Designate the Nolichucky as a National Wild and Scenic River
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The Nolichucky River is one of the last major free-flowing rivers in the Southeast. From its origins high on the slopes of North Carolina's tallest peaks, the 'Noli' carves its way through one of the deepest river gorges in the Eastern US before joining the French Broad River in Tennessee.
A 7.2 mile section of the Nolichucky Gorge between Poplar, NC and Unaka Springs, TN was recommended by the US Forest Service for protection under the Wild and Scenic River Act in 1994. Unfortunately, a bill has never been introduced to congress to finalize a Wild and Scenic River designation.
The Noli is known for it's outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreation, geologic, and ecological values. It is home to several endangered or threatened species of animals and plants such as the Appalachian Elk-Toe Mussel and Virginia Spirea. The river is a major destination for whitewater enthusiasts who venture into the gorge to challenge themselves in the class II-IV rapids. It's also popular among anglers, hunters, and hikers. Thousands of visitors pass through the Noli Gorge every year with whitewater rafting companies and fishing guide services. This tourism generates great economic benefits for the local economies.
The Nolichucky Gorge stretches through parts of Mitchell and Yancey Counties in North Carolina, as well as Unicoi County in Tennessee.There is a rich human history in the area, yet the gorge remains largely untouched by development with the exception of a CSX rail line that parallels the river. In the last year, traffic on the line has dramatically decreased and will likely continue to do so in the future. While there have been problems with water quality in the Nolichucky in the past, it is improving as upstream communities become more aware of the effects of pollution and sedimentation on downstream resources.
Designation of the Nolichucky as a Wild and Scenic River will invigorate the local economies through increased tourism while giving permanent protection to this unique resource and ensuring it's enjoyment for future generations. Realizing the dream of a Wild and Scenic Nolichucky River will take widespread community engagement and support from our elected officials.
As the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act approaches in 2018, there is no better time than for building a movement around the Nolichucky Gorge. Let's get a bill passed through Congress. Please support the permanent protection of the Nolichucky River Gorge as a National Wild and Scenic River.
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