North Carolina Side Feature


Bald is Beautiful

If you've ever wondered why some mountains are called balds, you've probably guessed right at the answer—they're missing trees at the top, giving them the appearance of "going bald." This open meadow at a high elevation usually translates into spectacular views unobstructed by trees. The origin of balds is an ecological mystery. Some biologists think balds formed thousands of years ago as a result of frost heaving and soil erosion, with fire, drought, and wind keeping the bald areas clear; others think that natural chemicals in grasses and low shrubs kept trees from establishing themselves in the balds. The balds in the park probably came to their present form after settlers used high fields for summer pasture for their cattle. After livestock were removed with the coming of the park, the balds grew back up in shrubs and trees and shrank in size.

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