---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jess Riddle
Date: Nov 30, 2005 10:21 PM
Subject: Rocky Face Mountain, GRSMNP, TN
A few weeks ago, Michael Davie and I explored a cove on the
of Rocky Face Mountain and walked along Cosby Creek in the
northeastern part of the Smokies. Rocky Face Mountain juts west
of the main ridgeline of the Smokies. Tributaries of Toms Creek,
one tributary of Cosby Creek, drain the steep north side of the
mountain/ridge while the main stem of Cosby Creek flows at the
foot of the mountain. West of the ridge, extensive flats along
creeks supported settlers until the formation of the park. Dense
stands of tuliptrees, often around 120' tall, now populate those
The large northern red oak above Cosby Creek - photo by
The narrow cove we went up was too steep and rocky for
agriculture. However, adjacent farmers likely removed white ash
tuliptree from the cove leaving sugar maple and yellow buckeye
dominate. Slender silverbells also occupy much of the canopy,
declining yellowwood remain scattered in midstory positions.
entered the mix along the edge of the cove and at the top where
birch, black cherry, and chestnut debris occurred. An 11'3"
yellow buckeye appeared to slightly surpass the sugar maples as
tallest tree in the cove. Sugar maples reached comparable
circumferences with 11'5" x 123.4' and 10'3" x 128.4'
among the largest, but a stout 14'6" hemlock had the
largest trunk of
any tree in the cove. A yellowwood with a 9'2" cbh and
set a new park diameter record.
The dryness of the south side of the ridge stood in stark
the north side. The slope plunged down at approximately 40
but had only small rock outcrops. Pines, table mountain near the
and pitch lower down, mixed with chestnut oak and red maple to
most of the canopy over a continuous mountain laurel understory.
During the last series of droughts, pine beetles killed many of
most of the mature pines; several areas of young, live pines
Although the slope was never cut, no species reached great age.
These harsh conditions made the presence of one fertile cove
surprising. The rocky, southwest-facing cove harbored mature
maple, yellow buckeye, bitternut hickory, and basswood. A small
of northern red oaks on the edge of the area included an
17'2" x 110.6' individual.
While the forest was not a pure tuliptree stand, the even young
the trees and rock wall gave clear evidence that settlement had
occurred at least briefly on the Cosby Creek at around 3400'
elevation. The road to that farm provided means for removing the
valuable trees from the creek-side down to the farming community
around 2600'. A swath of rich cove forest continuously lined the
creek within a matrix of hemlock dominated forest. Impressive
trees left along the creek included a 14'10" yellow
buckeye, a 12'5"
sugar maple, and a 14'6.5" x 135.9' hemlock. Roughly 14'
tuliptrees still lurked around the edges of the rich cove
hinted that much larger trees were removed.
Farther down Cosby Creek in an area that was cleared but not
grows a 4'8" x 115.5' silverbell. The other tree measured
day was a 1'2" x 39.7' winged sumac in the NPS Foothills
Jess Riddle & Michael Davie