National Wild & Scenic Wilson Creek

Flowing from the forested slopes of Grandfather Mountain, Wilson Creek is one of four federally designated National Wild & Scenic Rivers in North Carolina. Its watershed offers outstanding natural scenery, plentiful recreation opportunities, nationally-significant aquatic habitat and pristine trout waters that attract visitors to fish, swim, kayak, play and enjoy the creek’s rushing waters.

The creek originates on Calloway Peak and travels 23 miles through the heart of Pisgah National Forest, forming the spectacular Wilson Creek Gorge, before joining the Johns River and then the Catawba. Long sections of the creek in Caldwell County are bound by privately owned lands and small, historic communities like Mortimer and Edgemont. Wilson Creek was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System by Congress on August 18, 2000 at the request of leaders and citizens from Caldwell County.

In 2006, Foothills Conservancy completed a conservation study of Wilson Creek that underscored several incredible land preservation opportunities. When development plans for 250 home sites on a 650-acre tract along four miles of the river were about to be approved by Caldwell County, Foothills Conservancy moved swiftly to convince the owners, the Lutz family, to consider a different alternative: a conservation sale to create a world-class public trout fishery and state game land. After securing $7 million in public funds, the conservancy completed acquisition of the tract for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in 2009. So far, Foothills Conservancy has protected a total of 856 acres along nearly five miles of Wilson Creek, including additional acquisitions for the now 721-acre Wilson Creek State Game Land; and a conservation easement on the adjoining privately-owned 135-acre Edgemont Limited Fishing Club tract. We continue to work with willing landowners to conserve this nationally significant creek.

Wilson Creek: Behind the Scenes of Conservation