No old stuff, nothing archival, just the latest news, right here.
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Challenge accepted: Firefighter trains on Chimney Rock trails
A warm, windy day and the promise of great exercise drew firefighter Jason Boyer to Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park.
As a 6-year firefighter, Boyer knows the importance of exercising in his equipment.
On Friday, March 10, guests at the Rock had the chance to see Boyer, dressed head to toe in his fire gear and carrying the American flag, climb to the top of the Chimney and then further up to Exclamation Point. Read more here.
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This April Fool’s Day Walk with a Llama
Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park invites Annual Passholders on an adventure they won’t forget.
On Saturday, April 1—notoriously known as April Fool’s Day—the Park will host Walk with a Llama.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day, passholders will be able to walk with and lead llamas in the Park. Guests will also learn fun facts about the mammals that are closely related to camels.
After a nice jaunt with the furry giants, guests can then enjoy a picnic lunch from the Old Rock Café.
Cost for this event is $10 for passholders. To RSVP, call 828-625-9611. RSVPs to attend must be received by Wednesday, March 29, at 5 p.m.
Not an annual passholder? Don’t worry! Call 828-625-9611 to become an annual passholder today. Once you’ve signed up for an annual pass, RSVP to Walk with a Llama. It’s that simple. An Annual Pass is $28 per adult and $12 per child. Cost to attend the Walk with a Llama event is and additional $10.
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Alamo Travel Guide Recognizes Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park is sure that its breathtaking views, wonderful family programming and exquisite trails are part of the reason Alamo Travel Guides recently named the Park to the “Rent Car, Will Travel: Five Amazing Southeast Vacation Destinations” list.
We can’t begin to say what an honor it is to be on recognized by a business that helps millions of people find the perfect trip for them. We hope you will check out Alamo’s wonderful piece to see what they had to say about our little slice of heaven.
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From Chimney Rock With Love
At Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park we go above and beyond for our guests, especially when we can help them with a project straight from the pages of a love story.
In early February, Brandi Smith, reached out to the Park to see if we could help her with a Valentine’s Day Surprise for her husband, Larry Smith.
Brandi wrote to us that Larry was a retired Gunnery Sergeant for the United States Marine Corps, who found solace in traveling. Because of his passion for exploring, she decided to collect photos of her love letters to him at different locations around the world and present them to him on Valentine’s Day .
The couple would then plan trips to each location, where they could visit the exact same area and take a photo together.
After a lot of thinking, our staff decided that a photo from the Opera Box would make the perfect location for Brandi’s photo. Not only would the couple get a fantastic shot of the Chimney as well as Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge, but they would also have a cozy place to sit and enjoy the views when they visited the Park.
On a sunny day, one of our staffers made their way to the scenic point and captured the image Brandi needed. Later that evening, Brandi received her photo and emailed us back saying the couple would visit in celebration of their upcoming anniversary.
“We plan to come to the area for our anniversary this year which is Sept. 12, 2009,” wrote Brandi before explaining where the couple met. “Larry is from New Jersey and I am from Alabama. We met when he was stationed in South Carolina at Parris Island and I was living in the area.”
On Tuesday, Brandi presented her letters to Larry. He was surprised and overcome with emotion as he looked through the photos his wife had collected from around the world.
Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park is glad it could be a part of this wonderful surprise. We hope that Brandi and Larry had a wonderful Valentine’s Day and look forward to their visit to the Park sometime later this year.
Have you and your sweetheart enjoyed a day at Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park? If so, share your experience with us by clicking here.
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Chimney Rock State Park Humming With Activity
Winter is often a time of hibernation and rest, but at Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park it’s a time for regeneration and growth.
Chimney Rock State Park Superintendent James Ledgerwood recently stated that NHM Constructors, LLC is working on several projects for the Park.
The first project contractors are focusing on is a new passage that will allow guests to access the Chimney while the deck near Gneiss Cave is being replaced.
“The plan is to get those bypass stairs complete first,” said Ledgerwood. “Once those are complete, contractors can totally close off and demo (the old deck). The bypass stairs will be the route that people use to access the Chimney while work is being done on the deck at the base of the Outcroppings Trail.”
The new deck will be larger and provide additional room for picnickers and educational programs. Along with these projects, the stairs that connect the top parking lot to the Hickory Nut Falls Trail,
which leads to a 404-foot waterfall, will be replaced.
North Carolina State Parks Project Manager Owen J. Daniels stated that work at the construction site is going well.
“Everything is going as well as any of the other project we’ve had in the Park,” said Daniels. “The connector (stairs to the falls) should be done by July and we hope to have the deck (near Gneiss Cave) done in May.”
Daniels also stated that repairs on the Park’s elevator are continuing with workers coming to do ground-level repairs this month. Elevator renovations will continue into later this year.
Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park’s winter hours are Friday through Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Extended hours for the park will start on Saturday, March 12 and continue into November.
Greta Predicts Super Bowl LI Winner, Early Spring
One of Greta the Groundhog’s predictions from last week came true on Sunday, Feb. 5, during Super Bowl LI. The New England Patriots were victorious over the Atlanta Falcons.
On Thursday, Feb. 2, during the 12th Annual Grady’s Groundhog Day, Greta predicted that Patriots would win the Super Bowl.
Greta’s sports prediction came after the whistlepig forecasted that spring is headed to Western North Carolina. Folklore says that if a groundhog doesn’t see its shadow and retreat to its shelter, then spring will arrive early.
After leaving her burrow on Groundhog Day, Greta decided to stay outdoors instead of retreating to her shelter, meaning that spring is near!
*Photo credit to Mark File, Romanticasheville.com
Winter at Chimney Rock State Park
Winter in Chimney Rock can boast surprisingly warm temperatures (sometimes 60-70 degrees!) or be so chilly that incredible ice formations can be found in the Park. If you’re planning a trip to Chimney Rock State Park this winter, be sure to check the weather before you visit so you know how to dress. These photos were taken just a few weeks ago, but it’s almost 60 degrees today. You never know what you’ll find at the Park!
*Photo credits to James Ledgerwood, Chimney Rock State Park Superintendent
Party Rock Fire FAQs
For the latest info, visit: www.TownofLakeLure.com
Where is Party Rock?
- Party Rock is located on the Rumbling Bald mountain range in Lake Lure. The trail leading to Party Rock crosses private property and is not promoted as a public trail. People who visit the trail must do so at their own risk of injury and trespassing.
Did the fire burn all of the trees?
- NO, not by a long shot. The scenic views that residents and visitors are accustomed to remain as beautiful as before the fire. The vast majority of trees survived. Some older trees and fire intolerant species were affected and will die, but we don’t expect any long-term impact to the forest in general as a result of the Party Rock Fire. The unaffected trees will leaf out in the spring as they always do. Mother Nature replaces trees that didn’t survive with more fire tolerant tree species, so we can expect significant regeneration and regrowth.
Why can’t you see more of the burnt areas?
- Most of the dominant tree species in our eastern deciduous forests have thick bark that protects the trees from events, such as fire. Eastern deciduous forests generally burn less hot than scrub or coniferous forest fires and generally leave the tree canopy unaffected. Right now the unburned canopy hides the hillsides. As trees shed their leaves over autumn, they conceal much of the blackened forest floor.
I’ve heard there is a burn ban – what does that mean?
- While the fires in our area are out, the ban on open burning is necessary because of the dry weather conditions and the potential for the increase in human-caused wildfires in the region.
- Open burning includes campfires, fire pits, burning leaves, branches and other plant material. In all cases, it is illegal to burn trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other non-vegetative materials.
- Outdoor burning is also prohibited in areas covered by Code Orange or Code Red air quality forecasts.
- Visit the Town of Lake Lure to learn more about the burn ban.
Can I still visit Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Village?
- Yes! Shops, restaurants, lodging properties and local businesses are open and awaiting your visit!
- Many winter and holiday events are planned including Santa on the Chimney at Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park and the New Year’s Day Polar Plunge. We encourage you to join us!
- Learn more at RutherfordTourism.com or call 828-287-6113.
What trails are open?
There are only a few trails that were impacted by the fire. Below is a list of trails that were not impacted and are currently open.
- Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park and its trails were NOT affected by the fire and are currently open. Please visit the Park’s website for hours of operation and more details: ChimneyRockPark.com.
- Morse Park: Public park on Lake Lure featuring a walking trail, gardens, wetlands, pavilion and fishing. Visit TownofLakeLure.com for details.
- Dittmer Watts-Nature Trail: Unlike the vista views found throughout Morse Park, this park offers a more intimate exchange with nature through a woodland hike experience. It is an ideal spot for bird enthusiasts, couples and pet owners.
Click here to download a trail map.
- Rocky Broad Riverwalk: A great way to take in the sights and sounds of Lake Lure and the Village of Chimney Rock is to take the time to enjoy the Town Center Walkway in Lake Lure and the Rocky Broad Riverwalk that stretches along a section of the Rocky Broad River. Visit TownofLakeLure.com for details.
- Lake Lure Flowering Bridge: A scenic stop along the Riverwalk Trail this historic bridge was turned over to the Town of Lake Lure to allow for the creation of this unique community garden bridge. It is truly a must see for visitors to the area.
- Rutherfordton Trails: There are several new trails open in nearby Rutherfordton, just a short drive from the Lake Lure and Chimney Rock area. They include The Gold Mile, Historic Downtown Walking Tour, Kid’s Main Street Safari and Purple Martin Greenway. For more information visit RutherfordtonTrails.com.
- Thermal Belt Rail Trail: If you enjoy rail-trails that flaunt their railroading past, you’re sure to love the Thermal Belt Rail-Trail. This well-maintained route runs 8 miles from Spindale north to the community of Gilkey, passing through the lovely towns of Rutherfordton and Ruth. It provides an easy path for walking, running, or biking. For more details click here.
- Gerton Trails: Both the Bearwallow and Trombatore Trails in Gerton are open and provide fantastic views of the gorge. You can find more information on these trails by clicking here.
What trails are closed?
- The trails in the Rumbling Bald section of Chimney Rock State Park (off of Boys Camp Road) and Buffalo Creek Park (off of Buffalo Creek Road) in Lake Lure are closed until further notice.
- These trails are closed and off limits. Many dangerous risks still exist in this areas.
- Here are links to visit to get the latest info on these trails and when they will reopen:
How can I help with the recovery effort?
- The best way to help is to visit our area shops, restaurants, lodging properties and businesses! The fire resulted in significant business loss for our area during peak season. Help us rebuild by enjoying our beautiful area. We appreciate your support as we recover from the loss.
- Regarding the forest, it is environmentally best to let Mother Nature manage the recovery process. Although we have the best intentions in mind, the actions of humans actually interrupt nature’s amazing healing process.
- A major area of concern is going to be the spread of invasive species (kudzu, princesstree, tree-of-heaven, etc.). Supporting efforts throughout the Gorge to manage and eradicate invasive species is the best way to help our forests. The state park as well as other conservation groups host various workshops and volunteer workdays to treat areas with invasive species. Getting educated and participating in those efforts will be an amazing way to help the native plant and animal species of our forests.
- If you are looking for ways to directly support our county’s fire departments, click here.
- Currently no additional supplies are needed in our area, however, we encourage anyone who wants to donate supplies to contact the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area. That area did not fair as well as we did and are still fighting active fires. They have been devastated and suffered many losses including that of homes, businesses and other structures. Keep the giving going and reach out to them to see what support is needed. Click here for a list of ways to donate or contact them.
What is the total acreage burned?
- More than 7,100 acres.
Are the animals and wildlife ok?
- Wildlife have great survival instincts. Because fire is part of the natural world, wildlife has the instinctive tools for surviving such events. Most can simply run away. Others burrow underground, find shelter in cracks in rocks, or move higher up into the trees. Many animals take advantage of the fire because the flames expose unburnt acorns and other hard mast food sources that would otherwise be hidden under the leaf litter. Weaker animals may succumb to smoke inhalation or starvation, but most adapt and survive.
How many firefighters helped to fight the fire?
- More than 900 firefighters from 26 states were involved in fighting the Party Rock Fire, coming from as far as away as Alaska, Oregon and New Mexico.
How does fire benefit the forest?
- Removal of leaf litter and debris provides a huge advantage for many species of the forest that need clear ground to grow and set seed. Many species rely on certain types of land disturbance in order to survive. Fire recycles carbon that is tied up in woody debris, making it usable to living plants as well as microscopic organisms that live within the soil. Smaller trees and fire intolerant species that compete with the dominant species of the forest community for resources often get removed, providing a healthier habitat for the plants and animals specialized for that particular natural community.
Winter on Lake Lure: The lake seemed low when I visited, why is that?
- The lake is being drawn down because of the broken generator in the dam. For more information about the repair, visit the Town of Lake Lure website.
- Businesses on the lake are still open during this time and provide breathtaking mountain vistas, calm winter views and a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy during your visit.
What is happening over the holidays in the Lake Lure area?
In Lake Lure and the Blue Ridge Foothills in Western North Carolina, our winter events are steeped in tradition and sprinkled with enchantment. Enjoy a Carolina Christmas this holiday season throughout the county.
Discover a wonderland with more than a million Christmas lights, where Santa rappels down America’s largest outdoor “chimney,” and where parades, hayrides, carriage rides and Santa visits are plentiful and fun.
Download our ‘Hometown Holiday Trail Map’ for an easy to follow guide to experience a true Carolina Christmas!
Visit us online at www.RutherfordTourism.com for a full list of things to do and places to stay during your visit.
Santa Climbs Down the Chimney December 3 and 10
It’s that time of year, and Santa and his elves are getting ready! Jolly old St. Nick will be visiting Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park to climb down one of the world’s largest natural chimneys from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 3 and 10. For more than 20 years, Santa Claus has practiced at Chimney Rock for his big evening when he climbs down millions of chimneys worldwide delivering Christmas presents to little boys and girls.
Each weekend, one lucky guest will win a two-hour rock climbing lesson for two with Santa’s professional helpers, Fox Mountain Guides. The winner of each drawing will be announced at 1:30 p.m. and you must be present to win. Chimney Rock has been named one of “10 great places to catch up with Santa” and one of the 10 Best High Places in the World by USA Today. For Park hours, rates and in case of inclement weather, visit chimneyrockpark.com.
Fearless St. Nick will descend from the top of Chimney Rock on a nearly 200-foot rappel about every 30-45 minutes, weather permitting. When Santa isn’t climbing, kids are invited to visit with him and Mrs. Claus for photo opportunities and enjoy holiday cookies, hot cocoa and kids’ activities. Weather permitting, you can also meet Grady the Groundhog or other live woodland critters that wouldn’t survive at the North Pole. On December 10, the Chase High School Jazz Band from Forest City will be performing some holiday favorites from 12:15-1p.m. Local poet Eddie Cabbage will be on hand typing “made to order” poems for kids and their parents on his vintage typewriter; donations for the poems are requested. There is no additional cost for the event with paid Park admission.
“Santa on the Chimney has become a much-anticipated annual event that draws folks from all over the region,” said Mary Jaeger-Gale, General Manager at Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park. “It’s a very unique and fun way for families to enjoy time together during the holiday season.”
Check off your holiday shopping list with a discount on Annual Passes and a special sale of 25 percent off retail for Annual Passholders on December 3 to 11 at the Sky Lounge or Cliff Dweller’s Gift Shop in the Park. Guests who upgrade their admission to Annual Passes are also eligible for this sale.
For a limited time, new adult Annual Passes are available for only $25 ($3 off regular price) and Grady’s Kids Club Passes for only $10 (a $2 savings) at the Park and in the online store November 28 through December 23. Start saving with discounts on Park retail and dining, along with savings at Biltmore, Mast General Store and many local favorites. To learn about Passholder benefits and buy your upgrade online, visit chimneyrockpark.com.
After you visit with Santa at the “Rock,” take time to do some shopping in Chimney Rock Village and support the small local businesses this holiday season.
Other community holiday events open to the public include the Annual Chili Cook-off and Cake Walk from 5-9 p.m. on December 2 at the Chimney Rock Volunteer Fire Department, and the Annual Chamber of Hickory Nut Gorge Holiday FundRaiser Gala at 6-10 p.m. on December 8 at the Lake Lure Inn and Spa.
November 10 Film Showing About the Flood of 1916 Captures the Western North Carolina Region in a Way Few Have Ever Seen
It’s hard to imagine that the state’s iconic tourism treasure, Chimney Rock, was brought to its knees during the earliest days of its history. But it did happen on July 16, 1916, a mere twelve days after the official dedication of the Park’s new bridge and road. Two hurricanes converged over Western North Carolina, causing historic flooding and mass devastation throughout the region including the loss of Chimney Rock’s new entryway.
A new documentary film, COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, Remembering the Great Flood of 1916 by award-winning documentary filmmaker David Weintraub tells the story of that terrifying week in July. Chimney Rock Management, LLC operators of the Chimney Rock section of Chimney Rock State Park, will host a showing of the film at a special event on Nov. 10th at the Lake Lure Town Hall. The film was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this devastating event for Western North Carolina including Hickory Nut Gorge.
The evening begins at 6:30 pm with a reception and viewing of the traveling exhibit, “So Great the Devastation: The 1916 Flood,” that was created by the North Carolina Office of Archives and History in commemoration of the centennial of the tragic flood. Hosted by members of the Chimney Rock Village Community Development Association, the reception is sponsored by Duke Energy, which was also severely impacted by the flood.
“In 1916, hydro power was the primary source of electricity for the region. The flood knocked out one of our hydro electric stations and severely damaged others. It took nearly two months to get all the stations functioning again,” said Craig DeBrew, Duke Energy’s district manager for Rutherford County. “To protect residents from ever experiencing such widespread damage again, our engineers devised a strategy that would tame the river by engineering it into a series of lakes. Dams and lakes were constructed from 1916 until 1940. This has sparked tremendous residential, business and recreation growth.”
The film starts at 7 pm and will be followed by a discussion from county historians and some local elders whose families were affected. Not only was the first bridge to Chimney Rock washed out, but landslides wiped out families and homes, babies were torn from mothers’ arms, and at least 50 people died. Rainwater washed away thousands of jobs as rivers flooded. Damages totaled millions of dollars and a thick, black sludge remained where crops once stood. Chimney Rock and the region endured months of hardship.
More than 22 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period in many places in Western North Carolina when the French Broad was 17 feet above flood stage and the Swannanoa River was a mile wide. It’s a year that still evokes powerful memories for many family histories. According to 7th generation farmer, Drew Brannon, “If we don’t learn the lessons of the 1916 flood, we are bound to repeat them, with worse results than 100 years ago.” Drew’s father and grandfather lost everything in the Great Flood and those haunting memories still shake the Brannon family tree. Jennie Jones Giles, a local historian and seventh generation native says, “Remembering the 1916 flood is important because the consequences to Western North Carolina should this happen again would impact us 10-20 times greater than it did then. The lessons the flood could teach us could save our lives and better protect our community.”
The traveling exhibit will continue to move around the region through March 2017. It will also be on display throughout the month of November at the Old Rock Café next to the Park’s entrance in Chimney Rock Village. The Lake Lure Town Hall is located at 2948 Memorial Hwy. in Lake Lure, NC. Space is limited, so plan to come early. There is no charge for the evening, but donations will be accepted to support NC residents who are struggling from the recent record-breaking flooding that occurred in the eastern part of the state after Hurricane Matthew. For additional information, call Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park at 828-625-9611.
Fall Color Makes Its Way to Chimney Rock
Think you’re going to miss the Best of Fall in Western North Carolina? Look again.
Whether it’s late fall colors or just being the ideal small-town for a holiday getaway, Chimney Rock State Park & Hickory Nut Gorge are the perfect alternative to busy holiday clamor. The locals know it. Our first-time visitors are delightfully surprised by it. Our long-tome fans have pictures to prove it.
Fall in Western North Carolina is stunning in its own right. But fall and early winter at Chimney Rock and in Hickory Nut Gorge? Well, it’s all just pretty mesmerizing. And you can bet, when the color has faded elsewhere and the leaves have made a carpet of the ground, fall is still hanging on here in the Gorge.
That’s thanks to our being in a Thermal Belt. We’re protected by the higher mountains so fall comes later and lasts longer here! Days and weeks after the fall colors have faded and the leaves have fallen elsewhere, visitors still flock to the Gorge to experience the lasting autumnal show.
That’s because the vast expanse of forested terrain in the Park and in all of the Gorge make it one of the more prominent places in the Eastern United States to enjoy the fall colors well into November. With multiple tree species growing in the state and in the Park, the North Carolina Mountains are abundant in hardwood forests populated by trees well-known for their bright fall colors As the season continues into November, the lines are shorter and the crowds die down. Visitors who steer clear of the shopping malls seem to know it’s the best time to get a jump on holiday shopping for local arts and crafts.
All the way up through early November, you can take in a multi-colored view sitting on the back porch at the Old Rock Café in Chimney Rock Village. Note, if you visit on or before Thanksgiving, you can still catch the fall scarecrow decorations in the village. It’s a healthy competition between our local merchants! This time is really one of our favorite transitional seasons of the year, and one that still hasn’t been nearly as discovered as say, the fabulous time that is summer in Lake Lure!
Follow us on our Facebook Page or check our website for weekly updates on how the fall color display is progressing.
Beats, Burgers & Brews is Back for Fall at the Old Rock Café
Let’s face it, leaf peeping make you want to tap your feet. Tapping your feet makes you hungry. And eating makes you thirsty. Luckily, we’ve got you covered on all those fronts. After leaf peeping, relax outdoors to the beat of bluegrass, Americana, folk, blues or other genres while enjoying a regional craft brew or glass of wine on our riverside deck.
Talented local musicians and singer-songwriters liven up the scene on select Friday & Saturday evenings in October at this popular burger joint in Chimney Rock Village. The Old Rock Café features one of the 2014 Zagat-rated “Must-try Burgers across the Country” with Hickory Nut Gap Meats’ 100 percent grass-fed beef burger. The full menu includes grilled sandwiches, soups, salads and fresh-baked fruit cobbler.
For a full music schedule, visit our Events Calendar here.
Lake Lure Scoop Offers New Discount to Chimney Rock State Park Annual Passholders
Lake Lure Scoop is the coolest new spot in town, and they’re the latest to join the list of local businesses offering discounts to Chimney Rock State Park’s Annual Passholders. Show your Park pass at Scoop, and you’ll receive 2 scoops of ice cream for the price of one or take $1 off of a classic Cheerwine, Coke or root beer float. Grady’s Kids Club members also receive a free topping of their choice when they show their membership card.
Scoop serves up to 16 flavors of Tony’s Ice Cream, a 100 year-old, family-owned and operated company in Gastonia, NC, and Coca-Cola products. Their menu includes classic summer favorites such as Cheerwine, Coke, and root beer floats, sundaes, waffle cones, and more. They are located just down the road from Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park and across from the Lake Lure Beach at 2797 Memorial Hwy, Lake Lure, NC.
8th Annual Flock to the Rock
In September our temperatures cool, days shorten and wildlife begins to prepare for the winter ahead. Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park chooses this time of transition to celebrate the over 130 species of birds that can be found here throughout the year. Many of our feathered friends are stopping through on their migration route to warmer temperatures making this the perfect time for bird enthusiasts to visit. Some of the most sought species are warblers, tanagers, vireos and, of course, the Peregrine Falcon.
Throughout the day there are bird walks, workshops, live bird demos including raptor flight programs and a hawk count from Chimney Rock itself!
Flock to the Rock is included with paid Park admission, which is $13 for adults, $6 for youth (ages 5-15) and free for 4 years and under. An additional fee applies only for the Naturalist Niche: Early Bird Walk, which requires advance registration. Chimney Rock is an official site on the N.C. Birding Trail. For more details and a schedule of birding activities, visit chimneyrockpark.com/event/8th-annual-flock-rock/.
Flag Raising Ceremony at Chimney Rock Makes History
On Monday, July 4th, Chimney Rock State Park celebrated the 100th Anniversary of both North Carolina State Parks and Old Glory flying atop Chimney Rock with historic flag-raising and lowering ceremonies. A local Color Guard carried both the American and North Carolina flags to the top of Chimney Rock where they were raised together for the first time in the Park.
Surrounded by a beautiful dense fog and a listening crowd, Park Superintendent James Ledgerwood, former Park owner Todd Morse, and Chief of Planning and Natural Resources Brian Strong delivered speeches that focused on the importance of State Parks and the visionaries who make them possible, the history of Chimney Rock State Park, and the necessity of preserving North Carolina’s cultural and natural heritage.
Strong referred to the Centennial Event as “a premier opportunity to recognize the visionary leaders of our state who set the wheels in motion to create a state parks system which has grown to over 230,000 acres and delights more than 17.3 million visitors each year.”
After a full day of outdoor activities, including guided tours of the elevator shaft, educational programs, and historic hikes, the flags were ceremonially lowered and folded to be archived for future generations. Park Superintendent James Ledgerwood delivered a heartfelt closing speech in which he encouraged upcoming generations to continue the legacy of those who made North Carolina State Parks a reality:
“From the Western mountains, across the Piedmont, and to our Eastern oceans, North Carolina is truly blessed with a rich diversity of natural and cultural resources. It is up to us to continue to protect our natural resources by advocating and volunteering our time and resources to those that would protect the state that we love,” James stated.
Brian Strong concluded the ceremonies by inviting guests to raise a glass of apple cider and toast to the Old North State.
Horrendous Flood of 1916 Traveling Exhibit Coincides with Sate Park Centennial at Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock, N.C. – The joyous opening of Chimney Rock State Park July 4, 1916, soon was dimmed by the tragic flood of 1916. Just days after the park dedication, two hurricanes converged July 16 over western North Carolina, causing historic flooding. A traveling exhibit, “So Great the Devastation: The 1916 Flood,” recalls the catastrophe and will remain at Chimney Rock State Park through July 25.
Not only was the first bridge to Chimney Rock washed out, but landslides wiped out families and homes, babies were torn from mothers’ arms, and at least 50 people died. Rainwater washed away thousands of jobs as rivers flooded. Damages totaled millions of dollars and a thick, black sludge remained where crops once stood. Chimney Rock and the region endured months of hardship.
The exhibit consists of four interpretive panels and is located in the Old Rock Cafe near the park entrance. It will be moved to be part of Chimney Rock State Park’s Centennial Celebration and will be in the park July 4. The exhibit was created by the N.C. Office of Archives and History in commemoration of the centennial of the tragic flood.
“So Great the Devastation” will travel throughout the region through March 2017. There are two sets of panels that can be seen at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College July 16, Transylvania County Public Library July 26 through late September, Belmont Historical Society July 17-Aug. 31 and Lincoln County Historical Association Sept. 1-30. The exhibit will return to Chimney Rock in November.
Chimney Rock State Park Celebrates NC State Park’s Centennial
North Carolina launched its state parks adventure in 1916, responding to citizens who wanted to preserve Mount Mitchell’s majestic forest. Upon North Carolina’s purchase of 534 rugged acres, Mount Mitchell became one of the nation’s first state parks. The system has since grown to nearly 230,000 acres of the state’s most precious landscape visited by more than 17 million people each year.
Happenings are planned at all NC state parks, and Chimney Rock has a variety of activities scheduled throughout the year. But, the major centennial event at Chimney Rock State Park will take place on July 4.
As North Carolina was creating its first state park, three brothers were also dedicating their new park in Hickory Nut Gorge. On July 4, 1916, Chimney Rock was dedicated by Dr. Lucius B. Morse and the first American flag was raised on the Rock. This year, exactly 100 years later, a special ceremony will take place as the North Carolina state flag will join Old Glory on the top of the “Rock” for its centennial birthday. The flag dedication will begin at the 8:30am on the top parking lot near the base of the Chimney. State Park Superintendent James Ledgerwood, along with other speakers, will open the festivities with a short history of the Park followed by a hike up the Outcroppings trail to the Chimney. Once on the “Rock,” color guard will raise the North Carolina state flag under the American flag to signify that North Carolina State Parks is prepared to continue to protect the park and its natural resources for the next 100 years and beyond.
The band Vintage Vinyl will play their rendition of the National Anthem followed by a short patriotic concert.
State Park Rangers will share historical photos and articles about Chimney Rock and other state parks, including a display on the 1916 flood that washed out the original Park bridge soon after its dedication on July 4th. Guests will be able to continue their walk through history by a taking a self-guided hike along the Outcroppings trail where other historical photographs of the Park will be on display. A limited number of tickets will be available at the Ranger’s exhibit table for interested guests to take a Behind the Scenes tour of the elevator at different times during the day.
Around 6pm, as the color guard retrieves the flags, guests can take part in a toast to the next 100 years. The two flags will be then be placed in the Park’s historical archives and saved for future generations.
“The centennial of NC State Parks is more than just celebrating turning 100. This is an opportunity to bring awareness of the importance of protecting and preserving our precious natural resources and to encourage families to reconnect with nature and learn more about our environment,” said Ledgerwood.
Gates will open at 7:30 a.m. and, in the spirit of celebrating 100 years, admission fees will be waived for the first 100 cars (no buses and RVs please) that enter the Park before 8:30a.m.
The celebration will continue later in Chimney Rock Village. From 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., everyone is invited to gather along the Rocky Broad River behind the Old Rock Café for free s’mores and campfire stories with the Park Superintendent.
Each of 41 NC state park units will hold a family-friendly event in celebration of their 100th birthday. Go to http://www.ncparks.gov/100/centennial-events for a complete list of State Park centennial events. Thanks to the North Carolina State Park System, these special areas will be preserved for everyone to enjoy for 100 S’more years, the theme for the year-long celebration.
Chimney Rock also joins nearby Pisgah National Forest and the National Park Service in celebrating their centennials this year. Visitors to any state or national park can share their experiences via story, photos, videos or other mediums at the National Parks Service Find Your Park website.
She Said Yes! Couple Engaged at Chimney Rock with Help from Staff & Guests.
Ashley Traynor never saw it coming. When the preschool teacher and her boyfriend Chase Crawford planned a weekend getaway to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock the weekend of January 16, she thought it was to make up for the trip they’d had to cancel last October. “We’d planned to come on the anniversary we’d begun dating, but it rained that weekend, so I thought this was just a reschedule,” said Ashley. But Chase had more than a raincheck in mind; he was planning to propose.
Chase and Ashley met in 2010, when they were teenagers working at a skating rink. After some “pretty serious flirting,” the couple went on their first date to Sonic, where they shared their first kiss over mozzarella sticks and milkshakes. They moved on to different jobs and different colleges, but they never broke up. “We had an instant connection that we’ve never lost,” says Ashley.
The couple settled in Raleigh, and after six years of dating, Chase decided it was time to make things official. The weekend before their trip, he told Ashley he needed to help his father with a construction job. But Chase and his parents instead came to Chimney Rock, where they scouted the area for the perfect place for Chase to pop the question. “We both love the outdoors, especially waterfalls,” says Ashley. “So Chimney Rock was the perfect place.” Hoping to capture the special moment on camera, Chase was desperately hunting for a local photographer that day, too. Luckily, he and his mother stopped by the Old Rock Café for some coffee and happened to mention their dilemma to manager Talia Davis. And it just so happened that Talia is a part-time professional photographer.
With all the logistics set, Chase returned home and waited. The weekend of January 16, he and Ashley set out for Lake Lure – but nothing seemed to go as planned. Rain poured from the sky on Friday, the day he was going to propose, so he decided to wait until Saturday. Talia was scheduled to work at the Old Rock on Saturday, so she arranged for her partner, Jennifer, to be at the Park that afternoon. But Saturday morning, the couple got an earlier start than Chase had anticipated, and he had to secretly text Jennifer to ask her to be in the Park much earlier. When the couple arrived at the Park, they learned that Exclamation Point, the site of the proposal Chase had chosen, was closed due to icy conditions. With some surreptitious texting, Chase coordinated a new meeting place with Jennifer – the top of Chimney Rock. The couple hiked to the top of the Rock, where Jennifer waited, pretending to take photos of the view. Chase surreptitiously asked a guest if she’d film the moment on his tablet. And finally, Chase was able to get down on one knee and propose.
“I was so surprised!” says Ashley. “I had no idea the whole time!” Jennifer continued snapping photos of the happy couple, and now they have beautiful memories to share of their once-in-a- lifetime moment.
Ashley and Chase plan to marry in the spring of 2017 – and they’re also looking forward to returning to Chimney Rock often. “We’ve always chosen a different place to vacation every year, but Chimney Rock is such a beautiful escape from the bustle of everyday life and spend quality time together, that we want to return every year,” says Ashley. “And of course, we now have happy memories of our engagement here, too.”
Congratulations to Chase and Ashley! If you have a special story you’d like to share about your time at Chimney Rock, please contact Shannon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taking It One Step at a Time: U.S. Wheelchair Athlete Masters the Outcroppings trail
Mia Ives-Rublee doesn’t seem to know the word “can’t.” At 31 years old, she has acquired a list of accomplishments that many people don’t achieve in a lifetime. A research assistant at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine with a Master’s degree in social work, Mia is also a gifted athlete and artist. She began qualifying for Junior Wheelchair Nationals in track and field in middle school, breaking numerous records. In high school, she continued her success in track and field and in 2003 was accepted to the University of Illinois on an athletic scholarship, where she earned student athlete awards every season.
Mia was born in South Korea with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a congenital collagen defect that causes bones in the body to break easily. Her first sentence, “I do it myself,” would essentially summarize her life mantra.
Once Mia sets her mind to something, there doesn’t seem to be much that can stop her. “It was my goal to participate Athens Paralympics in 2004, but pneumonia and a car accident that year prevented me from going,” she says. “I obtained B standard times and just missed getting on the US team.” Undaunted, Mia continued to compete in track and field, but had to stop after a severe fall fractured her leg. The fracture led to a non-union, which required numerous operations. Unable to sit properly in a racing wheelchair, she turned to Wheelchair Fencing to stay active. She has competed at numerous North American and World Cups. In 2013, she was invited by the US Wheelchair Fencing team to compete at the World Championships in Budapest.
All her life, Mia has overcome what most folks would consider insurmountable challenges. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that when she visited Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park with her friend Janine Healey last October, learned that the elevator was out of service and that the only way to reach the top of Chimney Rock was by climbing 499 steps, she decided that’s just what she’d do. “I came to Chimney Rock to get some fall photos. I knew I was going to get a great perspective from the top of the Rock,” says Mia. “And I just decided to go as far as I could.”
With her service dog Arianne and Janine by her side, Mia began to ascend the Park’s Outcroppings trail by crawling on her hands and knees, using the staircase railing to pull herself up. After climbing for about an hour, Mia reached the top of Chimney Rock, where she sat and gazed on the views while catching her breath. “You don’t get to see that kind of view often in the world,” she remarks. “It was worth it!”
Mia’s advice to people who are daunted by all those steps? “If you focus on the difficulty, you’ll defeat yourself. But if you take it one step at time, it’s not too bad. There are landings along the way where you can take breaks. Just focus on your end goal, and you can do it. And having friend along with you helps!”
Follow Mia on Facebook at Mia Ives-Rublee, US Wheelchair Athlete. See more of her photography, including her shots atop Chimney Rock, at www.dogstarprint.com.
New Blue Ridge Heritage Trail Sign Installed
A new interpretive wayside sign greets visitors to Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park and is one of 69 such signs being installed on the new Blue Ridge Heritage Trail. The Trail is a collection of special places throughout the North Carolina mountains and foothills that embody the remarkable history and culture of the region and is an initiative of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership (BRNHA).
At each location, the sign tells the stories of the people and places that have shaped the distinctive heritage of the 25 westernmost counties in North Carolina. The Chimney Rock sign tells the story of how Dr. Lucius Morse, captivated by the beauty of Hickory Nut Gorge and intrigued by Chimney Rock during his first visit to the area in 1900, subsequently purchased Chimney Rock in 1902, and how he and his two brothers Hiram and Asahel committed their lives to making this area accessible to the world while preserving its natural beauty. The Morse family’s dedication continued for over 100 years and resulted in the sale of the Park to the State of North Carolina in 2007, which ensured that their stewardship would forever be continued.
In addition to the signs, the Trail will be enhanced with the installation of interactive kiosks in five NC Welcome Centers that greet visitors to the region, plus a map brochure and website to help them get around the region and learn more about each site.
This initiative is designed to attract and inform visitors, students, and residents alike about the many natural and cultural heritage attractions in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. The goal is to encourage people to discover places they may not know about. It is not a “Point A to Point B” trail, but rather many stops throughout the region. People can enjoy a single stop or piece together several sites by theme, town, region or activity to create their own personalized “trail.” QR codes on each sign will enable people with smart phones to locate other nearby sites.
The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is a project of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership and was supported by Federal Highway Transportation Enhancement funding administered through the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Haywood County, NC.
Passholders Use Park to Get Fit
It’s 8:30 in the morning, and Angela Stockdale is beginning her trek up the 499 steps of Chimney Rock’s Outcroppings trail. In the next hour, Angela will run and walk up and down sections of the Outcroppings and Exclamation Point trails, then reward herself with a trek down the Hickory Nut Falls trail to view the 404-foot waterfall at its end made famous in 1992’s The Last of the Mohicans.
Originally from Augusta, Georgia, Angela and her husband Rick bought a cottage in Lake Lure several years ago so they could visit the area on weekends and holidays. They were drawn to Chimney Rock for its beauty and soon became annual passholders, but they also discovered that that Park offers them unique ways to exercise. Four years ago, the couple decided to make Lake Lure their permanent home, and they visit the Park several times a week, running up and down the trails and stopping from time to time to take photos of the wildlife and scenery. Angela, a neuro technologist, works out in the Park about three or four days a week and Rick, Senior Director for Myriad Genetic Labs, works out about three days.
“I tell everyone this is the best and cheapest gym I’ve ever belonged to,” says Rick, Senior Director for Myriad Genetic Labs. “You get a great workout in while seeing outstanding views. I don’t know why anyone within 30 miles who wants to get healthy wouldn’t purchase an annual pass.”
Rick and Angela each have their own exercise goals and routines. Rick will run until he exhausts his limit, take a break, and begin again. When he reaches 2,000 steps, he’s done. Angela, a neuro technologist, works out at the Park three to four days a week and focuses more on endurance and time; she’ll run up and down sections of the stairs for about 40-50 minutes before she’s finished. “I’ve figured it up, and Angela and I have climbed over 200,000 stairs a year,” says Rick. “That equals 400 trips to the top of the Rock or 134 climbs to the top of the Empire State Building.”
“The first time up the stairs is always the toughest,” adds Angela. “But once you your endurance kicks in, it gets easier.”
The couple stresses that you don’t have to be in top physical condition to work out at the Park. While the Four Seasons and Outcroppings trail offer challenging climbs, the Hickory Nut Falls provides a more forgiving, moderate trail with slight inclines (not to mention the gorgeous, 404-foot waterfall at its end). Parents and kids can walk the half-mile Great Woodland Adventure trail, which is also perfect for those just getting started with an exercise routine.
Spending time in the Park has other benefits, too. The couple enjoy the relationships they’ve formed with other Park guests and Park staff. “We see other passholders like us who come here often, but we also find ourselves answering questions of first- time guests as we walk,” says Rick. “I probably spend about 20 minutes each time I’m here talking to guests.” The couple also knows most of the Park staff by name and celebrates milestones with them, such as the birth of a baby or a child’s high school graduation.
Angela frequently takes photos of the wildlife and views she sees after her workout. “I’ve gotten some great shots on the Four Seasons trail,” she says. “And during the summer, if you get here right when the Park opens and walk out to the Hickory Nut Falls, you can often see a rainbow that appears right across the rock face of the middle of the falls.”
The views, say Rick and Angela, are what drew them to Chimney Rock, what convinced them to purchase an annual pass, and what inspires them most in during their workout routine. “We always stop about four or five times just to see the views,” says Rick. “As many times as we’ve walked these trails, there’s always something we see that’s different.”
We Made it onto Yahoo Travel!
We made it on Yahoo Travel’s “Waterfalls, Caves, and Lakes — 50 Hidden Gems Across America” by Melinda Crow! Check it out under the North Carolina section here!
Elevator Out of Service Until Further Notice; Park Admission is Reduced.
The elevator will be closed indefinitely while recurring issues in its general operation are addressed. Engineers and technicians are looking for a solution to these ongoing problems. We are sorry for the inconvenience this closure has caused and will keep you updated on any progress. We appreciate your interest in the Park and your understanding.
You can still access the top of Chimney Rock with an exhilarating walk up our 499-step Outcroppings trail. As you climb, be sure to stop and check out the Grotto, the Subway and Pulpit Rock. These familiar features have recently reopened, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the awesome views they provide.
While the elevator is out of operation, rates will be reduced. Adult tickets, normally $15, will be $13; youth tickets (ages 5-15), normally $7, will be $6. Normal discounts will apply.
The Sky Lounge Gift Shop & Deli is open daily from 10am- 6pm when our staff is able to access the elevator for business use. Cliff Dwellers Gifts is open daily from 8:30am- 6pm.
Grotto, Subway and Pulpit Rock Now Open!
Soon after NC State Parks bought Chimney Rock Park in 2007, an inventory was done to determine the condition of the trails and Park structures. Several did not meet state construction standards and were closed until improvements could be made. Access to popular destinations along the Outcroppings trail—the Subway, Grotto and Pulpit Rock—were closed at that time. But, as noted in the State Parks’ Master Plan for Chimney Rock State Park, these destinations along the Outcroppings trail were to be redesigned, rebuilt and reopened.A crew with NHM Constructors, LLC out of Asheville began in December 2014 to rebuild the stairs and boardwalks to restore access to these unique features along the trail that leads to the “Rock.” As you can imagine, it was no easy task. Materials were brought in by truck and carried up the mountain. A helicopter flew 70 loads of materials to the site in one afternoon, with the pilot threading the materials down through trees for the crew on the ground to put in place. The harsh winter weather we had made it even more difficult!
But all of these efforts were well worth it; the Subway, Grotto and Pulpit Rock were reopened Memorial Day weekend to the “oohs” and “ahhs” of our guests as they experienced the amazing views!
If you have a special story you’d like to share about your time at Chimney Rock, please email email@example.com.