Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness: A Legacy Across Lake Fontana, Nantahala River

Lysianne PeacockNantahala

Just a stone’s throw, about 35 miles, from the Nantahala River, across Lake Fontana, lies Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area. Within this wilderness some of the oldest and loveliest old growth trees east of the Mississippi reside, hence the wilderness’s name’s sake, Joyce Kilmer, who wrote the American classic poem, Trees. Some 400 years old, 100 feet tall and 20 feet around, the hemlocks and giant tulip poplars held within Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area are ancient enough to have witnessed the life and times of the Cherokee, and events like the American Revolution and the Civil War. Through its yellow pines and mountain oak forests to high-elevation northern hardwoods and spruce-fir forests make up most of the Nantahala National Forest, which borders the Nantahala River, Kilmer’s poem speaks to the majesty of any and every tree.


By: Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.


A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;


A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;


A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;


Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.


Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.


For more opportunities to check out the trees surrounding the Nantahala River, try ziplining, a jeep tour or a rail ride


To learn why fall is the best time to go rafting in the Southeast

To learn where and when to find the Blue Ridge Mountains wildflowers