Pisgah National Forest

The Pisgah National Forest consists of over half a million acres of forest surrounding Mt. Pisgah. The beginnings of the Pisgah National Forest occurred when George Vanderbilt, the grandson of railroad baron, Cornelius Vanderbilt, assembled property around his growing estate at the confluence of the Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers in western North Carolina. As he added to his 125,000 acre estate, one of the acquisitions included Mt. Pisgah. The mountain dominates the Pisgah Ledge, which parallels the French Broad River west of the Biltmore Estate.

West of Biltmore, thousands of acres of his “Pisgah Forest” were managed for the production of timber, water, and other natural resources. These lands were managed first by Gifford Pinchot, forester, conservationist, and first Chief of the Forest Service; and later by Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck, a German forester hired by Vanderbilt on Pinchot’s recommendation. The area was sold after Vanderbilt’s death in 1914 to the U.S. Government and became one of the first tracts of the Pisgah National Forest.

Purchase of land to become National Forest was possible because farsighted North Carolina law makers passed state legislation and supported the passage in the Federal Congress of the 1911 Weeks Act. The first tract of land purchased under the Weeks Act for the Pisgah National Forest was in McDowell County. The process initiated here also began the establishment of all other National Forests east of the Mississippi. This 8,100-acre tract on Curtis Creek can be reached on Forest Service Road #482 which goes north off U.S. Highway 70, 2 miles northeast of Old Fort. The tract is appropriately signed and identified. From these first purchases, including the Pisgah Forest tract purchased in 1917 from Vanderbilt’s widow, grew the half million acre Pisgah National Forest. It, along with the Nantahala National Forest, makes up a significant portion of the remaining forested land in western North Carolina.