The Blue Ridge Traveler
The Blue Ridge Traveler • Undiscovered, Authentic, Natural, Charming, Adventure, Heritage, Friendly, Awe-Inspiring… These are some of the words that describe McDowell County in The Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina; A highly recommended excursion one scenic hour’s drive from The Mast Farm Inn. Your guide: The Blue Ridge Traveler, on FaceBook, on Twitter, and on the Web
McDowell County is a must visit destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Whether you prefer a quiet quest for trout at Curtis Creek or exploring new trails in the Pisgah National Forest, treat yourself to the great outdoors. There is no "urban sprawl" or "big city lights" here. McDowell County is genuine with local, mountain culture, history and natural attractions to explore. Step back in time at a slower pace to discover these irreplaceable treasures.
These mountains are covered with lush forests and an extraordinarily diverse wildlife community. Included hemlock forests, "cove forests", bogs and fens supporting a delicate ecosystem. The area is surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest with over 67,000 acres. These areas are magnificent and exciting places to view plants, wildlife and waterfalls. • Nature in McDowell County
Native Americans discovered the area over 6,000 years ago. In the early 1700s, Scots-Irish pioneers settled here. Those early residents formed a close community protected by a series of forts that remained active until the early 1800s. This was the western most out-post prior to the Declaration of Independence. During the Revolutionary War, men on the Over Mountain Victory Trail marched through. Portions of the trail are accessible today.
Between 1804 & 1827, the area contributed to North Carolina’s gold legacy as the nation’s leader in gold production. McDowell County was formally organized in 1843 at the home of Colonel John Carson. His home serves as a museum today in the Pleasant Gardens community. The county was named for Joseph McDowell, a prominent leader during the Revolutionary War. • Suggested Itineraries
Blue Ridge Traveler is designed to help you create the ideal mountain get-away. "In our spectacular region of the Blue Ridge Mountains, outdoor recreation areas are plentiful including on road and off road bicycle trails, hiking and waterfall trails, boating, skiing, sports and fly-fishing plus access to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The two municipalities of Old Fort, a NC Mountain Trout Town, and Marion, the county seat include historic downtowns, street festivals, an eclectic mix of retail shops and restaurants, the arts and much more."
Little Switzerland is the only mountain village directly on The Blue Ridge Parkway. Downtown Little Switzerland is comprised today of a book store, café, general store and post office situated on Highway 226-A a hundred yards from the Blue Ridge Parkway station at Little Switzerland. Louisa Duls’ memories of Little Switzerland are captured in her book, “The Story of Little Switzerland”. Beginning in 1911, she spent her summers in the family cottage at Little Switzerland. Her father was one of a group of Charlotte business men responsible for creating the “Switzerland Company” in 1909 and developing this spectacular section of the Blue Ridge mountains. Between 1908 and 1909, the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio railway extended their lines from Spruce Pine to Altapass going on to create eighteen tunnels traveling through the lower Blue Ridge, pushing track down the mountain into Marion. Today, the Historic Orchard at Altapass, is the best place to grab a bird’s eye view of those railroad tracks and switch-backs. The railroad built the orchard as a means of providing additional food to its workers. In 1995, Kit Trubey purchased 280 acres and saved this historic landmark. Today, it operates as a non-profit attraction located at Milepost 328.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Old Fort is a historic town, lots of Native American and railroad history are woven into the fabric of the town and its 900 residents. It’s not Mayberry, but it’s close! Walk down Main Street and you’ll see neighbors catching up on local news, Mayor Norton won’t be too far away if you need him and if you’re looking for a certain tool, stop in the old-timey hardware store. For a tiny town, we have two museums… Mountain Gateway Museum and the Old Fort Train Station and Museum. These are within walking distance of one another, again, right downtown! The depot was renovated between 2005-2006 and today includes the railroad museum, the Old Fort Chamber of Commerce and the McDowell County Tourism Authority’s Visitor Center. Look for the brightly colored yellow building with the red roof… and a giant arrowhead out front! Mountain Gateway Museum is a great place to take the family! Admission is free. During the summer, their public garden project surrounds the concept of a “time to plant and a time to pluck.” It’ a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources and is housed in a 1930s WPA period stone building on the banks of Mill Creek. Mill Creek is a great stocked, trout stream! Interior and exterior exhibits interpret pioneer-era history of western North Carolina. The name “Old Fort” is derived from Davidson’s Fort, built here in 1776 by locals and troops left behind by General Griffith Rutherford. Stroll along Main Street and you’ll also find four types of restaurants, an arts gallery, model train shop, antique store and more. Downtown is also part of a bicycle route taking you to a spectacular hiking/cycling trail along the Swannanoa Gap, Point Lookout Trail.
Mount Ida is a dominant feature in the landscape of Historic Downtown Marion. As you slowly cruise along North Main, towards the southern side of town, you’ll literally stop to admire the view of “where Main Street meets the mountains.” Regional photographers and artists recognize the lasting and distinctive impression this image creates for all of us. There are many varieties and views of this landmark. Two of the most memorable are given to us by local photographer Roger Engelke and Marion native Craig Greene. While you’re enjoying downtown, park the car and walk around. You’ll find a music store, restaurants, coffee house, gift shop, the arts council and artisan shop, and other retailers. There are several historic buildings that have been restored and used today for new purposes. The Crooked Door Coffee House was once the Eagle Hotel, originally built at the turn of the 19th century. Historic Downtown Marion is included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Lake James… I remember the first time my father took me fishing. We left home, in the dark, picked up his friend Floyd and drove to the lake. At the time, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about or why we had to be at the lake so early! Once I was in that boat, there was always something to do, something to see or something to learn. The time I spent on the lake with my father created years of memories… teaching me to swim, ski and later to drive the boat. Create memories of your own on spectacular Lake James. There are stunning views of the Linville Gorge, known as North Carolina’s “Grand Canyon,” small islands and coves to discover with over 6,510 acres of water home to Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Catfish, White Bass, Walleye and record specimens of Muskellunge. The cool mountain waters of the Catawba and Linville Rivers keep aquatic vegetation to a minimum concentrating fish populations, especially in winter months. There are plenty of boat access ramps available and Bear Creek Marina supplies your fishing and boating items. If you’re not interested in boating, fishing or jet skis, you might be interested in Lake James State Park. The 565 acre park includes a swimming beach, hiking trails through the azaleas and rhododendron, canoe rentals, picnic shelters and special interpretive programs created by the Park Rangers.
For More Information
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WebSite • www.blueridgetravelers.com
Twitter • www.twitter.com/McDowellTourism
Contact • www.mcdowellnc.org/contact