VALLE CRUCIS — Thanks to a generous donation of land, Blue Ridge Conservancy will soon open 8.5 acres of river access along the Watauga River in Valle Crucis.

MaryAnn Mueller and Diana Travis gifted six acres, and the Tennessee Valley Authority and Watauga Tourism Development Association funded the purchase of the other 2.5 acres.


BRC’s Eric Heigl, Diana Travis, and MaryAnn Mueller stand in the field that will soon be an area to access the Watauga River Paddle Trail.

“We love having wilderness near home and are excited to purchase some of that wilderness and protect it forever,” said donor Diana Travis.

MaryAnn Mueller also agreed and added that “Driving by this river up on the road you don’t appreciate how beautiful it is, but now people will be able to have access and enjoy it in a variety of ways.”

BRC stated the land, located just past the N.C. 194 bridge, will have a public parking area and create easier access to the Watauga River Paddle Trail.

“BRC continues its commitment of increasing public access to our natural resources,’’ said Eric Hiegl, BRC Director of Land Protection & Stewardship. “The Watauga River Paddle Trail is an excellent example of strategic land conservation creating public places in the region.”


The Watauga, supposedly Cherokee for “beautiful waters” provides recreational opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, tubing, whitewater rafting, and fishing.

The recently signed state budget includes funds to begin constructing the river access in the near future.

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