Mt. Mitchell rises from the Blue Ridge Parkway to an altitude of 6,684 feet -- the tallest peak in the eastern United States. Its vegetation is divided into hardwood forest, which covers the mountain below 4,500 feet, and coniferous spruce-fir forest which blankets the remaining higher elevations. Mt. Mitchell State Park encompasses 1,469 acres of predominantly Red Spruce and Fraser Fir woodland, and the life associated with this vegetation is northern in its character.
Clifton works for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and works throughout our region studying birds and other wildlife. He will show us the make-up of this habitat, which is one of the most endangered in the country and in our area is restricted to the very tops of our mountains. As well as the familiar Red Spruce and Fraser Fir, there are endemic plants and animals restricted to this eco-system. There’s even a tarantula (very, very small) found on Mt Mitchell.
Typical breeding birds of the higher elevations include Common Raven, Brown Creeper, Dark-eyed Junco, Winter Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Hermit Thrush and Red Crossbill can be found as well. The Appalachian race of the hardy Northern Flying Squirrel, closely related to the more familiar Southern Flying Squirrel of lower elevation broad-leaved woodlands, also occurs at this elevation.