“Climb a mountain. Fish a stream. Cross a log spanning a creek. Ride a horse. Push, tug and scramble through dense undergrowth to find a spectacular waterfall, believing that no one else has ever discovered it. Scale a bald summit or view one in awe from a distance. Remain quiet while eyes are cleansed of trials back home and drift across soft, blue, misty ridges rolling into one another as if permanently pushed together by a massive wave.” Marci Spencer, Pisgah National Forest, A History, 2014, p. 26.

Pisgah History

First surviving reference to “Mt. Pisgah,” which derives from the Hebrew word for summit and which was the biblical mountain from which Moses first saw the promised land.

George Vanderbilt decides to build a country estate near Asheville to provide a retreat for his mother from the smog of New York City. This retreat becomes the 255-room Biltmore House.

1888 – 1895
Vanderbilt expands his estate by purchasing 125,000 acres in western N.C.

Vanderbilt hires Gifford Pinchot, educated at Yale and in French forestry school, to manage his forests. Pinchot applies scientific forest management practices in Vanderbilt’s forests.

Vanderbilt hires German forester, Carl Alwin Schenck, to succeed Pinchot as Biltmore’s chief forester.

Gifford Pinchot named chief of US Division of Forestry. Carl Schenck establishes the Biltmore Forest School, the first school of forestry in the U.S.

Theodore Roosevelt becomes President, supports Pinchot’s vision to add eastern forests to public land holdings.

July 1901
Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture, James Wilson, with Pinchot and others tours NC Mountains and reports to Roosevelt.

Dec 19, 1901
Roosevelt reports conclusion of Wilson’s investigative study to Congress, saying that the report points "unmistakeably . . . to the creation of a national forest reserve in certain parts of Southern States . . . for the instruction and pleasure of the people of our own and future generations."

Sept 9, 1902
Roosevelt visits Asheville and Biltmore.

Mammoth fire in Idaho and Montana burns 3 million acres, takes the lives of 85 firefighters, and heightens concerns about forest management.

February 1911
Congress passes the Weeks Act, which authorizes the federal government to buy forested, cut-over, or denuded lands to be restored, protected, and managed by the Forest Service and on which the Forest Service would assist states and private interests in fighting fires.

George Vanderbilt begins discussing selling Pisgah Forest to the government.

August 29, 1912
Curtis Creek near Old Fort, NC, becomes the first land purchased under the Weeks Act.

Vanderbilt’s price of $6 per acre for Pisgah not accepted by the government, partly because of the belief that the forest had been so well preserved by Vanderbilt that it was in better shape in his hands than it would be if owned by the government.

March 1914
George Vanderbilt dies.

May 21, 1914
Edith Vanderbilt completes negotiations to sell Pisgah Forest to the government for $5 per acre.

October 17, 1916
Woodrow Wilson formally consolidates several parcels of land purchased under the Weeks act to establish the Pisgah National Forest.

Stone entry arch erected near Brevard entrance to Pisgah.

First experimental forest in the south established in Pisgah at Bent Creek.

Civilian Conservation Corps Camp established at John Rock, builds bridges and other facilities in Pisgah.

Entry arch removed when US-276 is widened.

Cradle of Forestry established on 6500 acre site in Pisgah.

Cornerstone laid for Cradle of Forestry visitor center. President Johnson signs National Wilderness Act. Shining Rock protected as wilderness area.

Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association established to promote conservation and forestry education.

Forest Festival Trail opened at Cradle of Forestry.

North Carolina Wilderness Act increases size of Shining Rock Wilderness to 18,000 acres and designates 7900 acres west of Shining Rock Wilderness as the Middle Prong Wilderness.

Cradle of Forestry Visitors Center is destroyed by fire.

Forest Service issues Pisgah/Nantahala Land and Resource Management Plan.

New Cradle of Forestry Visitors Center is opened.

Department of Defense closes Rosman Satellite Tracking Station and turns site over to the Forest Service for astronomical research and education under the name of the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), which is near Balsam Grove.

PARI site is acquired by Don and Jo Cline and is gifted to a public non-profit foundation that uses the site for hands-on education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Forest Plan Revision project begins (and continues).