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The History of Uwharrie and Birkhead Mountain Area

In the center of the state, the 50,189-acre Uwharrie National Forest spreads into a patchwork of private and public tracts in three counties. Don't look for snow caps here. With little more than a maximum elevation of 900 ft. the Uwharrie mountains may be short on 3000 ft climbs, but what it lacks in elevation, it makes up for is history. The Uwharrie mountains are over 400 million years old. They likely shared the altitude of the Appalachian mountains 470 million years ago. That being that the peaks soared to heights rivaling Mount Everest. Yes, believe it or not, the Appalachians, and likely the Uwharrie mountains had peaks that topped out between 3 and 5 miles!

The Uwharrie mountains have been mined for gold, silver, copper, and lead. Sadly, early settlers didn't understand their poor land management lead to inadequate timber and poor soil. In 1935 the land was transferred to the USFS for administration and 1961 it became a national forest, the state's youngest.  In 1984 5,160 acres became the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Area.  During the 1960's the USFS reforested hundreds of acres with pines and hardwoods. Slopes with mountain laurel, dogwood, and sourwood became natural understory gardens with 700 species of plants and abundant wildflowers and ferns.  Check out fern valley.

The origin of Uwharrie's name is unclear; perhaps it came from the Suala Indians. As early as 1701 it was spelled Heighwaree, an early map of 1733 lists it as Uharie, and it is listed as Voharee on a 1770 map.

Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Area

Around 1971, construction of the first hiking trails in the Uwharrie Lakes Region began in the area known as the Birkhead Mountains. Most of the trail work was carried out by volunteers, with the majority of the work being performed by Boy Scout Troop 570, led by one of the best friends of the Uwhwarrie's, Mr. Joseph T. Moffitt.

The area is rich in historical sites, most of which are hidden in the forest that has reclaimed the numerous homesteads that once dotted this moutainous region. You will have to be willing to step off the trails in order to see some of the historical sites such as bootleg hollow, which isn't obvious at all. Five hiking trails now run through the wilderness area:

  1. Birkhead Mountain Trail
  2. Camp Three Trail
  3. Robbins Branch Trail
  4. Thornburg Trail
  5. Hannahs Creek Trail
Because this area is designated a wilderness area, the only mode of transportation allowed is foot traffic.

What is Allowed

  • Primitive recreation activities such as backpacking and camping
  • Hunting and fishing according to State regulations
  • Trail construction and maintenance to primitive standards
  • Collection of nuts, berries, cones for personal use

What is prohibited

  • Timber harvesting
  • Mechanical Transport (bicycles, wagons, carts, etc.)
  • Motorized vehicles and equipment
  • Removal of artifacts




Last Updated on Monday, 06 December 2010 19:02