Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Volunteers help restore Linville Gorge Wilderness

Dedicated volunteers painstakingly removed nearly 150 tires from the Linville Gorge Wilderness. Mechanical equipment is prohibited in a designated Wilderness. Forest Service photo.

Linville Gorge Wilderness on the Pisgah National Forest is now a more beautiful place thanks to the efforts of 85 volunteers who worked over 1,800 hours under the lead of Wild South to remove nearly 150 tires.

In the 1970s a large flood washed the tires down into the Wilderness from a business north of the area. Since that time, tires have been a common site along the Linville River.

In the Wilderness, a huge volunteer effort to remove these tires has been quietly underway over the past year. Volunteers gathered tires one-by-one and steadily moved them to the Wilderness boundary using only traditional tools like ropes, poles and pulleys.

“Initially volunteers were carrying tires up the 1,500-foot sides of the deep gorge, but as they discovered dozens more tires along the riverbank it became clear they would need a different plan,” explained Kevin Massey, executive director of Wild South and chief tire removal coordinator. “With help from private landowners, a more feasible route was devised.” 

Volunteers led by Wild South pose with tires they removed by hand from the Linville Gorge Wilderness on Saturday, June 17. The group of 85 volunteers worked over 1,800 hours to remove nearly 150 tires from the Wilderness. Forest Service photo.

A hike up Pinch-In Trail in the Linville Gorge is a true test of human endurance. The trail climbs nearly 1,500 feet out of the gorge onto the cliffs above. When hikers stop to catch their breath and rehydrate, they are rewarded with sweeping views of the heart of the Wilderness. Imagine hiking up this trail with a 50-pound tire strapped to your back.

The alternate exit route avoided Pinch-In Trail to minimize risk to volunteers. They carried tires for miles through the gorge in relays to an exit point across private land so a nearby Forest Service truck could load the tires and haul them to a recycling facility. Mission accomplished.