Box Creek Wilderness
Spanning 7,000 acres, Box Creek Wilderness is one of North Carolina’s premiere ecological jewels and is the state’s largest private Registered Natural Heritage Area. On the cusp of the Blue Ridge and Piedmont ecoregions, it is an essential link in the ecological corridor between the South Mountains and the Blue Ridge Escarpment.
The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program designates Box Creek Wilderness Significant Natural Heritage Area as “outstanding,” the highest possible ranking for a Natural Heritage Area in North Carolina, and in the top 1% of all such areas in the state. This ranking is in terms of sheer number and rarity of imperiled species and natural communities as well as for its importance in protecting the highest quality and rarest natural communities and species. As of April 2014, ongoing ecological assessments revealed 128 rare and priority conservation species of plants and animals and 18 globally rare plant communities. Maturing and interior forests cover thousands of acres. Within its forests, 28 rare or conservation priority bird species find refuge.
Update November 3, 2016: One of the largest conservation easements donated by an individual in the history of North Carolina was recently recorded in Rutherford and McDowell counties. It permanently protects the 7,000-acre Box Creek Wilderness, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains south of Marion, N.C. Tim Sweeney, Cary resident and founder of Epic Games, donated the conservation easement to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).