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What is Mount Mitchell?

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  • Written By: Vicki Hogue-Davies
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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As the tallest peak in the eastern United States, Mount Mitchell is often considered an American landmark. Located in the Black Mountain range of North Carolina, it rises 6,684 feet (2,037 m) above sea level. The Black Mountains, which contain more than 20 peaks taller than 6,000 feet (1,829 m), are part of the massive Appalachian mountain range that stretches from Canada to the southern U.S. Mount Mitchell was designated a North Carolina state park in 1915 to protect its dwindling native trees from destructive logging practices and is the first park in the North Carolina state park system. The park consists of 1,946 forested acres of lush valleys and rolling ridges.

Mount Mitchell was named for Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a science professor from the University of North Carolina who measured the peak in 1835 and discovered it was the tallest in the area. More than 20 years later, in 1857, Dr. Mitchell died of a fall during a trip to remeasure the mountain to support his claim of its height, which was being challenged. He is buried on the mountain's summit. Visitors to the park can see a marker discussing his work near the summit's viewing platform. The view from the summit can stretch as far as 85 miles (137 km) on a clear day.

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Many activities are enjoyed by visitors to Mount Mitchell State Park. Hikers can take multiple short and long hikes on 18 miles (29 km) of trails that thread through the park. Tent camping is available in the park's nine-site campground, and backcountry camping is available in the adjacent Pisgah National Forest. History buffs can visit the park's museum to learn about Mount Mitchell's natural and human history and the plants and wildlife that call it home.

Mount Mitchell's wildlife includes black bears, bobcats, gray foxes and more than 90 species of birds. There are several rare and endangered species, such as the long-tailed shrew, the saw whet owl and the northern flying squirrel. Many of the flora and fauna found in the park, with its high-elevation alpine climate, are more typical of colder weather areas such as New England or Canada than the southern U.S. Mount Mitchell plant life includes a variety of dark spruce and fir trees that give the Black Mountain range its name, as well as native plants such as the mountain raspberry, red elder and blueberry. White snakeroot, St. John's Wort and other wildflowers also dot the landscape.

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