View of Mount Mitchell from the Deck

Eagle Mountain Ridge
Local Area Abounds With History
(Above) View of Mount Mitchell from the Lower Deck

The North Cove and Blue Ridge Mountain vicinity is rich with history.

Here are but a few details about facinating events and places that surround Eagle Mountain.  At the end of each section I have provided links to other websites that provide much more detail.

The Clinchfield Loops

The Orchard at Altapass

The Overmountain Victory Trail

The Brown Mountain Lights

The Flood of 1916

McKinney Gap

(not all sections are complete at this time)
Last update October 6, 2011

The Clinchfield "Loops"

Imagine a train climbing the same grade of road that you drive up on US-226 to Little Switzerland or US-221 to Linville Falls to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Normal road cars have a hard time maintaining speed. In an engineering marvel of the late 1800's, the Clinfield Railroad (now known as CSX) built 21 miles of railroad track to travel 4 miles distance, winding up the mountain which takes a train from approximately 1600 feet above sea level to 2,629 feet above sea level in one continuous consistent-degree climb.  To do this they had to build 18 tunnels.  There are only 17 tunnels today, "3rd Rocky" was removed and opened up in 1977.

The train tracks actually go under the Blue Ridge Parkway at McKinney Gap, the lowest pass through the mountains for hundreds of miles.  Initially they included a passenger line that spawned a booming vacation resort which was named Altapass by the Clinchfield, refering to the highest point "Alta" where the line crosses the crest of the Appalachian Mountains.  Also created by the railroad was the Orchard at Altapass, now over 100 years old.

These are photos taken of "The Loops" overlook marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway:

#3 in Carolina Railroad Top 10 List
Johnson Depot
Google Books - History of Railroading in North Carolina
Photo Tour of Tunnels

Costliest Railroad in America,
a fantastic 1909 news article about
the building of the railroad.

Recommended Books:
Altapass NC, Images of America by Judy Carson and Terry McKinney
Stories of Altapass as told by Bill Carson
(Both can be purchased at the Orchard at Altapass, or found on our coffee table at Eagle Mountain!)


The Orchard at Altapass

I have been driving past the Orchard for years, but never stopped in until September of 2011.  I now regret not stopping sooner.  On that Saturday afternoon, there were so many visitors that they had to park people down the road and in orchard fields.  The place was shoulder to shoulder with people shopping for all sorts of delicious creations from pies to fudge to ice cream to salsa, umteen variations of all.  Free samples were set up and being given out to all.  A dance floor was packed with couples dancing to a live  7 piece band that included fiddle and steel guitar.  At least a hundred chairs had been set up inside and outside on the back deck with many just relaxing and enjoying the music and atmosphere.  It was surreal, like I stepped back in time to one of those visions that you only see now in the movies.

My next trip I rushed my wife to the Orchard and she too got to enjoy the experience.  Owner Bill Carson invited her to dance.  We shopped among all the other unique items that the Orchard sells.  I can't wait to go on the famous story-telling hay ride. We highly recommend this stop as a must visit experience.  And I thought they just sold apples!

The Orchard at Altapass has been operating for over 100 years.
You can now even shop at their online store.  Please visit thier website to learn about numerous other things they support and are involved with:
The Orchard at Altapass


The Overmountain Victory Trail

On September 25, 1780, over 1,000 patriots "mustered" at the Sycamore Shoals of the Watauga River in current day Elizabethton, TN. From there they crossed the high mountains, through 4-inches of snow, and dropped into the Piedmont of North Carolina pursuing Major Patrick Ferguson and his Tory army. They finally caught them on the afternoon of October 7 atop Kings Mountain in South Carolina. When the battle ended, every Tory soldier had been killed or captured. The battle has come to be known as the turning point of the Revolutionary War.

The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (OVHT) is now part of the U.S. National Trails System. The trail network consists of a 330-mile corridor, including a 70-mile branch from Elkin, North Carolina, that joins the main route at Morganton, North Carolina. Fifty-seven miles of OVHT are officially developed for public use, and development continues on the remaining sections.

The official sections of the trail were established through agreements with current landowners and often have overlapping designations. All officially certified segments are identified through the use of signs displaying the trail logo (an Overmountain man in profile on a brown and white triangle) or a white triangular blaze.


In anticipation of both the upcoming American Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the 1980 bicentennial of the Battle of King's Mountain, many citizens in the five states along the original routes—which included Georgia --- reenacted and hiked along the segments of the Appalachian mountain trails and highways closely following the path of the actual 1780 march to the battle site located near present day Kings Mountain, North Carolina, on the North Carolina-South Carolina border. Hikers, military reenactors, and scouts have long followed the segments of the famous overmountain victory trail, and in 1975 three Elizabethton boy scouts were among those who completed the first re-enactment of the overmountain march (approximately 214 miles in one direction) from Elizabethton to King's Mountain and were met at a ceremony by U.S. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller at the Kings Mountain National Military Park located near Blacksburg, South Carolina.

Many of these same OVT hikers, reenactors, and area citizens later sought federal recognition of the overmountain march to the Battle of King's Mountain as being analogous to the spontaneous response of the patriot Minutemen at Lexington and Concord during the American Revolutionary War. OVT supporters worked with representatives of other American trails to create what became known as the National Trails System and later carried scrolls petitioning Congress for national designation of the OVT route.

The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail was officially designated as a national historic trail during September 1980 by federal legislation authorized by the U.S. Congress, and later in 1980, President Jimmy Carter -- recognizing the historical significance of the frontier patriots marching over the Appalachian Mountains to defeat the Loyalist army at the Battle of King's Mountain—signed federal law designating the historical overmountain route as the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, the first National Historic Trail established within the eastern United States exactly 200 years after the event it commemorates.

Overmountain Men
Battle of Kings Mountain


The Brown Mountain Lights

I have seen these lights, whatever they are.  Many evenings people gather and spend long hours at Wisemans View in the Linville Gorge to try and get a glimpse of them, where I have gone many times. I have seen lights on the opposing ridge of the Gorge and down in the Gorge, but these could  have been of human nature, though extremely curious.  Once a dim white light glowed for  periods on and off, on the vertical side of Table Rock.  Returning in the day to view this particular spot, I can't explain how the light could have been there.  On another visit I saw a stationary orange-red light slowly appear glowing in the sky over the ridge to the right of Table Rock, lasting about 15-20 seconds, then slowly fading out.  It happened twice, the second time in a different position, but exactly the same.  I was told fascinating stories by other people who gather regularly and have seen them numerous times.  Wisemans View is about a 25-30 minute drive from Eagle Mountain.

The Brown Mountain Lights were featured in a 1999 episode of The X-Files.

from iblio link below::

The Brown Mountain Lights are one of the most famous of North Carolina legends. They have been reported a dozen times in newspaper stories. They have been investigated at least twice by the U.S. Geological Survey. And they have attracted the attention of numerous scientists and historians since the German engineer, Gerard Will de Brahm, recorded the mysterious lights in the North Carolina mountains in 1771.

There is so much info and too many stories to be posted here, so the best thing to do is read more at the links below.  You can even Google "Brown Mountain Lights"  and find videos on YouTube, along with many more links.  I recommend starting with the site below as it has the most information.  There is a National Geographic video at the site that is very interesting.

Download PDF:
Brown Mountain Lights
by the North Carolina Museum of History.
BML Viewing Guide

by Joshua P. Warren

Charlotte Observer - Sept 23, 1913

USGS Report, 1922


The Flood of 1916

In July of 1916, two tropical hurricanes conducted a one-two punch to western North Carolina in a weeks time. The first storm recorded 10 inches near the top of the mountains at the Orchard at Altapass.  Only a week later the second storm hit and recorded 22 inches in 24 hours at the Orchard.  The resulting flooding was catastrophic.

Listen and watch as Bill Carson of the Orchard tells the
story of the 1916 flood on video here:

McDowell History

The following links provide many details and photos:

Great Flood of 1916 - NC Gen Webb

Asheville Flood of 1916


McKinney Gap

The first person to settle on the land around what is now McKinney Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway was Charlie McKinney in the 1790s. With four wives and 48 children, he left quite a mark on the area, where McKinney continues to be a common name. The patriarch died in 1856 and is buried in a cemetery at the orchard. McKinney Gap, to the east of the orchard, is the lowest passage through the Blue Ridge for a hundred miles.

Take a drive up Pepper Creek Road and when you get to the top, you are at McKinney Gap and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Stories can be found in the following books, usually on the coffee table at Eagle Mountain.

Altapass NC, Images of America by Judy Carson and Terry McKinney
Stories of Altapass as told by Bill Carson


Eagle Mountain Ridge
5146 Old Linville Road
North Cove, NC 28752