The North Carolina Bartram Trail Society was organized in 1977 to establish and maintain the North Carolina section of the memorial trail that honors Philadelphia-born naturalist William Bartram. Bartram was among the most well known of the early naturalists, botanists and explorers of his day. He traveled throughout the southeast from 1773 to 1777. Along the way, he wrote exact, vivid descriptions of the plants and animals he saw, and the Native Americans he encountered. In 1791, he published these writings under the title Bartram’s Travels, which has been published continuously and remains in print today in a number of world languages. This marvelous book is available online as part of the Documenting the American South literary project through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The 80+ miles of the Bartram Trail in North Carolina follows the original route as closely as possible on public lands. It takes up where the Georgia trail leaves off, near Rabun Bald just south of Highlands, winds north–west, and ends at Cheoah Bald. Through its history the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society has blazed, built, and maintained the Trail, much of which lies within the Nantahal National Forest. At some point in the future, the Society hopes to reblaze an earlier portion of trail called the ‘western extension’ that traverses further across the Nantahala over a lovely heath bald called Old Billy Top (perhaps a reference to William Bartram himself?).
Following in the spirit of William Bartram, the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society seeks to promote further enquiry and knowledge about the plants and animals of the southern Appalachians, as well as the traditions and culture of the native Cherokee people. Today, the Society has around 200 members throughout the Southeast. It conducts twice-annual meetings, in spring and fall of each year, and organizes second Saturday monthly trail work hikes and other outdoor activities for youth groups, college groups and families. You can help support the trail by joining in activities or becoming a member.