the towering trees and
carpets of wildflowers in this
of the original Appalachian forest.
|A walk through Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is
a journey back in time through a magnificent
forest with towering trees as old as 400
years. Some enormous yellow-poplars are over
20 feet in circumference and stand 100 feet
tall. The floor is carpeted with a garden of
wildflowers, ferns, and moss-covered logs
from fallen giants.
The only way to see the
impressive memorial forest is on foot. The
Kilmer National Recreation Trail covers 2
miles and has two loops: the 1¼-mile lower
loop passes the Joyce Kilmer Memorial plaque,
and the upper ¾-mile loop swings through
Poplar Cove, a grove of the largest trees.
The trailhead parking area has a flush toilet
and picnic tables. No camping or overnight
parking is allowed.
forest is beautiful in all seasons. Many
wildflower show off their blooms in the
spring before tree leaves open and shade the
forest floor. Summer is wet, green,
-- a time when the forest is noticeably
cooler than the parking area. Fall signals
the gradual color change from greens to red,
orange, yellow, and maroon. Then the
fall revealing the "bones" of the
Beware of Fallen
huge trees are very old; some are dying,
creating the potential for falling limbs and
trees. Because the forest is in a designated
wilderness, dead trees are not removed.
Please follow these tips for your safety and
the health of the forest:
- Stay out of the memorial forest on
windy days or after a snowfall or ice
storm when branches and trees are
more likely to fall.
- Be alert! Glance Overhead frequently
and don't linger under dead and dying
- Stay on the trail to avoid trampling
the wildflowers and ferns and to
prevent additional damage to the
roots of these giant trees.
- Leave all plants for the others to
enjoy. No plants, living or dead, may
be cut or removed.
A Special Forest
memorial forest is an outstanding example of a cove
hardwood forest -- a forest characterized by rich,
thick soils; abundant moisture; and a variety of
flora. In 1935, the regional forester wrote the
Chief of the Forest Service that the forest was one
of the "very few remaining tracts of virgin
hardwood in the Appalachians...(and) we ought to buy
it to preserve some of the forest original growth in
In 1936, the Forest Service bought 13,055 acres
for the lofty sum of $28 per acre (at a time when
most land was going for $3 to $4 per acre). While
most of the surrounding land was logged, the area
around Little Santeetlah Creek was spared --
protected by a recognition of its uniqueness and the
drastic drop of lumber prices after the "crash
A Living Memorial
of the Foreign Wars asked the government to set aside
a fitting stand of trees to serve as a living
memorial to Joyce Kilmer, who was killed in action
during World War I. Although Kilmer was both a
soldier and a poet, he is most remembered for his
poetry about common, beautiful things in nature.
Kilmer's best known poem is "Trees."
Hunting and Fishing
and fishing are allowed in the memorial forest and
surrounding wilderness. This area is popular for bear
and boar hunting from mid-October until January 1. For additional
information, contact the North
Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, 512 N. Salisbury St.,
Raleigh, NC 27604, or telephone 888-248-6834.
WILDERNESS: An Enduring Resource
In 1975, Congress designed the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock
Wilderness, which included the memorial forest. The
1984 Wilderness Act expanded the wilderness to a
total of 17,394 acres. Like other wildernesses, Joyce
Kilmer-Slickrock is managed to protect naturalness
and solitude. No motorized or mechanical vehicles or
equipment, such as cars, chain saws or bicycles, are
allowed within the wilderness.
Wilderness trails are generally maintained to the
most primitive standards, with few, if any, signs or
blazes. Outside the memorial forest, wilderness
travelers are urged to carry a topographic map and
compass and know how to use them. Wilderness hikers
will find no shelters, restrooms, or water faucets.
They must meet and live with nature on its own terms.
A topographic map of the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock
Wilderness may be purchased from the district office:
Cheoah Ranger District
Lauren Stull, District Ranger
1070 Massey Branch Road
Robbinsville, NC 28771