The Cradle Of American Forestry
Looking for something fun to do with the family? Look no further than the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Among the tall trees and peaks of the Pisgah National Forest lies the Cradle of Forestry, which has been working to conserve natural beauty for over a century. This magnificent area has been preserved as an interactive learning center focusing on the importance of forest conservancy along with its history.
And the history of this place is important. Thanks to the men hired by George Vanderbilt to manage his land, it is this forest that sparked the beginnings of American Forestry.
But let’s back up: In 1889, millionaire George Vanderbilt began to buy farmed, abused land near the site of his soon-to-be-built Biltmore Estate in the Asheville area. On the advice of Frederick Law Olmsted – the “Founding Father of American Landscape Architecture” who had been hired to shape the grounds of the Biltmore Estate – Vanderbilt hired a trained forester named Gifford Pinchot to manage his land. Between Pinchot and his successor, Dr. Carl Schenck, Vanderbilt’s land thrived and eventually became what is known today as the Pisgah National Forest.
In 1898, Schenck opened a forestry school that served hundreds students, many of whom would be highly successful in the field of forestry. Because of the success of the Biltmore Forest, President Lyndon Johnson deemed this place the “cradle of forestry in America” by an Act of Congress in 1968.
Today, visitors will experience plenty of interesting activities. Guided trails take you through a tour of life in the late 1800s, complete with an antique saw mill and historic cabins. Kids will marvel at the progress of industry tools as they compare the workings of a 1915 logging train to that of a modern day fire fighting helicopter simulator.
At the Forest Discovery Center, guests can view an 18-minute movie that explains Vanderbilt’s quest to beautify this land and the importance of our day-to-day actions in keeping it pristine and natural for those who can enjoy it in years to come. There are also puzzles, games and costumes for the young and young at heart.
Located nearby is the Pink Beds area. Known for its beautiful array of colorful azalea, mountain laurel and rhododendrons that begin to emerge in late April and early May, Pink Beds offers 21 picnic tables along with restroom facilities. Take a picnic break here for the perfect complement to a day in the North Carolina Mountains.
Note: The Cradle of Forestry Historic Site is closed for the winter. It will re-open in April.
added: December 29, 2008
updated: January 8, 2009
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