Creek, GSMNP, NC
12, 2006 07:42 PST
Thomas Divide juts southeast from the main ridge of the Great
Mountain for, and maintains an elevation of approximately 5000'
finally descending below Newton Bald. Collins Creek flows east
Thomas Divide and north off the adjacent Newton Bald. Prior to
formation of the park, a logging railroad snaked up the main
the creek from the stream's mouth above Cherokee, NC at 2400'
elevation; however, little logging occurred on the stream's
fork, and farming was scarce in the rest of the watershed.
forays up the north fork located a hemlock over 150' tall,
red oaks to 140', a swollen tuliptree with a 23' cbh, and the
Moderately inclined, north facing slopes along the stream
rich second-growth forest with an open understory. Tuliptrees
comprise most of the canopy, but basswoods grow along drainages
black locusts, many of them dead, occur on the upper slopes.
of the young tuliptrees reach three feet dbh, and many approach
tall; however, significantly taller trees are absent.
Farther up the stream, around 3500' elevation, the forest
unusually mixed for second growth. Tuliptree still occurs, but
as scattered emergent individuals. White ash probably has the
canopy coverage of any species, but sugar maple, black birch,
birch, basswood, cucumbertree and silverbell are also common.
current abundance of cucumbertrees partially results from the
of the watershed passing over the species, an uncommon practice.
Hemlocks provide green to the midstory, and shrubs have not
The railroad did not penetrate above about 4000', so large
still fill the upper coves. Hemlocks and rhododendrons cover
the higher ridges, but hardwoods occupy much more of the
portion of the watershed. Not surprisingly, white ash, northern
oak, basswood, yellow birch, and yellow buckeye dominate the
Kanati Fork lies farther up the Oconaluftee River watershed, and
drains a smaller portion of the east side of Thomas Divide. The
watershed resembles the main stem of Collins Creek in both
history and in having high, sheltering ridges to the south. The
Kanati Fork trail, which winds along slopes above and northwest
stream, traverses three distinct sections of forest. The upper
passes through steep, open coves with sugar maples and large
red oaks. The middle part of the trail traverses drier, younger
filled with chestnut oak, black birch and rhododendron. The
trail weaves in and out of narrow ravines and small coves that
rich, hardwood forest.
Species Cbh Height Creek
Basswood, White 7'7.5" 133.3' Collins Creek
Basswood, White 7'4" 133.6' Collins Creek
Basswood, White NA 142.1' Kanati Fork
Birch, Yellow Coppice 98.8' Collins Creek
Buckeye, Yellow 13'3" ~111' Collins Creek
Buckeye, Yellow 13'3.5" 133.7' Collins Creek
Buckeye, Yellow 15'4" 137.6' Collins Creek
Locust, Black NA 156.9' Kanati Fork
Magnolia, Cucumbertree 12'10" 127.9' Collins Creek
Oak, Northern Red 17'3" NA Collins Creek
Oak, Northern Red 6'9.5" 134.2' Collins Creek
Oak, Northern Red 7'4" 142.4' Collins Creek
Serviceberry, Allegheny 5'4" 101.3' Collins Creek
Serviceberry, Allegheny 4'6.5" 104.9' Collins Creek
Tuliptree NA 167.1' Kanati Fork
The 15'4" buckeye swells below two burls on the lower
trunk, so the
tree has a Coke-bottle shape. However, the tree is still a
North Carolina state champion, with a long spread of 51.4' and
average spread of 48.3'. More remarkably, the tree grows at at
4400' elevation; where in most of the Smokies, buckeyes only
three feet diameter and 120' tall. The black locust is the
tallest so far found. The tree fills something of a gap since
record locust, at 162', was nearly ten feet taller then the next
tallest known. The large northern red oak is remnant tree along
middle of Collins Creek with a dead top. The tallest northern
is nearly dead. The current record serviceberry had also seemed
something of an anomaly. The two tall serviceberries both grow
diverse second growth forest along Collins Creek, and they have
reached unusually great diameters for such low elevation.
Creek now has three of the five tallest known serviceberries.
I was rather tired by the time I reached lower Kanati Fork, so I
measured trees from the tree. The forest in the east facing
along the creek resembles the recently found grove on Bradley
Chasteen Creek more than lower Big Creek. The exceptional
lower Big Creek are similar in age, but more diverse than the
Fork coves. Streamside areas and north facing slopes along
Fork have not yet been explored, so the stream has great
hold exceptionally tall trees.