Having moved to Laurel Park near Hendersonville in Western North Carolina’s “Blue Ridge Mountains,” I shouldn’t be surprised by the number of places given names for “rocks” such as “Flat Rock,” “Jump Off Rock” and “Chimney Rock.”
But I have been surprised; each has an interesting history connected with it. This blog story is about these rock formations and the stories about them… stories which have been passed between generations of Native Americans and others living in these beautiful mountains.
There are many natural areas in the Hendersonville-area mountains. I have seen beautiful waterfalls and crystal clear water smashing against rocks as it cascades down the mountains.
Unique names add color in one’s mind in these mountains. Going on the twisting mountain road from Gerton to Bat Cave to Chimney Rock to Lake Lure is a beautiful drive with lush forests and bare-faced rock mountains adjacent to the road.
The town of “Bat Cave” is close to the real cave by that name. Located near to the village of “Chimney Rock” is the “Chimney Rock State Park.” And the Cherokee trading place “flat rock” lends its name to the town of “Flat Rock” and the playhouse that is there.
This Western North Carolina area is a natural paradise and a dream come true for those loving outdoor activities including exploring, hiking, fishing, camping, kayaking, bicycling, and riding horses. But this blog entry is about three of the nearby rock formations and their stories… other stories will have to wait for future blog entries.
“Jump Off Rock”
Jump Off Rock is only about six miles up the mountain where I reside in Laurel Park. In those 6 miles, you drive a serpentine highway through the forest with many laurel shrubs embracing you on the way.
As you drive to Jump Off Rock you ascend from an elevation around 2000 feet to just over 3000. Once at the top, the panorama of the Blue Ridge is breathtaking. In the distance there are many valleys and peaks. The most famous of the peaks to me is “Cold Mountain” (of movie fame) at just over 6000 feet in the photo above.
For centuries prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America and the subsequent westward expansion, the “flat rock” in the mountains was a place for trading and settling disputes by Cherokee and Catawba tribes. The flat rock wasn’t a ceremonial site. Over time, Cherokees and the colonial settlers from the coast also traded at the “flat rock” during annual trading gatherings.
Today, much of the huge structure is covered with soil, grass, houses and roads but it is evident in several places. The most prominent location is where the pictured “Flat Rock Playhouse” has been constructed atop it.
“Chimney Rock” is a 315′ tall monolith located at the edge of the Hickory Nut Gorge. Unlike the stories from Flat Rock and Jump Off Rock, there isn’t much history about the rock except for the past century or so. Cherokee artifacts have been found in the Chimney Rock State Park but we are uncertain if the rock itself held any ceremonial or other significance to natives.
With a plethora of incredible views and features in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a wealth of native history, the Hendersonville area is an explorers treat! The three rock formations I described are only the beginning as there is more natural beauty everywhere (particularly in the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard) to provide inspiration for future stories. So stay tuned for my future blog stories about these beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina and the things that make them great.