Ribbon Cutting Marks Reopening of Wayah Bald Fire Tower
Last week, the Nantahala National Forest District and the Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially mark the reopening of the historic Wayah Bald Fire Tower. The tower, located 17 miles from downtown Franklin, was damaged in the Camp Branch Wildfire in November of 2016.
The fire engulfed the tower as it raced up the east side of Wayah Bald, completely burning off the wooden roof structure and damaging the concrete observation deck and steps up to it. Several of the interpretive signs at the site were also burnt completely up in the fire and have been replaced with new signage.
As thousands of acres of forests were ravaged by fires in October and November of 2016, Wayah Tower, along with the nearby historic Jones Cabin, were the first structures affected by the wildfires.
With the help of local businesses and volunteers, the Wayah Bald Fire Tower’s roof was restored in just over a year’s time. Jeff Johnson Timber Frames, Williams Construction & Cabinetry Incorporated, Sanders Crane in Franklin, and the members of the Nantahala Hiking Club were critical to the restoration.
Last November, nearly a year to the day the Camp Branch Fire claimed the roof on the Wayah Bald Fire Tower, volunteers gathered to erect beams to support the new roof for the first phase of the reconstruction, returning two months later to complete additional work. Phase one of the project involved setting the principle post, setting the lower rafter and dragon plates and all the wind braces needed for the structure.
This spring, Jeff Johnson Timber Frames, along with help from the forest service, were once again atop Wayah Bald completing phase two of the restoration project.
Many volunteer hours were spent designing, building, staining and finishing the cypress timber frame structure and the shake shingle roof. The Nantahala Hiking Club donated many hours to putting two coats of stain on all the individual timbers prior to installation.
The Wayah Bald Fire Tower is located in the Nantahala National Forest, and is also a part of the historic Appalachian and Bartram Trails, offering visitors a nearly 360 degree panoramic view of the Nantahala, Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains.
The fire tower was first constructed in 1937, and since then has become a historic structure treasured by the residents of Macon County as well as a destination point for visitors to the area. The tower is a very popular place to watch the sunrise. More information and directions to the Wayah Bald Fire Tower can be found at www.VisitFranklinNC.com