National Forest Foundation

Pisgah Rain Garden

Supported by REI

The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina cover a remarkable and unique landscape, spanning the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Here in this verdant region of America, wild rivers carve deep valleys into the highest mountain ranges in the Eastern U.S.

Ecologically, the ancient forests of western North Carolina support a diversity of forest communities, from dry piedmont forests to high-elevation spruce-fir forests. Along with a diverse landscape, the forests support some of the most pristine waters in the country. Waters from the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests supplement municipal water supplies in eight southeastern states, from Kentucky through Georgia.

The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests are also among the most visited in the National Forest System. Forest infrastructure, mostly constructed in the 1950s, has degraded over time. Areas of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests that experience high visitation cannot sustainably accommodate the volume of visitors.

Over the last 30 years, as the area’s population and visitation has increased, so has pressure on the Forest to provide clean water and recreation from a healthy forest landscape. At the same time, climate change is leading to more intense storms in the Southeastern U.S., leading to flood events and associated adverse impacts.

This REI supported project will establish a drainage basin “rain garden” proximate to parking areas in the Davidson River Corridor and Mills River Rec area, about 45 minutes southwest of Asheville, N.C. This rain garden will help build resiliency to the effects of climate change and protect the water supply.

During storm events, the rain garden will retain a volume of run-off from the contributing area, to reduce flooding downstream. They will also capture and filter petroleum products, heavy metals, and other toxins that are emitted by vehicles that park in the area, to keep these contaminants out of the watershed. We will plant the gardens with native plants to benefit pollinator wildlife species.