Here at The Gorge we love our trees-without them we would be nothing and we are proud of the unique diversity we get t call home. The steep terrain prevented a full scale login in the past, leaving both large and understory trees to grow larger than usually seen in the area. During construction, zip corridors were pruned at a minimum, so as to not disrupt the process whereby the trees convert sunlight into energy through their leaves (photosynthesis) Maintaining this shade has allowed understory plants and wildlife to thrive in an undisturbed environment. Not to mention the aesthetic appeal of flying over an undisturbed forest canopy, a continuous carpet of foliage beneath the riders feet. As well, The installation techniques used in the construction of the course are the least invasive way to build a tree based canopy tour, based on the experience of design and construction by leading course builders in this industry, and by the advice of professional arborists. To say the least, we are proud of our trees and we want to share with you the Top 5 Trees of The Gorge Zipline.
5 Tulip Poplar ( liriodendron tulipifera). Next time you are standing on Platform 10, the highest platform, be sure to take note on how straight the trunk of the tree is. This beauty is a Tulip Poplar, which are one of the largest native trees in the eastern US, growing up to 190 feet tall and 10 ft in diameter. Tulip Poplars are know for their straight trunks, light bark, and their unique green, yellow and orange flowers that bloom in the early spring. Fun fact: A Tulip Poplar is not actually part of the poplar genus, but is actually part of the Magnolia family.
4 White Oak (cuercus alba) When you land on platform 3 you are landing in a very old (100+ years old) White Oak. White Oaks are one of the largest native beauties of the east coast. Some distinct features of White Oaks are the pale gray bark, which is broken into rectangular blocks on medium size trees; on larger trees (like the one platform 3 sits in) the bark is broken into scaly broad plates. This is a great way to tell the difference between a white and red oak.
3 Cucumber Magnolia (magnolia acuminata) If you are lucky enough to zip through the course in May or early June be sure to take a deep breath when you land on platform 5, that is the sweet smell of the Cucumber Magnolia’s greenish yellow flowers (resembling a Tulip Poplar flower). The fruit that grows on the tree is where the name comes from-the unripe fruit resembles a small cucumber, but when it is ripe the fruit turns a stunning reddish orange color . A few other features that can help you identify a Cucumber Magnolia is its smooth oval shaped leaves with pointed tips and its rough bark, which is unlike most deciduous Magnolias. Growing to a similar height of a Tulip Polar, be sure to look up at the leave or you may be mistaken.
2 Northern Red Oak (cuercus rubra) When you are bottoms of the steps after the first rappel, be sure to look up at the beautiful 100+ year old Northern Red Oak. Northern Red Oaks have been called “one of the handsomest, cleanest, and stateliest trees in North America” by naturalist Joseph S. Illick and this specimen displays this perfectly. Northern Red Oaks are very abundant in the Appalachian Mountains. The way they differ from the White Oak relative is that the leaves have more pointed ends and the bark is pale gray with vertical veins of smooth bark with shallow furrow of rough bark-it does not flake like the White Oak.
1 Black Locust (robinnia pseudoacacia) Next time you are standing on platform 4 after be sure to ask your guide to point out the possible North Carolina state record size Black Locust. If you visit in late April you may even smell and see its fragrant and edible stunning white flowers it produces. A Black Locust has very distinct compound leaves with many elliptical leaflets-varying drastically from the other trees mentioned about. The bark of older Black Locust (like this one) is deeply furrowed and has diamond-pattered ridges. A unique feature of the Black Locust is the two spikes at the base of each leaf or bud-lets just say you don’t want to rub shoulders with a young Black Locust. Fun Fact: the inner back and seed pods of Black Locust are poisonous.
Bonus Don’t forget to look at our beautiful understory trees. Normally the understory gets cleared out by man, run over by equipment, or eaten by wildlife. The steep terrain, abundant rainfall, and natural forest succession has maintained a very diverse understory. Paw paw, Silver bell, Striped maple, Umbrella magnolia, and Persimmon all grow underneath the main canopy. The Gorge foliage and fauna is best viewed over multiple trips after you have slowed down from the initial adrenaline rush and take the time to look around. The view of the forest that the zipline allows is one most people never see so make sure to take a second look
NORTHERN RED OAK