Uwharrie National Forest Overview
Some 500 million years ago, the Uwharrie Mountains emerged from the soils of North Carolina's central piedmont, making them the oldest mountain range in North America. While the dinosaurs that roamed those 20,000-foot summits are long since extinct, the Uwharries yet remain, though somewhat diminished in stature. The same forces of erosion that wore the Appalachians down from their former Rocky-Mountain-like heights also took their toll on the Uwharries, which now top out at around 1,000 feet.
The entire Uwharrie, prior to becoming a national forest, was cleared for timber and farming. Today you'll find young second- and third-growth mixed forests have grown up to provide new habitat for wildlife eradicated by earlier development. The Uwharrie also boasts more archaeological sites per acre than any other forest in the southeast. The Birkhead Mountains Wilderness in the north is an exception: Still blanketed by old-growth hardwoods, this area was less affected by development and looks to stay that way.
Explore a Ruined Plantation
Birkhead Mountains Wilderness takes its name from the Birkhead family, who ran a plantation of tenant farms on the land from 1850 to the 1930s. A hike along the Birkhead Mountain Trail will uncover rock chimneys of long-abandoned farm houses. You'll also come across Bingham Graveyard, where headstones among the trees mark the passing of Birkhead residents. The trail is an easy to moderate ridgeline ramble that features great vistas, especially in winter when leaves don't obscure the view.
Land a Largemouth
Badin Lake is a bassmaster's paradise, where largemouth lurk around the forest shoreline's rocky points. Carolina rigged plastic worms and lizards in assorted colors are favorite lures for largemouths in the spring. Fishing live crawfish or minnows just off the bottom with a cork is an old fashioned but still effective way to catch largemouth bass. An eight pounder is a big un' at Badin but 3-to-4 pound fish are abundant. While you're here, you can also cast for crappie, catfish, bream, white bass, and striped bass.
Anchor a Houseboat on Badin Lake's Shores
Badin Lake is a classic summer getaway. A pristine wilderness it's not, but if you want to hang out by a warm, beautiful lake with some mellow folks, Badin Lake will do you right. The undulating shoreline offers countless forest coves for a vacationing family to anchor their houseboat or cabin cruiser for days of relaxation and fun. Bring your fishin' pole, your flippers, and your jet ski—whatever you like to do on the water.
Run the Uwharrie River
The Uwharrie is one of the last runnable rivers in the North Carolina piedmont. As you travel through the scenic Uwharrie Mountains, keep your eyes peeled: gold prospectors still find precious metals along the Uwharrie's banks. The trick to running the Uwharrie is in the timing. During an extended summer dry spell, the river virtually dries up. But when the next storm hits, look out: it is a river of extremes. The classic Uwharrie trip is an overnighter from just below Lassiter's Mill to the intersection of the Uwharrie with the Pee Dee river. You can camp anywhere on the national forest land that borders the river.
Pedal Wood Run Singletrack
Just west of Troy, North Carolina, the Uwharrie Mountain Bike Association has established the Wood Run trail system, with over 20 miles of technically challenging trails for the discriminating masochist. According to a review posted by a rider at singletracks.com, bikers can expect "near death experiences on every downhill." You can tackle top-notch singletrack on the Supertree and Keyauwee loops. The trail system also crosses the Uwharrie River and offers great mountain views.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication