Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/180

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176
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
SHALL OUR FOREST WEALTH BE DESTROYED?
By THOMAS ELMER WILL
SECRETARY OF THE AMERICAN FORESTRY ASSOCIATION

IN the sunny southland, stretching from Pennsylvania in the northeast to Alabama in the southwest, are the Southern Appalachian Mountains. These constitute not a single ridge or chain, but a zone or belt composed of numerous parallel ridges, as the Alleghenies, Blue Ridge, Black, Unakas, Smoky, etc. Connecting these ridges, often, are cross ridges equaling in cases and even exceeding the longitudinal ranges.

Surmounting these ranges at many points are lofty peaks. Of these the chief, Mt. Mitchell, is 6,711 feet high; 46 more, a mile or more apart, with 41 miles of divide, rise to an altitude of 6,000 feet, while 288 others, with 300 miles of divide, reach a height of 5,000 feet above the sea. Among these may be mentioned, in the Blue Ridge, Grandfather Mountain, 5,964 feet, Pinnacle, 5.693 feet and Standing Indian, 5,562 feet high. In the Smoky Mountains, Mount Guyot reaches a height of 6,636 feet, and Clingmans Dome, 6,619 feet.

"Between these groups of mountains and far below them, though still at an elevation of 2,000 feet or more above the sea, are the numerous narrow valleys of this region." Many of them are marked by great fertility and beauty.

Save on the highest peaks, or on the slopes where man has interfered, these mountains are clad with a magnificent growth of forest. Near the bases are found oaks, hickories, maples, chestnuts and tulip poplars, suggesting in size the great trees of the Pacific coast. Higher, one passes through forests of great hemlocks, chestnut oaks, beeches and birches, and, still higher, through groves of spruce and balsam. Near the tops, the balsams become dwarfed and are succeeded, largely, by clusters of rhododendron and patches of grass fringed with flowers.

In this region, ranging from 60 inches in Georgia to 71 inches in North Carolina, occurs the heaviest annual rainfall in the United States, save on the Pacific coast. The water thus precipitated finds its way to the sea, east, west, southeast or southwest, through practically all the important rivers of the south. The Southern Appalachians thus constitute the watershed for, practically, the entire region below the Potomac and Ohio and east of the Mississippi. The descent of the water from the mountainsides is marked by some of the most beautiful cascades and waterfalls that ever gladdened human sight. Among