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Development Proposed on Wilson Creek (NC)

Posted: 08/08/2007
By: Kevin Colburn

A large housing development is in the early planning stages for the banks of North Carolina's Wild and Scenic Wilson Creek.  The development, as planned, would lead to roughly 250 homes being built near the Creek on a 650 acre private lot that encompasses nearly 2 miles of Wilson Creek.  While much of the Wilson Creek Watershed is protected by the US Forest Service, this section of the river is under private ownership and is therefore managed primarily by Caldwell County. The development is proposed for a location upstream of the popular Class IV Wilson Creek Gorge and below Mortimer and the Challenging upper tributaries. County officials were supportive of Wild and Scenic Designation and will be considering the development later this month in a public meeting.

We ask that Wilson Creek paddlers send the County Commissioners an email voicing your concerns and your interests. A copy of the letter American Whitewater sent the County is below. We also ask that you consider attending the public meeting to be scheduled for later this month.

North Carolina has only 4 Wild and Scenic Rivers, 3 of which are classic whitewater runs: Wilson Creek, the Horsepasture, and the Chattooga. A small private inholding on the Horsepasture has resulted in public access to a popular swimming, boating, and photography area being blocked off and members of the public ticketted. A large section of private land on the Chattooga River welcomes people to the river's upper reaches with No Trespassing signs. Little is known about the ecological well-being of this section of the Chattooga River, however public access to the river has been shut off. We are hopeful that Wilson Creek will be protected from this type of conflict, and protected from environmental harm through careful and thoughtful management.

You can send a respectful and positive message to the Caldwell County Commissioners at:

Learn more about the Commissioners at:



Re: Proposed Housing Development on Wilson Creek

August 7, 2007

Dear Caldwell County Commissioners,

I am writing regarding the proposed housing development on Wilson Creek that you will be considering later this month. American Whitewater is a national nonprofit organization based in Western North Carolina and dedicated to protecting and restoring our nation's whitewater resources while enhancing opportunities to enjoy them safely. We have roughly 7,000 members and over 100 affiliate paddling clubs.Our members, many of whom live in your area, are generally dedicated noncommercial whitewater paddlers. As you are likely aware, Wilson Creek and its tributaries are iconic whitewater rivers that are recognized worldwide for their high quality rapids, scenery, and water quality.Our members treasure the experience of paddling, camping, and hiking in the Wilson Creek watershedAs such, we are greatly concerned with the proposed development on this classic Wild and Scenic River.

Whitewater paddlers come into direct contact with the water in Wilson Creek as we flip over, get splashed, temporarily submerge, and occasionally swim. This facet of our recreational enjoyment makes us very sensitive to water quality impacts. We are concerned that the proposed development may lead to increased sedimentation, fertilizer, pesticides, nutrients, petroleum products, and/or bacteria associated with sewage in Wilson Creek. Each of these water pollutants could directly or indirectly impact paddlers' health and/or their experience.

Whitewater paddlers actively seek rivers with high aesthetic quality. We are concerned that removal of riparian vegetation, addition of bank armoring, levees, road and bridge construction, and new houses could all impact the recreational experience that Wilson Creek currently offers. While we recognize that the area in question is not entirely undeveloped, we view the proposed development as a potentially significant impact to the current scenery viewed from the river.

Whitewater paddlers and other recreationists currently traverse the narrow road leading up Wilson Creek on our way to the gorge or the upper reaches of the watershed. The development has the potential to significantly increase traffic and traffic related risks for recreationists. This added traffic may also have added impacts to the recreational experiences of paddlers, anglers, and swimmers utilizing Wilson Creek relating to noise, dust, and scenery.

American Whitewater is not anti-development, however we become deeply concerned when a large development is planned for the banks of one of the most important and high quality whitewater rivers in the region. We ask that you approach this proposed development with the highest level of caution and scrutiny on behalf of the many Caldwell County residents and visitors that will rely on Wilson Creek as a sanctuary for generations to come. It may be that there is no way to build the number of homes proposed while protecting Wilson Creek and the experience of the many individuals who enjoy recreating on the Creek. If this is the case we would support and encourage a decision to prevent the development from occurring. If you feel that this project should or must go forward, we ask that you require the most stringent regulations possible to prevent the impacts that we have listed above.We also ask that you consider us as a stakeholder regarding this decision and keep us informed of your process and progress regarding this issue. We in turn will share news of the project with the many paddlers who will want to be involved.

Thank you for considering our interests, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


Kevin Colburn


National Stewardship Director

American Whitewater

1035 Van Buren St

Missoula, MT 59802

Kevin Colburn

Asheville, NC

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Associated Rivers

Gragg Prong NC
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North Harper Creek/Harper Creek NC
Wilson Creek NC


Wilson Creek Proposed Development Plan (8/8/2007)

This map outlines the proposed development on Wilson Creek as of August, 2007

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