Accessible Fishing Opportunities Abound in National Forests

By Stevin Westcott, public affairs officer, National Forests in North Carolina

May 2012

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – National Fishing and Boating Week is June 2-10. It’s a time when fishing fanatics and amateur anglers will visit the national forests in North Carolina to try their hands at landing “the big one.”

Accessible facilities on majestic Cherokee Lake in Nantahala National Forest
Accessible facilities on majestic Cherokee Lake in Nantahala National Forest include picnic tables and a pavilion, all connected along an accessible route.

Anglers in wheelchairs or with other physical disabilities who visit the Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie, and Croatan National Forests in North Carolina have a number of accessible piers to choose from. Some of these piers provide access to premier trout fishing destinations.

“For more than 20 years, the National Forests in North Carolina and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission have been committed to providing anglers of all abilities with the opportunity to go fishing on public lands,” said Sheryl Bryan, U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina fisheries and wildlife biologist.

“During this time, forest and district biologists, engineers, landscape architects and recreation proponents have worked together to create a comprehensive network of accessible fishing opportunities across a diversity of resources,” added Delce Dyer, developed recreation program manager.

Today, there are close to 20 barrier-free fishing piers in the four national forests. Through careful planning, design and construction, in partnership with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, accessible fishing facilities have been constructed from the mountains to the sea. The facilities provide fishing opportunities in warm-water reservoirs and small ponds, as well as cold-water streams and rivers.

“Designs of fishing piers that extend over waterways have been refined over the years and have been adopted for use by the Wildlife Resources Commission throughout the state,” said Lynn Hicks, engineer and staff officer for Engineering, Heritage and Recreation. ”Site-specific designs have provided accessible parking and routes to these water-based sites, and most of the fishing piers include areas for both seated and standing fishing.”

Recnt piers include a metal mesh water-viewing component into a portion of the pier’s flooring. 

In addition to tourists, a number of local residents regularly use the accessible piers. In many communities, the piers have become centers for frequent outdoor recreation. For example, Boone Fork Pond pier, near the communities of Lenoir and Hudson, is commonly used as an outdoor destination for the mentally and physically challenged. Chapters of Wounded Warriors have assisted with projects, particularly on the Croatan National Forest. Other partners who have provided funding or assistance in constructing these facilities include Trout Unlimited, the Muskie Club, and Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society. The two piers near Robbinsville -- one on a small pond, the other on Santeetlah Lake -- provide community fishing opportunities. Many of these accessible fishing facilities are used during National Fishing Week activities, including sites for Special Needs Fishing Days.

Accessible fishing piers on small lakes and ponds include:

  • Nantahala National Forest: Balsam Lake; Cherokee Lake; Cheoah Work Center Pond.
  • Pisgah National Forest: Lake Powhatan; Max Patch Pond and Boone Fork Pond.

Accessible piers on rivers and streams include:

  • Pisgah National Forest: North Mills River at North Mills River Campground; Davidson River at Sycamore Flats and Coontree day use areas; South Toe River near Black Mountain Campground; Curtis Creek near Curtis Creek Campground; French Broad River at Murray Branch Day Use Area.
  • Nantahala National Forest: Fires Creek (under construction); Snowbird Creek (under construction).
  • Croatan National Forest: Brice Creek pier and accessible launch; White Oak River pier and accessible launch at Haywood Landing.

Accessible piers on large lakes include:

  • Nantahala National Forest: Jackrabbit Mountain at Lake Chatuge; Massey Branch at Santeetlah Lake.
  • Uwharrie National Forest: Kings Mountain Point at Badin Lake Recreation Area.