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Cohutta Wilderness Extensions

Cohutta Wilderness Extensions

Approximate size: 5,402 acres
Old-growth known: 0 acres

The Cohutta Wilderness is the largest wilderness area in the Southern Appalachians (37,030 acres), and was the first designated in Georgia (1975). From Blue Ridge, Chatsworth, or Ellijay most of the trailheads are still a 45-minute drive, much of that time spent on winding, gravel roads through the forest. Almost the entire upper Conasauga River watershed lies within the wilderness area, as does the main stem of the Jacks River and its major tributaries. The resulting high water quality helps maintain nationally significant levels of aquatic biodiversity in the Conasauga River watershed, which includes the Jacks River.

The eastern Cohutta Wilderness Extension would protect the rest of the Jacks River watershed, including many headwater streams, except for small areas in the Mountaintown Mountain Treasure and on private land. The South and West Forks of the Jacks River in the area support rare beaver-created meadows. Historically, beavers created essential open habitat in moist areas. Unlike openings created by logging, beaver-created openings did not immediately return to forest – the meadows in the extension have been above water and open for at least 25 years. The fur trade crashed beaver populations, and agriculture and development have left beavers unwelcome in much of their former habitat. The beaver meadows in the extension are unusually extensive for the mountains and high elevation.

The Jacks River Fields campground sits on the edge of the eastern extension and serves as the trailhead for the South Fork Trail. The trail passes by a waterfall, offers glimpses of the beaver meadows, and connects to both the Pinhoti and Benton MacKaye Trails. The 338-mile Pinhoti Trail reaches its eastern terminus within the area where it joins the Benton MacKaye Trail.

The hotter, drier, western extension presents a sharp contrast. The Horseshoe Bend Trail runs through the area and provides access to the wilderness trail system. The area’s low elevations and gentle topography are scarce within the Cohutta Wilderness and rare in the National
Wilderness System in general. A broad band of phyllite, a fine-textured slate-like rock, also runs under the area, which is rare in existing Georgia Wilderness and other Mountain Treasures.

Help us protect this 16,000-acre oasis of waterfalls, old-growth, rare species, panoramic views, and world-class trails.

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