A walk around Bluff Mountain offers scenic beauty, unusual landforms, and extraordinary botanical variety. Although relatively small in size, Bluff is one of the most ecologically significant natural areas in the Southeast.
While hiking on Bluff, in just a few dozen steps, you can walk from a Carolina hemlock forest to a dwarf red-oak-white-oak forest to a rare flat-rock plant community. Additionally, a broad, high plateau containing an unusual wetland, a southern Appalachian fen, adds to Bluff’s unique character.
Bluff Mountain is part of a local mountain chain characterized by a substrate of mineral-rich rock called hornblende gneiss. The gneiss is unusually rich in minerals like calcium and potassium that provide important nutrients for plants.
Bluff is a fertile home for over 400 species of plants, including Indian paintbrush, Gray’s lily, fringed gentian, spreading avens, and the world’s only known population of Bluff Mountain reindeer lichen. It boasts 25 endangered, rare, or threatened flowering plant species. The high-elevation hardwood forests of Bluff also provide ideal nesting habitat for many neotropical migratory bird species such as black-throated green warbler, veery, rose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tanager and blue-headed vireo. During field trips in the spring, you may hear the distinctive drumming of ruffed grouse. Elusive bobcats den in the shelter of rocky outcrops while ravens are often seen soaring over the cliffs.
History of the Preserve
Shortly after the North Carolina Chapter office opened in 1977, the staff began working with the mountain’s owners, the Wyn Edwards and Mac Edwards families of West Jefferson, to explore a way to protect the fragile area for conservation. The Nature Conservancy purchased 701 acres of Bluff from the Edwards family in 1978. The Nature Conservancy continues to work to protect this entire natural area, currently managing over 3,800 acres as Bluff Mountain Preserve.