Cherokee WMA, Rocky Fork Unit
Site Directions: Eleven miles southwest of Erwin, Rocky Fork Road, 0.9 mile north of its intersection with state highway 352, Unicoi County, Tennessee.
Rocky Fork Unit - Lat: 36.06994°N Long: -82.56749°W (center)
Hours: daylight hours
Seasonality: year round
Site Description: This site is a privately owned tract of land consisting of 10,100 acres of virtually uninterrupted forest of Cove Hardwood and Northern Hardwood.
It is contiguous in all directions with either the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina or the Sampson Mountain Wilderness Area.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has leased and managed this private land for more than 50 years, but due to a recent sale, contracts its use yearly.
The main ridge is Higgins Ridge and includes many small headwater streams that feed the major creeks including Rocky Fork Creek, Blockstand Creek, Flint Creek, and Higgins Creek. The property is accessible by a system of forest roads and trails.
The Cove Hardwood habitat is found in the more sheltered ravines of the lower elevations and is dominated by woody species of White Basswood, American Beech, Yellow Buckeye, Sugar Maple, Red Oak, Fraser Magnolia, conifers such as White Pine and Eastern Hemlock, and White Ash. Understory vegetation includes successional species such as Flowering Dogwood, Eastern Redbud and Sassafras. Rhododendron dominates the shrubby layer.
The Northern Hardwood habitat is found mainly at the highest elevations of Higgins Ridge. The tree species are often stunted or broken due to exposure to strong winds. Species include Red Oak, American Beech, Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, American Elm, and Virginia Pine. The shrubby layer is mainly rhododendron and mountain laurel but includes huckleberries and blueberries.
Wildlife to Watch: The size and completeness of the forest affords breeding habitat to a complement of Neotropical migrant species and the Threatened in Tennessee, Common Raven.
The significant size of uninterrupted Cove and Northern Hardwood forests not only provides habitats for Neotropical migrant species but continues the north-south contiguous forested habitat along Tennessee's eastern border.
Twenty-nine Neotropical migrant species were documented in the breeding season. Among them were Broad-winged Hawk (most common raptor), Veery, Wood Thrush, Blue-headed Vireo (common), 11 species of warblers including Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Pine Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler, and Canada Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Indigo Bunting.