MountainTrue FAQ: Live Staking

MountainTrue FAQ: Live Staking

MountainTrue FAQ: Live Staking

We love live staking here at MountainTrue, as it’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to support native biodiversity and stream bank restoration! This blog hopes to answer many of the frequently asked questions we get about live staking. Most of this information is general, but some is specific to the Watauga Basin and Riverkeeper Program. 

Q: What’s live staking?

Live staking is a method of stream bank repair using native tree cuttings to revegetate the riparian buffer. The riparian buffer consists of trees, shrubs, and grasses alongside stream banks — it plays a crucial role in protecting stream health. The resiliency of riparian buffers is frequently impacted by land use. Activities like mowing to the edge of a stream, cutting down trees to see the water, or new development can negatively impact water quality. By live staking, we can positively and directly impact the overall health of our waterways! 

Q: Where do you get the stakes from?

We get our live stakes from Foggy Mountain Nursery in Lansing, NC — their team harvests the stakes from native tree species, cutting stakes two to three feet long and one-half to two inches thick. While it’s possible to cut the stakes ourselves, we choose to support a fantastic local business and ensure that we’re planting the correct species. We’ve also harvested stakes from our previous live staking sites, where planted stakes have become well established. 

Q: How do you choose where you’ll be planting?

We prioritize local public parks and river accesses because they’re easy to access and directly benefit the public. We’ve frequented Valle Crucis Community Park in Banner Elk, Cove Creek, and other public riverside locations around Watauga County. In February, we’ll also be partnering with the City of Hendersonville for two live staking workdays in Henderson County! 

Q: What species do you plant?

We only plant tree species native to our region — primarily silky willow, silky dogwood, elderberry, and ninebark stakes. We’ve also planted other species, like buttonbush, black willow, and red stem dogwood. Recommended for stream bank repair by the NC State Cooperative Extension, these native tree species prefer moist soil and thrive in riparian habitats. These species support native wildlife, especially local pollinators. They can also establish extensive root systems to successfully hold soil in place along riparian buffers, ultimately preventing erosion. 

Q: Why do you plant during the winter?

Live stakes are living cuttings of dormant trees that can propagate or sprout a new plant from the cutting of the parent plant. During winter, trees enter a state of dormancy to conserve their energy and weather the colder temperatures. Our live staking season lasts from November to March. We plant hearty hardwood stakes that use their energy to establish roots, waiting until spring to grow their branches and leaves. These resilient roots serve as a stream bank’s first line of defense against erosion, especially during high-flow events. Planting live stakes while tree species are in their natural pattern of energy conservation allows for a higher likelihood of survival along riparian buffers. 

Q: How successful are the stakes?

Live stakes have a survival rate of 30-80%. However, survival varies from species to species and depends on environmental conditions. For example, we’d likely have very low survivability if a drought occurred after planting. But, if we plant under ideal conditions using correct planting techniques and have favorable weather post-planting, our stakes can do remarkably well! We can also remove invasive plant species and water the freshly planted live stakes to give them a better chance of success. 

Stakes are most successful when planted along naturally sloped stream banks. They can still be planted on extremely incised banks, though they’re more likely to be less impactful in those locations. In our experience, silky willow and silky dogwood stakes tend to fare better than other native tree species we plant. 

Q: How long does it take for the stakes to grow?

Roots, leaves, and branches can be well established after one growing season. From there, they continue to grow in length from the tips of their roots and branches year after year. 

Q: How do live stakes benefit our waterways?

Live stakes grow root systems that hold soil in place and prevent erosion in local waterways. Sediment pollution remains a significant threat to the Watauga River Basin. This type of pollution clogs aquatic habitats and transports toxic substances through local waterways, increasing water temperatures and negatively impacting native biodiversity.

Once planted, small live stakes will grow into larger trees that stabilize and support riparian buffer health. Healthy riparian buffers benefit stream health in a multitude of ways — they also absorb nutrients, create wildlife habitat, and reduce the intensity of flooding from rain events. Unvegetated streams are often incised and can lose several feet of bank in a single rain event — this can be detrimental to nearby homes and other structures. 

Q: What’s a typical day of planting?

We prep the stakes by cutting the live ends at a 45-degree angle. The NC State Cooperative Extension states that such cutting is enough to catalyze root growth at the nodes. The folks at Foggy Mountain Nursery kindly mark the planting ends of our stakes, so we know which ends to cut (pictured right). Once prepped and ready, we take the stakes in buckets down to the stream. We plant along the bank from the water’s edge to the bank’s top — not in the actual stream bed. Stakes are planted at an angle and submerged into the soil about two-thirds of the way. From there, the rest of the work is up to the stakes!

Want to learn more about live staking? Check out our Events page (or keep scrolling) to sign up for one of our upcoming volunteer workdays, or contact our resident live staking experts listed below:

Swim Guide Watershed Report: Watauga River Watershed

Swim Guide Watershed Report: Watauga River Watershed

Swim Guide Watershed Report: Watauga River Watershed

In the past year, the Watauga River Watershed experienced a range of highs and lows (we’re talking about bacteria counts, folks!). We’ll start with the good news, including which water testing sites had the lowest bacteria counts across the watershed. Then, we’ll give you the year’s bad news by spotlighting sites with the highest bacteria counts. We’ll conclude with achievable solutions for the future and a call to action so you can continue to help us protect the places we share.

Before we dive into our water quality summary, let’s review important terminology to help us better understand the data our Riverkeepers, volunteers, and Clean Waters teams worked so hard to collect, analyze, and report. Cfu, or colony forming unit, is a metric scientists use to estimate the number of microbes present per 100 milliliters of a singular water sample. Microbes (also known as microorganisms) include bacteria, algae, and fungi. Like most things, some microbes are good for human health and some aren’t. We test for E. coli bacteria because it’s the best indicator for the presence of microbes that pose threats to human health.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 235 cfu/100mL is the safe standard for primary recreational waters, where people are most likely to engage in recreational activities involving underwater immersion and potential water ingestion.

Good news headline: Popular Watauga River Spots Still Safe for Recreation 

Popular among anglers, swimmers, sunbathers, and kayakers, our water quality testing site at Guy Ford remains the only Watauga River site to have experienced a statistically significant decrease in E. coli levels from 2020-2021. With an average value of 80.3 cfu/100mL, Guy Ford passes the EPA’s 235 cfu/100mL safe standard with ease. 

About Our Swim Guide Program

Swim Guide is an international program used by Riverkeepers and other advocates to provide up-to-date recreational E. coli data for beaches, lakes, and rivers worldwide. E. coli is a bacteria found in the fecal waste of warm-blooded animals, including humans, and indicates contamination in our waterways. E. coli levels increase with rainfall events due to surface runoff and sewer overflow events.

Samples are collected every Wednesday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Volunteers collect surface water samples in a 100mL sample bottle and drop samples off at the lab, to be processed by MountainTrue staff. Results from samples are measured in MPN, the most probable number of colony-forming units (cfu). The EPA’s limit for recreational water quality is 235 cfu/100mL. The EPA estimates at that concentration, 8 in 1,000 people will contract an illness.

Pass/Fail results are updated every Friday on to inform the public about local water quality. We use the data generated from our Swim Guide Program to identify sites for follow-up sampling. We sample in both urban and rural areas. Determining the location and source of E. coli in our waterways is one way we can hold polluters accountable.

Our other best testing sites of 2021 include the Upper Gorge Watauga Park off Highway 321, Watauga Point, Wilbur Dam, Shook Branch, and Price Lake. All five sites passed the EPA’s safe standard. 

Data collected from 76% of all 18 sampled sites reported no statistically significant change this year, meaning E. coli levels did not increase or decrease from 2020-2021. While this isn’t the result we’d hoped for, we’ll take it. 

Bad news headline: E. Coli has a Dirty Affair with Lover’s Lane and Other Popular Spots in the Watauga River Watershed 

Our data showcases the pressing need for water quality improvement across the Watauga River Watershed. Unfortunately, sites along the Watauga, New, and Elk Rivers rank among the Watauga River Watershed’s worst testing sites. This year, popular Watauga River accesses like Lover’s Lane, Hunter Bridge, and Blevins Road Boat Ramp experienced alarming increases in bacteria concentrations. 

Our Lover’s Lane site secured the top worst spot with an average E. coli count of 1754.9 cfu/100mL. Average E. coli levels were approximately three times the EPA’s 235 cfu/100mL safe standard at Hunter Bridge and Blevins Road Boat Ramp. 

With E. coli levels above 590 cfu/100mL, both Elk River Falls and the New River’s Todd Island Park failed to pass the EPA’s safe standard. The latter, along with the New River’s Boone Greenway, ranked among Watauga County’s worst sites of 2021. Our Watauga River testing site off Calloway Road also fared poorly. 

This year we saw 17% of our water quality testing sites experience increased overall  E. coli levels compared to 2021. This increase is not considered statistically significant due to the wide variation among this year’s water quality samples, taken weekly during the 15 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

Our weekly sampling often took place after or during a rain event. We believe that likely contributed to this year’s wide variation in average E. coli levels, which was double that of 2020’s. 

This year’s increase in average E. coli levels is a concerning trend across the watershed. The average E. coli count for 2021’s 15-week sampling period was 408.04 cfu/100mL, up from 2020’s average of 238.76 cfu/100mL.  

Hurricane Fred caused the week of August 18 to be the summer’s worst. After Fred’s heavy rainfall and flash flooding events, the watershed’s E. coli levels skyrocketed to 1222 cfu/100mL. Additional rain events correlated with the summer’s other average E. coli level peaks.  

Future news headline: Direct Action Needed to Mitigate Impacts of Climate Change, Increased Development, and Tourism Across Watauga River Watershed 

A symptom of climate change, increased annual rainfall and flash flooding events, will undoubtedly cause a decline in water quality across the watershed. Growing tourism pressure and resulting development projects will continue to exacerbate the existing strain on our region’s failing infrastructure. 

If left unchecked, stormwater infrastructure deficiencies will open the literal and figurative flood gates, allowing increased polluted and bacteria-laden stormwater runoff to enter local waters. 

Moving forward, MountainTrue will:

  • Encourage government officials to implement policies addressing land use and development impacts and make worthy investments to improve existing stormwater infrastructure.
  • Continue to monitor sites of most concern while aiming to pinpoint and eliminate sources of E. coli pollution at our newest testing sites in the near future.
  • Further develop valued relationships with community members to combat threats posed to water quality by poor development and agricultural practices. 

Want to learn more about our efforts to bring about clean water for all? Check out our ILoveRivers webpage and join MountainTrue’s dedicated community of volunteers to help us protect the places we share.

Join Us for an Annual Member Gathering in Your Area!

Join Us for an Annual Member Gathering in Your Area!

Join Us for an Annual Member Gathering in Your Area!

We are excited to be gathering in person this year to connect with our members, celebrate our MountainTrue Award winners, and see each others’ smiling faces!

Each year, MountainTrue hosts a gathering of our members to recognize and honor outstanding volunteers, vote on new board members, and reflect on a year of hard work and accomplishments. Due to the COVID resurgence, we are holding four separate outdoor events — one in each region —  in order to reduce the size of our crowd and to protect the safety of others. All attendees are required to be vaccinated. We hope you can join us. If you have questions about any of these events, please contact Susan Bean at Registration is accessible below for both the High Country and Central Region events. 

Check here to confirm that your membership is current, and if you are not a member you can join or renew when you RSVP!

Vaccination Required

Due to the high rate of COVID infections and hospitalizations across our region, we are requiring that all attendees be fully vaccinated in order to participate. Please come prepared to show proof of vaccination when you arrive. If you are not vaccinated, you will have an opportunity to vote for new and returning board members online.

October 7th – High Country Region
Valle Crucis Community Park in Banner Elk, NC
4:30 PM – 6:00 PM

October 20th – Western Region
Big Bear Pavilion in Downtown Franklin, NC
4:30 PM – 6:00 PM


October 26th – Southern Region
Guidon Brewing Company in Hendersonville, NC
4:30 PM – 6:00 PM

October 28th – Central Region
HiWire Brewing Bier Garden in Asheville, NC
4:30 – 6:00PM

July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

After two weeks of hard-nosed competition, Jackson County won the 2021 Bioblitz, beating Watauga and Transylvania Counties. Overall, 46 people contributed 2,947 observations, and 317 people helped with the identification of 1,228 species. While Jackson County had 1,403 observations to Watauga County’s 1,068, the competition for the most species was much tighter – Jackson county prevailed 738 to 681. Transylvania County came in a distant third with 472 observations and 279 species. Check out our blog post to read more about our Bioblitz results and see photos of the winning observations.

Sarah Ogletree Joins MountainTrue as the Director of the Creation Care Alliance

The Creation Care Alliance is pleased to announce that Sarah Ogletree will be our next director. Sarah comes to us from our close partner, NC Interfaith Power and Light, where she has been for the last three years. Her dedication to seeking justice for both people and planet shines through in all aspects of her life, and she has consistently been recognized with awards for her leadership, dedication and excellence. Join us in welcoming Sarah! Read more.

We’re Hiring! MountainTrue Seeks a Great Environmental Communicator

MountainTrue seeks a bright, organized, and outgoing individual with strong communications skills, experience in online advocacy, and development writing. The Communications Associate will report to the Director of Communications and work closely with our Community Engagement Director, program directors and regional directors to (1) promote our programs through member outreach and correspondence, public relations, social media, and marketing; (2) support our advocacy goals through online organizing/advocacy; (3) provide writing and communications support for our fundraising activities. The deadline to apply is Sunday, August 15, 2021. Read more and apply.

August 29: Michael Franti and Spearhead Concert to Cleanup and Protect the French Broad River

MountainTrue, French Broad Riverkeeper and 98.1 River are proud to present Michael Franti and Spearhead for a benefit concert to support MountainTrue’s work to clean up and protect the French Broad River.

Sunday, August 29, 2021
Doors: 5:00 p.m., Starts: 7:00 p.m.
All Ages are Welcome
Tickets: $35 in advance; $39 general admission

French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson says, “Michael Franti is the perfect artist to bring us back down to the banks of the French Broad to celebrate our beautiful river. Come to enjoy a night of inspiring music and support our ongoing work to make our river cleaner and healthier.” Read more and buy tickets.

High Country Regional News

For Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties

Sparking a Love for Clean Water and Healthy Ecosystems at High Country Forest Wild

Our Water Quality Administrator, Hannah Woodburn, visited High Country Forest Wild, an outdoor experiential learning school. She gave an instream lesson on aquatic insects and water quality to about 45 students. It was an excellent way to get young minds thinking about freshwater ecosystems and water quality.

MountainTrue Reports Water Quality Violation for Development Along Watauga Lake

While conducting routine sampling of Watauga Lake for our Harmful Algal Bloom Study, we spotted a new development lacking erosion control. We promptly contacted the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, which issued a notice of violation. We hope to see improvements on the construction site and continue monitoring this development to help keep our waterways free of sediment pollution.

Bottomley Farms Clearcut Causes Severe Erosion, Ecosystem Collapse

Our Watauga Riverkeeper teamed up with Southwings to get a bird’s eye view of a massive clear-cut timber operation in Alleghany County being conducted by Bottomley Farms — a Sparta-based agribusiness company. The developers are removing all the trees, shrubs and vegetation, and grubbed it down to hundreds of acres of bare earth. The result has been severe erosion, sediment pollution of area waterways, and a total collapse of the ecosystem in Ramey Creek — once a thriving spawning ground for native brook trout. North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission staff could only save 13 individual trout out of the hundreds previously documented in that stream. Commission staff relocated the survivors to an adjacent watershed. Tragically, a species that thrived in that watershed since the glaciers retreated tens of thousands of years ago was erased by one egregiously bad timber project. Our report resulted in the NC Department of Environmental Quality issuing a notice of violation. We will continue to monitor this project and push for a lasting riparian buffer and a complete restoration of the stream.

Trash Trout Update: There’s Too Much Plastic in Our Waterways

Our Trash Trout on Winklers Creek continues to collect so much litter. We have removed and cataloged thousands of pieces of trash in the few weeks that the trash-collection device has been in place. The majority of the garbage found has been single-use plastics and styrofoam, underscoring the need to address the prevalence of plastics and microplastics in our environment.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Volunteer for Rhythm & Brews! Hear Good Music and Get Cool Stuff!

Join MountainTrue’s Recycling Team on Main St. during the Rhythm & Brews Concert Series in downtown Hendersonville this summer and fall to reduce waste and encourage recycling. Volunteers will be rewarded with an R&B volunteer t-shirt, a voucher for a free beverage, a koozie and a water bottle! Help educate attendees and monitor the waste stations.

Upcoming Concerts:
July 15: Abby Bryant & The Echoes with opener Andrew Thelston Band
August 19: Jamie McLean Band with opener Hustle Souls.
September 16: Mike and the Moonpies with opener Kenny George Band.
October 21: The Broadcast with opener TBD.

2 Shifts: 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. & 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Volunteers needed: 4 per shift, 8 total
To sign up:

Working to be Plastic Free Program Endorsed by Hendersonville City Council

L to R: Beth Stang, chair of Hendersonville’s ESB. Lyndsey Simpson, H’ville City Councilwoman, and Christine Wittmeier, chair of MountainTrue’s Recycling Team, hold a July 1st proclamation endorsing the Working to Be Plastic Free program.

On July 1, Hendersonville City Council approved a proclamation supporting Working to be Plastic Free — a plastic reduction program created by MountainTrue and the Hendersonville Environmental Sustainability Board. Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk signed the pledge and has encouraged staff to reduce the city’s use of plastic.

Many of the local merchants and restaurants participated in a plastics-use survey earlier in the year. Now, we’re encouraging them to sign the pledge and begin working to eliminate single-use plastics, such as plastic bags, straws, cutlery, and take-out containers. Most of these plastics are not recyclable and end up in landfills or littering our rivers and streams.

MountainTrue is ready to help businesses find sustainable packaging alternatives, and participants will be recognized in press releases, newsletters, social media, and a webpage promoting the program. To get more information and sign the pledge, visit our webpage or contact MountainTrue’s Interim Southern Regional Director, Katie Breckheimer, at

Congratulations to Our Broad River Race Winners: Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe

Broad River Race winners Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe accept the trophy from David Caldwell, the Broad Riverkeeper.

Our Third Annual Broad River Race was postponed when a thunderstorm moved across the area last Saturday, July 12. A day later, the race flag dropped, and the paddlers sped down the river. Four and a half miles and an hour later, Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe were the first to cross the finish line in a tandem canoe to take home our race trophy, Betsy the Turtle. Annie Keith and her son David Caldwell, our Broad Riverkeeper, were hot on their trail. It was great to see so many people enjoying the cool waters of the Broad River, and we look forward to seeing who wins next year.

App State Eco-Tox Team Collects Fish Tissue Samples From the Broad River

The Appalachian State Eco-toxicology Team returned to the Broad River to collect more water, sediment and fish tissue samples for an ongoing study of the bio-accumulation of heavy metals in fish. The team sampled upstream and downstream of two industrial sites with permits to discharge pollutants into the river. MountainTrue will use the results to determine if we need fish consumption advisories for the affected sections of the waterway. Special thanks to our High Country Water Quality Administrator, Hannah Woodburn, and Appalachian State’s Dr. Shea Tuberty for leading this fantastic project.

ICYMI: Broad River Spring Sweep Collects Over 100 lbs of Litter

We had a small crew for this year’s Annual Broad River Spring Sweep on May 29, but we made a big impact by collecting over 100 lbs of litter (including a football) from the Broad River. It was also inspiring to see so many folks cooling off in the water and enjoying the river at the Greenway canoe access.

Western Regional News

For Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in NC, and Towns and Union counties in GA

Crossover Timber Project Update: Your Advocacy Is Making a Difference

MountainTrue’s Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly documents the age of a 200-year-old tree in the Nantahala National Forest.

We asked, and you responded! MountainTrue’s members submitted 334 public comments (36% of which were customized) and 24 letters to the editors of relevant local newspapers during the comment period for the US Forest Service’s Crossover Project. As currently proposed, the project would log more than 300 acres of old-growth forest, rare species habitat, and remote backcountry in the Snowbird Mountains of Nantahala National Forest.

The Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership — a broad coalition of forest users representing recreation, conservation and timber interests of which MountainTrue is a member— has joined the fight and requested that the Forest Service remove these acres from the project. For its part, the Forest Service has indicated a willingness to collaborate with the partnership to develop a better alternative during the Environmental Assessment phase of the project. Thank you for speaking up for our forests!

We’re Hiring a Nonnative Invasive Plant Control Intern

MountainTrue seeks a dedicated individual to fill a part-time, 12-week paid internship for its western region in Fall 2021. The position includes a combination of on-the-ground stewardship of public and conserved lands, volunteer recruitment and coordination, and public outreach. It will require travel to various locations within a 60-mile radius of Murphy (including north Georgia) and substantial work outdoors. The application deadline is August 4, and the start date is August 30. Visit our website to learn more.

Managing Nonnative Invasive Plants Webinar Coming in August

Due to popular demand, MountainTrue Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward and Public Lands Director Bob Gale will host a webinar on how to eradicate non-native invasive plants (NNIP) on Tuesday, August 24 at noon. Tony and Bob will discuss the best tools to control common NNIP species and the best seasons for treatment. The webinar will include an in-depth discussion about herbicides, the active ingredients of commonly used products, and how to apply them correctly and with minimal impact on the environment. Register for the free webinar today!

Become A Georgia Green Landscape Steward

The Georgia Green Landscape Stewards certification program provides educational resources that teach landowners about increasing plant and animal biodiversity, conserving soil and water, providing wildlife and pollinator habitat, and improving public and environmental health. Participants can measure their activities with the program’s metric scorecard and earn certification status for their landscape. Along with the satisfaction of contributing to natural resource protection, Georgia Green Landscape certification includes an option for Georgians to purchase an attractive yard sign to designate their property as a sustainably managed landscape.

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

July 18, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: Headwaters Fun Float on the First Broad River
Join MountainTrue as we head up to the South Mountains for a fun paddle on the cool shady waters of the First Broad River! Read more.

August 24, 12-1 p.m.: MountainTrue University: Managing Nonnative Invasive Plants
Join us for an educational program about managing common nonnative invasive plants, including techniques for control, best seasons for treatment, and more. Read more.

August 29, 7 p.m.: Michael Franti and Spearhead Concert to Cleanup and Protect the French Broad River
MountainTrue, French Broad Riverkeeper and 98.1 River are proud to present Michael Franti and Spearhead for a benefit concert to support MountainTrue’s work to clean up and protect the French Broad River. Read more.

Ward Mill Dam Removal Connects Aquatic Habitat, Makes River Healthier

Ward Mill Dam Removal Connects Aquatic Habitat, Makes River Healthier

Ward Mill Dam Removal Connects Aquatic Habitat, Makes River Healthier

Boone, NC — In a huge win for local aquatic wildlife, the Ward Mill Dam just a few miles from Boone, North Carolina has finally been removed. The first dam was constructed at the location in 1890 and improved upon over the years. The mill complex served the community for generations providing electricity, jobs, firewood and building materials. The dam had been an obstacle for local aquatic wildlife for the past 130 years. Now, native fish such as the tangerine darter and threatened salamanders like the hellbender will be reunited and benefit from a reconnected and improved cold-water aquatic habitat.

The Ward Mill Dam Removal project has been a partnership between American Rivers, Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development, MountainTrue, the Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. The dam removal was a high priority for experts and biologists and was ranked a top priority among projects by the Southeast Aquatic Resource Partnership and “tier one, priority one” by the North Carolina Aquatic Barrier Assessment Tool.

MountainTrue’s Watauga Riverkeeper, Andy Hill, is excited about the environmental benefits and the opportunity to connect the Watauga River Paddle to create more recreational opportunities. “We’ve greatly improved aquatic habitat and river health, and promoted safe river recreation while honoring the historical and community cultural value of the Ward Mill.”

The Ward family continues their generations-long environmental stewardship by removing this aquatic barrier and graciously surrendering their hydropower license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. While the instream dam structure has been completely removed down to bedrock to reconnect the watershed and allow for sediment transport downstream, the iconic sawmill, historic buildings and complex have been preserved in partnership with the State Historic Preservation Office. Please respect the decision and the privacy of the Ward family.

“We are excited to see the long-term environmental benefits associated with removing the dam, but are also excited about preserving the rich history of the dam complex by documenting and saving the nearby historic buildings,” explains Jonathan Hartsell of Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development. “This complex project has been successful from start to finish due to a well thought out gameplan from the project management team, agency partners and, most importantly, the landowners.”

The complex project had to be done carefully due to the delicate biodiversity of the Watauga River and its streams. Dr. Mike Gangloff and Dr. Derek Martin of Appalachian State University led a team of researchers collecting valuable data on pre and post-removal aquatic habitat. This has included sediment flow research, aquatic habitat surveys and numerous nocturnal SCUBA dives searching for elusive nocturnal Hellbender salamander. Sediment flow research and aquatic habitat surveys will better inform future dam removal projects and contribute to the field of knowledge for river restoration.

“Rivers are like a circulatory system, and thanks to this dam removal, American Rivers with our partners celebrate a free-flowing Watauga River which is the lifeblood of a thriving community, healthy ecosystems, and clean water for people and nature,” says Dam Removal advocate and American Rivers Science Program Director and Southeast Conservation Director Erin McCombs.

Removing the Ward Mill Dam reconnects 35 miles of aquatic habitat in the main stem of the Watauga River and 140 miles of streams across the watershed. Dams, though providing benefits in certain circumstances, can also significantly damage rivers. Dams increase water temperature, reduce river flows, reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen available to fish and other species, block the natural flow of sediment and debris, and serve as physical barriers for recreational users such as paddlers and anglers, as well as aquatic wildlife such as fish and amphibians. Additionally, most dams require maintenance and many require removal or rebuilding after 50 years.

The dam deconstruction was performed by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service National Fish Passage Program Aquatic Restoration team and Wildlands Engineering. Project funding was generously provided by the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, Patagonia, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Beech Mountain Resort, Hunter Banks of Asheville, and Boone’s Fly Shop.

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties, NC – MountainTrue is hosting its annual 2021 BioBlitz as a regional competition to crown the 2021 champion of biodiversity. The competition will take place virtually across three counties from June 5 through June 19, and is a great opportunity for experts and aspiring naturalists to get outside and add to the scientific record by documenting the vast biodiversity of our region.

What: MountainTrue 2021 BioBlitz
Where: Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties, NC through the iNaturalist App.
When: June 5-20

Sign up & Learn More

The competition kicks off on June 5 on the iNaturalist web and smartphone platform. Scores will be tallied for each county and for individual participants, with prizes and bragging rights for our winners. Prizes will be awarded to individual winners in the following categories: overall best observation, most total observations, most species, most birds, most arthropods (including insects!) and most fungi. We will recognize the County Champion of Biodiversity as the county that receives the most observations of unique species. Additional recognition will go to the county with the most participants and the most observations submitted.

“The MountainTrue 2021 Bioblitz is a great opportunity for people to connect with and learn about the natural world around them,” explains MountainTrue Public Lands Biologist Josh Kelly. “This year, by expanding the blitz to three counties and making a game of it, we hope to be able to engage more people and find more species. . We might even find some that have never been recorded in our region.”

MountainTrue first took its Bioblitz to iNaturalist in 2020 as a safer alternative during COVID-19. Last year, 97 observers documented over 1,100 unique species. This year, by expanding the blitz from one county to three, MountainTrue hopes to record even more species and make a greater contribution to the scientific record for our region. Tell your friends, neighbors, family, and fellow naturalists and citizen scientists, and get prepared for a BioBlitz like no other!


Media Contact: 
Karim Olaechea, MountainTrue Communications Director 
C: 415-535-9004, E: