Nature and Native Magic; The Legend of Blowing Rock

Blowing Rock is a small town in northwestern North Carolina near the Tennessee border known as the “Crown of Blue Ridge” with around 1300 residents in its three square miles.

The land that became the town of Blowing Rock first belonged to Cherokee and Catawba tribes, and when white settlers moved in, they used it as a safe haven for the women and children of Civil War soldiers.

Blowing Rock was incorporated in 1889 after the war was over, and the people in the village wanted to capitalize on war history tourism to the area.

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Blowing Rock also refers to the actual Blowing Rock geographic feature which is North Carolina’s oldest tourist attraction since 1933.

The Blowing Rock looks out 4,000 feet above sea level, and its cliff overhangs Johns River Gorge 3,000 feet below.

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My song for this blog is “Steps of the Ziggurat” by High on Fire:

There is a goofy legend that a Chickasaw chieftain’s daughter and a Cherokee warrior fell in love, and the warrior was so conflicted when called away to battle that he jumped off the cliff.

The young Chickasaw girl begged the Great Spirit to return him to her and finally one day a gust of wind blew him back up onto the rock and into her arms.

Allegedly wind, rain, and snow all fall/blow upside down onto the rock, which prompted the infamous Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not cartoon, but the brochure explains that the rocky walls of the gorge “form a flume through which the northwest wind sweeps with such force that it returns light objects cast over the void.”

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Between January and March, the site is only open Thursday through Monday, weather permitting, but the rest of the year it is open daily.

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The attraction has an observation tower, the Nature Trail, Robbins Ridge Trail, a picnic area, the Blowing Rock Photo Gallery, an annex building with local arts and crafts,  an event venue, an overlook, a garden with a turtle pond, and the entrance/gift shop.

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In person, it is a very small rock feature and the hype is really about the mountain views beyond it. From the Blowing Rock you can see Hawksbill Mountain and Table Rock, Grandfather Mountain, and Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Rockies.

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My favourite part was the garden with the turtle pond and a small man-made waterfall.

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I counted more than twenty of them in this little pond!

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The Town of Blowing Rock is just five minutes away. Follow The Rock Road to Lenoir Turnpike/Hwy 321 then turn onto Main Street. Boone, North Carolina is also a few minutes from Blowing Rock and the two towns share many attractions.

Downtown mostly centers around the intersection of Main Street and Blowing Rock Highway, spreading southeast toward Valley Boulevard.

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Several Blowing Rock structures are on the National Register of Historic Places including the Green Park Historic District, Vardell Family Cottage Historic District, Westglow, Bollinger-Hartley House, ETN/WNC Railroad Locomotive #12, Gragg House, and the Randall Memorial Building.

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The 1888 Museum is managed by the Blowing Rock Historical Society. It was originally the Watauga Inn, Blowing Rock’s first hotel, and has some informative plaques about the Stoneman’s Raid and other significant events from the town’s early history.

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Two other must-see museums are the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum and the Appalachian Fossil Museum inside Doc’s Rocks Gem Mine.

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Bald Guy Brew serves up the best organic coffee with a commitment to being  eco-friendly and socially responsible. They are partnered with Eden Reforestation Projects and have a hands-on approach working with their coffee growers, roasting their own beans, and creating their own organic blends.

You can visit them in Blowing Rock or their second location in the nearby town of Boone.

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Six Pence Pub was a fun stop for a mid-day snack and ice cold beer in summer heat. It was cool and dark inside, and very laid back. This location opened in 2001 and there is a second location in Savannah, Georgia.

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Town Tavern and the Blowing Rock Brewing, Headwater’s Pub, Brock Brewery are on my list for next time.

De Provence Et D’ailleurs is a French Market, grocery, and gift shop. We have a similar place in our hometown and I have heard the owners talk about how much they enjoy this one, so it was interesting to visit and link the two.

I’m not much of a shopper, but I really loved this store Final Touches, a garden decor and art shop. They have a variety of locally made items and imports from artists they have a direct relationship.

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Blowing Rock has several parks and outdoor options like Memorial Park downtown, Julian Price Park, Bass Lake/Cone Lake, Chetola Lake & Resort, and the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.

The Bass Lake Trail (0.9 miles) and The Maze (3 miles) are part of the Moses Cone Memorial Park Trail System and both trails are wheelchair accessible.

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Glen Burney Trail (PDF) is a gorgeous 3-mile hike with a trailhead just two blocks off Main Street. This hike descends down an ancient native trail and forest to three different waterfalls, the Cascades, Glen Burney Falls, and Glen Marie Falls.

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Other Attractions of Blowing Rock include the Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West-themed amusement park where you can check out the last surviving steam locomotive of the ETN/WNC Railroad, known as Tweetsie, the narrow-gauge Engine #12.

Depending on the weather/time of year, you can book a three-mile, open-air train ride on Tweetsie or another train called the Yukon Queen.

The 1903 Dougherty House at Mystery Hill, Appalachian Ski Mountain, Ski Valley Zip Tours, and High Gravity Adventures, are all exciting options as well.

Events like Symphony by the Lake, Art in the Park, Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival in April, Fourth of July festival and parade, Winterfest in November, Christmas in the Park and Lighting of the Town, and “Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show which has been a tradition for 84 years. It is the longest continuously run horse show in the United States.”

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In the area for a while? Follow me to Boone, Grandfather Mountain, Spruce Pine, or Little Switzerland (blogs in progress).

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3 thoughts on “Nature and Native Magic; The Legend of Blowing Rock

  1. Pingback: Grandfather Mountain, Highland Games, & the Land of Oz | Fernweh

  2. Pingback: Boone; Native Species and Tin Omens in the High Country | Fernweh

  3. Pingback: Linville Wilderness Gorge, Tanawha Trail, & Stack Rock | Fernweh

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