Local Geology

The WCU campus is located in the lower reaches of the Cullowhee Creek watershed in the headwaters region of the Tennessee River basin. The creek flows through campus for about 1.5 km (Figure 1). As part of the Blue Ridge physiographic province, mountainous terrain dominates the Cullowhee Creek watershed (62 km²), with the elevation ranging from 628m at its mouth to just over 1400m along the highest divides.

The climate is humid subtropical and the annual precipitation varies from 127 cm at WCU to 178 cm in the headwaters.

Development in the watershed is generally sparse with the most intensive land use, including WCU, in the lower elevation, flatter part of the basin. Excess sedimentation is considered the largest environmental threat to aquatic systems in the region. Bedrock exposures on campus, mostly the product of human activity, include Late Proterozoic biotite gneiss, schist, and a minor amount of amphibolite. Alluvium, artificial fill, colluvium, and saprolite dominate the sediments observed on campus. Red, clay-rich Ultisols are developed in saprolite on most slopes on the WCU campus whereas loamy Inceptisols make up the floodplain of Cullowhee Creek.


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