Creek, GSMNP, NC
30, 2007 17:00 PDT
Mingus Creek drains the southeast slopes of Newton Bald
~5180') before bending abruptly to the east and paralleling the
southern border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park for two
to reach the Oconaluftee River (elevation 2052') just above
NC. Four cemeteries within half a mile of the creek's mouth
the heavy historical usage of the stream's lower valley and
flats on the Oconaluftee. To give visitors a better
that historical life, the National Park Service maintains a
reconstructed grist mill on the lower part of the creek. Modern
activity on the stream also includes a small target range, a
trail along the creek that ties into the park's main trail
and a spur trail to another cemetery near the bend in the creek.
Unlike in some other sections of the park, the farming activity
not shift the focus of activity from logging on Mingus Creek.
watershed was thoroughly cleared for timber except for some
south-facing slopes and ridges. Those driest forests tend to be
dominated by scarlet oak with some black oak, chestnut oak,
red maple, and in places pitch pine, and have a continuous
of mountain laurel. Some of the thin soiled, steep, north facing
ridges also support fairly dry communities, but they lack
white oak, and mountain laurel. Instead, chestnut oak forms the
primary canopy over a layer of upright rhododendron. A more
layer of rhododendron lines most of the main stream and larger
tributaries under the shade of red maple, tuliptree, black
yellow birch but rarely hemlock. Tuliptree becomes much more
in the adjacent old fields where the species often forms pure
but may give way to mockernut hickory and black oak in drier
The most productive forests in the watershed often occur on
sites adjacent to old farm fields either in rocky areas at the
north facing slopes or in steeper north facing coves. On the
sites, tuliptree typically forms pure stands that grade into
northern red oak dominated forests around the upper edges.
and buckeye often grow in the midstory, and boulderfields within
coves may also feature sugar maple and white ash. The moist
boulderfields lower in the watershed have more diverse canopies
often include basswood and biltmore ash in addition to tuliptree.
cove forests typically have sparse understories although
saplings of sugar maple, buckeye, and silverbell are common in
Given the tree species present, the herbs in the coves do not
nearly as thick a cover as might be expected, but still feature
rich site species. The herb layer in one cove with a tuliptree
around 150' high consists of false hellebore, chickweed, grape
blue cohosh, bloodroot, violets, geranium, may-apple, rue
black cohosh along with smaller numbers of several other
Trees measured during two trips to the watershed this winter
Species Cbh Height
Ash, Biltmore 6'4" 134.5'
Ash, Biltmore 8'0.5" 139.5'
Ash, Biltmore 7'4" 148.6'
Ash, White 9'8" 135.8'
Ash, White 10'5" 141.9'
Basswood 3'1" 128.7'
Basswood NA 132.8'
Basswood 3'2.5" 137.9'
Basswood 4'10" 138.8'
Basswood 8'0" 144.0'
Basswood 5'1" 144.3'
Basswood 5'8" 146.6'
Beech 7'3.5" 130.1'
Beech 8'3" 132.8'
Beech 7'2.5" 142.6'
Dogwood, Flowering 2'2" 51.3'
Dogwood, Flowering 2'6" 52.0'
Hickory, Pignut 4'3" 137.4'
Locust, Black 6'6" 141.0'
Locust, Black 5'9" 144.5'
Magnolia, Cucumber 6'3" 136.1'
Magnolia, Cucumber 6'7" 141.2'
Magnolia, Cucumber 5'5.5" 143.8'
Maple, Sugar 4'5.5" 126.1'
Oak, Black 9'3" 129.7'
Oak, Northern Red 13'10"
Oak, Northern Red 8'4" 135.3'
Oak, Northern Red 12'8" 136.6'
Oak, Northern Red 10'3" 142.0'
Oak, Northern Red 10'0" 144.3'
Sumac, Winged 1'3.5"
Tuliptree 7'5" 161.0'
Tuliptree 6'11" 162.7'
Tuliptree 7'11" 167.1'
Tuliptree 7'11" 168.6'
Tuliptree 8'5" 169.3'
Tuliptree 5'1" 170.2'
Tuliptree 7'8" 171.4'
In the Mingus Creek watershed, biltmore ash grows only on rich,
facing slopes below about 2500'. The 148.6' individual is the
known of the variety in the Smokies.
The 3'2.5" x 137.9' basswood has a height to diameter
ration of 135 to 1.
The beech listed above are the three tallest known in the
although a dead one recently found in Cataloochee would also
over 130'. The 142.6' individual is a new height record for
Carolina, and makes the 143.2' height record tree at Savage Gulf
appear less of an anomaly.
The 52.0' height may be a record for flowering dogwood in NC.
The winged sumac establishes a height record for NC, but will
be exceeded by trees growing in floodplains in the coastal
All of the sheltered, north-facing sites, around 3000' in
that had not been farmed have tuliptrees over 160' tall. Many
tuliptrees of that height were seen, but not measured, and
170' trees may be present. The 5'1" x 170.2' tree is part
coppice, and at 105:1 may have the greatest height to diameter
so far recorded for a tree over 160' tall in the east. The
tuliptree grows on a steep slope about 50' above the center of
cove and only about 20' below the top of the small ridge that
separates the next cove, a surprisingly exposed position for
Rucker Index: 145.1'
Biltmore Ash 148.6'
Black Locust 144.5'
Northern Red Oak 144.3'
White Ash 141.9'
Pignut Hickory 137.4'
Black Oak 129.7'
At least one buckeye exceeds 130', so the Rucker Index is a
underestimate. The Rucker Index for the Oconaluftee watershed
stands at 153.9', and includes five trees from Mingus Creek.
Mingus Creek, GSMNP, NC
30, 2007 17:41 PDT
Another excellent trip report as always. I am impressed by the
of the Smokies. It seems that the climatic combination of sun
rain in the area are ideal to achieve the maximum growth of many
species. This suggests to me that the large hemlocks and pines
great height not as a result of genetic predisposition or
because of climatic conditions in the area.