One of the great pleasures of staying at Rumbling Bald Resort is the opportunity to explore a region of North Carolina steeped in fascinating history, from the Carolina Gold Rush of the 1800s to the making of films like Firestarter (1984), Dirty Dancing (1987), and Last of the Mohicans (1992). Yet there is much more to the history of the Lake Lure area than most visitors realize, a unique and sometimes mysterious history that is often overshadowed by more famous, or recent events.
Hickory Nut Gorge, much of which today lies under Lake Lure, has been attracting visitors and travelers long before Rumbling Bald Resort. The Cherokee and Catawba nations considered the gorge to be sacred ground lying between their respective territories, and forbade killing among those who traveled through it. By the 17th century AD, the gorge was part of the Cherokee’s system of major trails leading from the mountains to the piedmont and flatlands of North Carolina. The Cherokee Trail would become the Rutherford Trace route for early European settlers, which was improved and used by subsequent wagon and coach roads, and eventually the same path trod by the Cherokee as early as AD 1500 would become the route for the modern NC State Highway 74 as it winds towards Asheville.
Rumbling Bald Resort takes its name from the beautiful ridges and cliffs of Rumbling Bald Mountain that surround the resort and provide some of the most dramatic scenery in Western North Carolina. Yet the mountain was not always known by its current name. On the evening of February 9, 1874, a local preacher prayed at one such revival for God to move the hearts of sinners by “making the mountain to shake and tremble beneath their feet.” The next day, Old Bald began to rumble. For the local people the earthquake-like sounds and trembling created a time of terror. Many sincerely believed that the world was about to end, and local farmers turned out their livestock into the woods, convinced that they would not be around to care for them anymore. Scientists later theorized that the tremors and sounds were caused by rocks falling into the extensive cave system that underlies the mountain. The rumbling continued intermittently for six months, and then the mountain became silent again, and except for very occasional rumbles, has remained so ever since. Folks rounded up their animals again and life went on as before, but the mountain has been known as Shaking Bald, Quaking Bald, and finally Rumbling Bald ever since. For those with a historical bent, the USGS has collected some newspaper clippings about the 1874 rumblings that are worth a read.
While the mountain is the most significant natural feature at Rumbling Bald Resort, Lake Lure is unquestionably the greatest man-made attraction. Created by the damning of the Rocky Broad River as it passes through Hickory Nut Gorge in 1925, Lake Lure encompasses 720 acres, including three long bays, incredible beaches at Rumbling Bald Resort and other locations, and one sunken town. Visitors to the area will notice a plethora of roads, landmarks, and sites called “Buffalo.” The name is taken from the shape of one of the Blue Ridge Mountains that, from what is now the center of Lake Lure resembles a buffalo. Deep below the surface of today’s lake, however, lies the remains of the town of Buffalo, a small farming community of perhaps 150 souls. Most of the buildings (as well as the residents of the local graveyard) were removed from the site prior to the flooding of the area, but a few buildings still sit quietly beneath the waters. Russ Meade has done some significant research into this almost lost piece of Lake Lure history, but the town’s actual history remains somewhat mysterious.
This is just some of the amazing, and lesser known history in and around Rumbling Bald Resort. For more information, be sure to check out Russ Meade’s extensive historical blog all about this incredible and beautiful region.