creek Access Area off Frozen Creek Road near Rosman.

Grassy Ridge Access

This area of the park offers visitors picnicking, restroom facilities, reserve table shelters, Hiking to Upper Bearwallow Falls and Bearwallow Valley Overlook, primitive hike-in camping at a pond, and opportunities to drive through the park on a paved loop road to enjoy scenic views of the Jocassee Gorges.

Frozen Creek Access

At Frozen Creek, visitors can also enjoy picnicking, primitive hike-in camping and long distance trails to Lake Jocassee and South Carolina gamelands.

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This area also welcomes a variety of uses: horseback riding, mountain Biking and traditional foot travel. Visitors must show proof of a negative equine infectious anemia test when visiting state parks with their horses.

When camping in the park, visitors must fill out the registration envelope located at the appropriate access area, or camping reservations can be made by calling 1-877-722-6762 or online at northcarolinastateparks.reserveamerica.com.

Other Accessible Areas

The park provides access for the U.S. Forest Service area along the Horsepasture River.

The area is popular for viewing Rainbow and Turtleback waterfalls. To access this area, use the Grassy Ridge Trailhead, located 1.7 miles from the N.C. 281 South park entrance. This is the only access area for these waterfall attractions. Parking along N.C. 281 South, near the park entrance and along park roads, is strictly prohibited. The trail leading to the Horsepasture River from N.C. 281 South is also closed to hikers.

The Foothills Trail was established by Duke Energy and runs for approximately 7 miles through the southern portion of the park and runs along Lake Jocassee.

The trail connects Table Rock and Oconee State Parks in South Carolina, a 76-mile stretch. One of its access points is from Gorges State Park via the 5-mile Canebrake Trail at the Frozen Creek Access Area.

Inexperienced hikers are not recommended to tackle the more remote trails.

Free public programs are offered every weekend throughout the summer (see calendar) and don’t forget to plan a trip in the fall for the opening of the new visitor center.

FOR MORE INFROMATION

Connect with the park office Monday – Friday, 8 a.m.

to 5 p.m.

Phone: (828) 966-9099.

TRANSYLVANIA SPOTLIGHT

Mary Smith is a ranger at Gorges State Park.

“As a ranger, I can’t help but be impressed by the fact that the park has one of the greatest concentrations of rare and unique species in the eastern United States.

“Due to the rugged nature of the park and some of the fragile plant communities that exist here, there are plenty of special treasures for those with the skill and patience to seek them out as well as developed trails to areas for all people to enjoy.

“However, personally, I am always delighted by the simple surprises. It is nice to be walking quietly on a trail and view a cluster of Lady Slipper or discover evidence of past use, such as finding old lime kilns or home sites and thinking about the people who were here before us.”

 
 

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