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CNPA Asheville Region Field Trip — Cataloochee Elk
with Dennis Oakley
Wednesday,September 27, 2017
Time: Meeting place 6:30 am. Gates to the valley will
open at Sunrise which is 7:24 am. The gate may open
early, We will stay until the Elk leave (~10:30). While the
field trip will be over once the elk leave, you may want to
stay on your own and photograph other areas in the valley.
Where: Cataloochee Valley, GSMNP
The Elk. In 2001, elk were reintroduced in Cataloochee
Valley. Other wildlife commonly spotted includes bear,
deer, and turkeys.
The elk are generally feeding in the early morning hours
and return to the woods around 10:30 am. This time of
year the elk are in the rut and you can hear the bugling
echo in the valley and photograph the steam coming from
their noses and mouths. The large male antlers are impressive. If we are lucky, two males may compete
for the females. Juvenile males often spar with each other. Most likely there will some fog or mist in the
Degree of Difficulty: Easy. Most of the photography takes place from the side of the road near your car.
number of participants, please contact him if you plan to go, especially if you plan to meet him at the
Exxon station. Cell phone coverage at Cataloochee is poor to non-existent so please contact him
Meeting Place: He will be at an Exxon gas station on Route 276 — .2 miles south of Cove Creek Road
on 276 — at 6:30 am if anyone wants to follow him. Otherwise we’ll meet around 7:30 at the gate next to
the Rangers Station. He’ll be in a green Toyota Landcruiser.
Directions: The entrance road to Cataloochee Valley is a winding, gravel road that has some steep drop
offs with no guardrails. Please use caution when driving on this road.
From Asheville, take interstate I-40 W, exit at North Carolina exit # 20 and travel 0.2 miles on route 276 S.
Turn right onto Cove Creek Road and follow the signs 11 miles into the Cataloochee Valley. (The Exxon
gas station is about .2 mile beyond Cove Creek Road).
From Waynesville, take 276 N towards I-40. Just before the entrance ramp to I-40 (but past the gas
station), turn left and follow the directions as above.
Cove Creek road is paved for awhile. It does turn into a gravel road for about 15 minutes. Then the road
becomes paved again. Stay on the paved road until you get to Cataloochee Valley. You will pass a
campground (with bathrooms) on the left and a Ranger Station on the right. The Elk can be found along a
1-mile stretch of road past the Ranger Station and it is worthwhile to drive the entire length as there are
different groups of elk and historic buildings. There is another bathroom in the valley.
Park Regulations: Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs
or displaces bear or elk is prohibited. During the rut, going onto the fields is prohibited. Feeding,
touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife is prohibited.
Equipment: To photograph the Elk bring the longest lens you have. I recommend setting your aperture
at its widest and using the highest ISO you are comfortable with. I think a photo with some noise is more
desirable than a blurry subject due to slow shutter speed. Focus on the eye as it needs to be tack sharp.
For landscapes bring your normal or wide-angle lens. A tripod is recommended.
Clothing: Dress in layers for a cool morning; bring rain gear; wear comfortable shoes.
Food: Bring snacks & water. If you plan to stay after the elk leave, bring a lunch as there are no places
to get food in the valley.