Do adventure seekers there today still search for gold while they are enjoying other outdoor activities? “Yes, they do, but I don’t know how successful they are,” says Terry Savery, recreation program manager at Uwharrie National Forest, land initially purchased in 1931 by the Federal Government to protect and preserve mixed woodlands of oak and pine.
|Searching for gold in N.C. led to|
America's first gold rush.
The priceless search for adventure in the Uwharrie still brings in steady streams of outdoor enthusiasts. More popular than gold panning today are camping, picnicking, hiking, hunting, mountain biking, horseback riding, kayaking, boating and fishing.
The forest gets its name from the Uwharrie Mountains, considered to be the oldest mountains in North America. Formed about 500 million years ago with peaks as high as 20,000 feet, what had been a coastal mountain range now sits more than 150 miles from the coast and lies obviously in the Piedmont region because a gravitational shift pushed today’s coastal plain above sea level. The high points of the mountains now are only a fraction of their once magnificent heights, reduced by gradual erosion to just over 1,100 feet.
|Bald eagles are often spotted|
in the Badin Lake area.
A special area is the Birkhead Mountain Wilderness, which was established in 1984 on the northern end of the Uwharrie Mountains. Because motor vehicles, motorboats and motorized equipment are prohibited in federal wilderness areas, the Birkhead offers astonishing opportunities for solitude with nature. Even travel by bicycle and on horse is prohibited. All trails in the wilderness are designated hiking trails.
Named for the Birkhead family who moved in around 1850 and eventually owned almost 3,000 acres, the wilderness still shows clues of early Indians and settlers who occupied the area many years earlier. The Birkhead Mountain Trail traverses the wilderness from north to south for more than four miles. Along the route are remnants of old homesteads and farms, old roads, gold mining operations and evidence of timber harvesting.
|The Uwharrie National Forest protects and |
preserves mixed woodlands of pine and oak.
The Uwharrie is a top tourist destination for good reason. With its enticing road and trail system, abundant lake and river frontage, and moderate slopes and elevations, it’s the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy nature.
Note: This post appeared originally as a longer article in the August 2015 issue of OutreachNC, a monthly magazine distributed in 10 counties of central North Carolina. Click here to see the article as it appeared in print.