U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited Project Weathers the Storm (Mortimer Campground)

NEBO, NC (August 30, 2021) – As Tropical Storm Ida crosses the southeast, the U.S. Forest Service continues cleanup efforts of impacts from Tropical Storm Fred. Though many Forest Service roads and recreation facilities have closed for cleanup and repair, access to Mortimer Campground in Caldwell County, NC, has remained open and campers were able to safely leave during Tropical Storm Fred thanks to a bridge installed last year by Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Forest Service.

The bridge on Thorps Creek replaced a low-water ford, which was a recurring public safety hazard during high water events and a barrier to the movement of fish. Prior to the bridge construction the area saw regular flooding causing campers to be evacuated and requiring heavy equipment to clear log jams and culverts. Adjacent to the Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest, Mortimer campground hosts approximately 8,000 visitors a year.

Thorps Creek before new bridge

The project was funded through a partnership involving the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, North Carolina Land and Water Fund, and Trout Unlimited. Trout Unlimited provided critical fundraising support and oversight of the project.

“It is through partnerships like these that we’re able to improve the safety of and quality of the experience for our forest visitors,” stated Grandfather District Ranger Nick Larson. TAG Contracting, a local contractor from Old Fort, NC constructed the bridge. North State Environmental of Winston Salem, NC performed the stream rehabilitation, working in close consultation with US Forest Service staff and Trout Unlimited.

The bridge provides critical improvements to trout habitat re-connecting 1,800 feet of stream habitat for wild trout and was prioritized by Trout Unlimited Community Science Program Volunteers as a severe barrier to fish passage.

New bridge over Thorps Creek

“We are thrilled with the success of this project and continue to work with the Forest Service on numerous other projects to improve trout habitat on public lands,” said Trout Unlimited Project Lead Andy Brown.

The bridge also provides safety to visitors during high-water events and saves thousands of dollars annually in clearing of excessive debris upstream. The Mortimer Bridge project was part of a broader Thorps Creek stream rehabilitation effort that also included re-grading streambanks and installing in-stream log vanes to reduce bank erosion and provide better habitat in the lower sections of the Mortimer Campground. The stream banks were replanted to protect from erosion and offer shade to help keep these waters cold.

All closures and updates regarding Tropical Storm Fred impacts on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests can be found on the National Forests of North Carolina website and social media channels.