Upper Chestnut Branch and Kilby Branch   Jess Riddle
  Nov 19, 2004 11:59 PST 

Last weekend Michael Davie and I visited the upper section of Chestnut
Branch, one of the streams in the lower section of the Big Creek
watershed. Both Will Blozan and Mike had measured some impressive remnant
trees scattered in the farmland along the lower section of the creek, and
we thought the narrower upper forks of the stream might still support
there original forest. Dropping into the drainage from a gap around 4000'
elevation, we immediately started seeing signs of logging on the dry,
chestnut oak and mountain laurel covered slope. Where we intersected one
fork at around 3600', looked to be in the 65 to 75 year age range typical
of forests in the area, but clearly had not been farmed. Tuliptree and
black cherry were common along the rocky drainage with scattered basswood,
sugar maple, and bitternut hickory. The other forks of the stream have
larger ridges on their south sides, so they flow through cooler, moister
environments. Young yellow birch, black birch, hemlock, red maple, and
silverbell formed the forest under those conditions. Slightly farther
down the value, the forest on the north facing slope draining into
Chestnut Branch consisted of alternating swaths of hemlock-red
maple-fraser magnolia and boulderfieds dominated by basswood and other
mesophytic species.

Kilby Branch drains from the southern edge of the Chestnut Branch
watershed southeast into Big Creek. The relatively flat upper part of the
drainage supports an open forest with many northern red oak, red maple and
tuliptree in the canopy and an occasionally dense understory of striped
maple. Trees in the eight to ten foot range are common in the area and
many appear over 125 years old, but cut chestnut logs and the remnants of
an old skid trail also persist int the area. The hemlock and tuliptree
forest in the highly sheltered area where the two forks of the stream
merge appears uncut. Tuliptrees in that area are well over 200 years old
and appeared to reach approximately 12' x 140'. The neighboring hemlocks
were somewhat smaller. The bottom of the drainage supports young, dense
tuliptree groves, like much of the rest of the Big Creek area, but they
appear more acidic and less diverse than the groves farther down the

Chestnut Branch
Species Cbh Height Comment
Ash, white 8'10" 146.2' easily the largest seen
Basswood, white NA 127.2'
Birch, black NA 105.6'
Birch, yellow NA 95.8' probably reaches 100' in area
Cherry, black NA 128.2' many comparable trees
Cherry, black 6'3" 131.0'
Cherry, pin 5'1" 83.6' dying, fallen one larger
Hickory, bitternut 11'8.5" ~127' remnant, old, massive
Hickory, mockernut 7'1" 131.1' by trail, park record?
Magnolia, fraser 6'8" 109.8'

Kilby Branch
Cherry, Black 10'0" ~110' near ridge top
Cherry, Black 6'9" 126.9'
Maple, red 12'2" ~110' remnant
Maple, red 8'3" 123.8'
Oak, chestnut 8'1.5" 122.7' young
Rhododendron 2'2" NA
Tuliptree NA 154.6'+ young, near bottom

Jess Riddle
RE: Upper Chestnut Branch and Kilby Branch   Will Blozan
  Nov 19, 2004 14:47 PST 


The mockernut is surely a new park height record. Ed Coyle and I measured a
big one near the trail but on the "southwest" side of Chestnut Branch. It
was almost a NC State Champion but missed by a few points.

Great report!