CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University has advanced to the championship round in a leading outdoor publication’s annual competition to name the best outdoor adventure school in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.
Online voting in the final round of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine’s “top adventure college” poll continues through noon, Monday, June 9. A winner may be announced as early as Tuesday, June 10.
The poll can be found at http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/best-outdoor-school. Magazine representatives warn that online voting may be unavailable for a short period of time on the evening of Wednesday, June 4, and early morning hours of Thursday, June 5, as a server upgrade is made because of heavy traffic on the website.
Western Carolina is up against Garrett College, located in western Maryland, and defeated Emory University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Virginia Tech and Appalachian State to advance to the championship bracket.
Nestled in a scenic valley between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains of Western North Carolina, WCU is located in a hotbed of outdoor activities including mountain and road biking, hiking, rock climbing and rappelling, camping, paddle sports, fishing, skiing, and trail and road running.
The university’s Base Camp Cullowhee, the outdoor programming unit at WCU, offers dozens of outdoor recreation trips to students annually. Base Camp Cullowhee also provides experiential education services related to the outdoors and has an outdoor equipment rental service.
Western Carolina opened a seven-mile multi-use trail system behind the Health and Human Sciences Building on its West Campus in 2013, offering hiking, running and mountain biking activities to members of the campus and surrounding community.
WCU hosts the annual Cullowhee Rock and Rumble Fest collegiate bouldering competition, and, this spring, the WCU Cycling Team sponsored a regional two-day collegiate road bike race, the Airport Assault, attracting cyclists from across the Southeast to Cullowhee.
In 2008, WCU completed a new Campus Recreation Center that includes a 2,100-square-foot indoor climbing facility, allowing students to master their skills and to experience outdoor adventure inside when the weather turns nasty.
Cullowhee Creek, a hatchery-supported trout stream, flows through the center of campus, and the Tuckaseigee River, which runs adjacent to campus, is a popular fly-fishing destination. The university’s Liston B. Ramsey Activity Center has played host in recent years to the annual Southeastern Fly Fishing Festival.
Students and other members of the campus community also take advantage of the nearby Tuckaseigee River for tubing and rafting excursions. The annual Tuck River Cleanup, the nation’s longest-running single-day effort to clean up a river and an event that just celebrated its 30th anniversary, is sponsored by Base Camp Cullowhee. More than 800 participants took to the water and riverbanks earlier this year to remove trash from a stretch of the scenic river.
Active and recognized club sports on campus bring students together to go fishing, climbing, cycling, play disc golf and enjoy equestrian activities.
Two featured summer courses at WCU this year include a beginner and intermediate kayaking course and a bicycle touring class. WCU also offers an annual Catamount Adventure Camp for third- through seventh-graders in which campers can participate in hiking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and other activities. In addition, incoming WCU students have the chance to participate each summer in orientation programs that offer outdoor adventure activities from swimming hole hikes to lake canoe trips.
As part of a service projects connected to their studies, students have developed WHEE Adventure Guides, which highlight where and how in the region to enjoy fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, snow sports, waterfalls and whitewater paddling, and assisted with a study of boaters’ satisfaction with recreational river flow releases on the Upper Nantahala River.
The university also has sponsored the family-friendly Old Cullowhee Canoe Slalom paddling competition, a fall event that raises money to support development of a proposed river park near campus.
Among the academic programs offered by WCU of interest to students pursuing careers in the outdoors are forest resource management, hospitality and tourism management, natural resources conservation and management, and parks and recreation management.