More than 300 riders participated in the Six Hours of Warrior Creek mountain bike race on the grounds of the Wilmington District’s W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir in Wilkesboro on Saturday, April 1st. Rated as “Epic” by the Boulder, Colorado-based International Mountain Bike Association, the trail system offers professional and experienced mountain bikers a challenging ride with breathtaking beauty.
“In the foothills of Western North Carolina we’ve got some nice rolling hills and that just makes for some world class mountain biking,” said W. Kerr Scott Ranger Scott Graham. “Along with the topography you have the rolling hills, all kinds of natural obstacles like boulders, rocks, roots, and trees all around. So you have a beautiful natural setting that really lends itself to some fun and exciting mountain biking.”
Mountain bike enthusiasts like to use the term “flow” when describing a trail like Warrior Creek. There are numerous areas where they can meander down sloped grades with minimal effort, or huff and puff their way up steep inclines. The big draw of the Warrior Creek Trail is not only spectacular scenery, but a trail system that offers professionally-built berms, hard packed trails and natural obstacles like strategically placed rocks.
Jim Horton of the Brushy Mountain Cyclist Club in Wilkesboro designed the trail. A mountain biker himself, he knows exactly what makes a good ride.
“When I’m building a trail I’m thinking about making a trail that’s fun for me to ride,” he explained. “It’s just lucky that everyone else enjoys the same thing so it works out well.”
Horton said that professional and advanced riders keep returning to Warrior Creek because of the key ingredients that make up the trail. It tests their competiveness through endurance, and more importantly their skills.
“We have some good examples of some of the more technical features for a rider to enjoy like a section called the Rock Garden. I like to give them a little bit of everything. We’ve got fun, flow, berms, and a smooth, single-track trail that seems endless. And we’ve got certain small sections of the trail that zigzag like a roller coaster ride. They can also enjoy views of the lake and mountains around them.”
The partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Brushy Mountain Cyclist Club and other volunteer groups have made excellent use of the public lands at W. Kerr Scott. Volunteers regularly maintain the trail system and keep aesthetics in mind when they tend to it.
“That’s one of the things that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has really liked with the Brushy Mountain Cyclist Club, the work that they’ve done, because sustainability and keeping the land ‘as is’ is very important to us," said Graham. “And if you go on these trails a lot of times you will not even notice them because they blend in so well with the land itself. They’re like a natural part of the existing land. Another thing is sustainability. These trails are meant to weather all kinds of people riding them as well as impacts from the elements. So when we get a big thunderstorm, for example, the next day the trails have drained, have dried, and there’s no sedimentation in the water sources.”
Although W. Kerr Scott is gaining a reputation as a mountain bike Mecca in Western North Carolina, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park rangers encourage the public to take advantage of other recreational opportunities.
“Absolutely. This is a great place for families. We’ve got camping, excellent fishing, boating opportunities, and of course the great mountain biking trails,” Graham said. “And one thing about our mountain bike trails, these are multi-purpose trails. So you can get out there on your bike, go take a hike, go bird watching. These trails are for everybody. You don’t have to have a mountain bike to come enjoy these trails.”
Graham said that applies to all of the trails at W. Kerr Scott. Although the Warrior Creek Trail draws the bulk of attention because of its popularity with experienced mountain bike riders there are two other trails for novices.
“We have three trail systems with more than 30 miles of trails. You have the Dark Mountain trail system, the Overmountain Victory Trail, as well as the Warrior Creek trail system. If you ride these trails you will see the progression the Brushy Mountain Cyclist Club has made in their building skills. When you ride from one trail to the other you can see that their skill level has increased in the finesse of the trail, and the surrounding land becomes more apparent. The club is said to have milked it for everything it’s worth. They have been taking the land that is here and really just maximized the riding opportunities on them.”
Slow and steady or fast furious is what the experienced or novice mountain biker can find on trails at W. Kerr Scott. And as long as the Warrior Creek course keeps providing a good adrenaline rush for those who are experienced rider it will continue to keep its reputation as a world class mountain bike destination.
For more information about the Warrior Creek trail system go to the following link; https://www.imba.com/epics/kerr-scott