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Cedar Cliffs Purchased for Nature Preserve

Photo by Gordon Tutor.

Thanks to an outpouring of community support, Conserving Carolina has purchased 192 acres in Polk County for a new nature preserve. The planned preserve, called Cedar Cliffs at Twin Bridges, will connect two existing Conserving Carolina preserves—Melrose Falls and Norman Wilder Forest. The land also borders the proposed Saluda Grade Trail. Part of the land is located just across Highway 176 from the North Pacolet River, with headwater streams that flow into the river.  


This property has been a top conservation priority for many years and the land trust had attempted to acquire it in the past, without success. An opportunity arose early this year to buy the land—but only if Conserving Carolina could raise $100,000 in donations quickly. Just days after Conserving Carolina announced this need, local donors met the fundraising goal—and kept on giving.  

Executive director, Kieran Roe, says, “This level of generosity really speaks to how much people already treasure the protected lands in the North Pacolet River Gorge. If you’ve seen the wildflowers in Melrose Falls, or walked the trails in Norman Wilder Forest, or you’re looking forward to the Saluda Grade Trail, then you can understand what a momentous opportunity this is for conservation.” 

So far, funding has come from Fred and Alice Stanback, the Polk County Community Foundation Bradley Fund, the Upstate Land Conservation Fund, and numerous gifts from generous local donors. Conserving Carolina has also applied for a key grant from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund. 

Cedar Cliffs connects to other treasured nature preserves as well as the proposed Saluda Grade Trail.

The Cedar Cliffs property includes two separate sections, one on either side of Conserving Carolina’s Melrose Falls Preserve (also called Twin Bridges). The northern section includes 162 forested acres on Buck Mountain, with rare plants, rich biodiversity, and eight headwater streams. This section also touches Conserving Carolina’s Norman Wilder Forest, home to popular hiking trails. 

The southern section of Cedar Cliffs includes 30 acres with a long boundary along the proposed Saluda Grade Trail. This means that a section of the rail trail could have nature preserves on both sides—Melrose Falls and Cedar Cliffs. Cedar Cliffs offers a potential access point for the Saluda Grade Trail. 

The Cedar Cliffs preserve will add to two growing conservation corridors. One corridor runs east-west along the North Pacolet River. The other runs north-south across mountains to link two vast protected areas, the Green River Game Lands and Mountain Bridge Wilderness. Corridors like this allow animals to migrate freely and can help plants and wildlife shift their range in response to climate change. 

In addition, making this land a nature preserve improves opportunities to fight kudzu along Highway 176, especially with the leadership of Conserving Carolina’s Kudzu Warriors volunteers. 

“This is such a special part of the mountains, with so much beauty and biodiversity,” Roe says. “By protecting another wonderful nature preserve here, we’re moving toward a landscape-level vision for conservation.” 

Cedar Cliffs at Twin Bridges.
By Gordon Tutor.


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