[Fig. 25(6)] Early this century, Gifford Pinchot designed two splash dams along Big Creek, one of the major tributaries of the North Fork Mills River, as a means of moving felled timber down to the deeper Mills River. From the Mills River, the logs were floated via the French Broad River to an Asheville sawmill owned by George Vanderbilt. The splash dams held back moderate amounts of water which were then released to create a temporary surge to float the logs down the shallow Big Creek streambed.
The plan ultimately backfired, though, as the logs and flood waters eroded creekside vegetation and caused major silting downstream. When the logs reached the Mills River, heavy rains flooded the river sending the valuable timber out into adjacent farmlands. Irate farmers refused to allow the retrieval of the logs, and many sued Vanderbilt for property damage.
Fortunately, today this area within the valley shaped by Laurel Mountain on the south and Seinard Mountain to the east is protected and peaceful. The mountains drained by North Fork Mills River and its extensive tributary creeks offer numerous backcountry opportunities. Ranging from well-maintained hiking trails to gated forest roads, these trails provide access to hiking, mountain biking, trout fishing, and horseback riding. With the help of Pisgah National Forest maps, loops of varying length (at least 25 miles of hiking trails and 50 miles of mountain biking trails) can be created.
North Fork Mills River is a popular, medium-to-large fishing stream with easy access from the North Mills River campground. Two other creeks in the area, Big Creek and Fletcher Creek, are classified Wild Trout Waters. They are more remote, however, and require a 2-mile trek either on foot or on bike.
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