This site extends from the Toxaway River to the Whitewater River and includes the Horsepasture River and the Thompson River east of Highlands. These rivers
descend rapidly through steep gorges over a few miles, from an elevation of 915 to 366 m (3,002 to 1,201 feet). Like many other similar areas in the North Carolina mountains, much of the area was logged decades ago. Some xeric ridges contain pine stands, but most uplands are dominated by secondgrowth
oak-hickory forests with dense understories of rhododendron and mountain laurel.

Ornithological Summary

The site probably supports the largest population of Swainsons Warblers in North Carolina and significant populations of Worm-eating, Black-throated Green, and Black-and-white Warblers. The cove hardwood forests support a significant diversity and abundance of birds associated with this habitat type (Criteria 3).

Conservation Issues

Residential and commercial development on private lands, damming, poaching, erosion.

Off-road vehicle usage and disturbance of sensitive areas are primary concerns.


More than 4,000 ha (9,884 acres) of this Important Bird Area are in state and federal ownership.
Portions are within the Nantahala National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, Nantahala Game Land, Toxaway Game Land, Gorges State Park, and land in private ownership. Efforts are under way to acquire additional private lands for conservation. More surveys of landbirds during breeding season, migration periods, and winter are needed.


cove hardwood forests, oak forests, and coniferous forests, mixed forests.

Land Use

Recreation and tourism and conservation.

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