Nantahala National Forest
The Nantahala National Forest was established in 1920 and surrounds Macon County with an intense natural beauty. The word "Nantahala" is a Cherokee word meaning "Land of the Noonday.” The name is appropriate as, in some spots, the sun only reaches the floors of the deep gorges of the national forest when directly overhead at midday. The Spanish Conquistador Hernando de Soto explored the area in 1540, as did William Bartram in the 18th century. The Nantahala National Forest is home to the famous Nantahala River (Please see scenic vista below of the Nantahala National Forest).
The Nantahala National Forest is administered by the United States Forest Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture and is the largest of the four national forests in North Carolina, lying in the mountains and valleys of western North Carolina. The terrain varies in elevation from 5,800 feet (1,767.8 m) at Lone Bald in Jackson County, to 1,200 feet (365.8 m) in Cherokee County along the Hiwassee River below the Appalachian Dam. It is the home of many western NC waterfalls. The last part of the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway travels through this forest. The total area under management is 531,286 acres (830.13 sq mi; 2,150.04 km2). In descending order of land area it is located in parts of Macon, Graham, Cherokee, Jackson, Clay, Swain, and Transylvania counties. Again, Macon County is right in the middle of the Nantahala Forest.