Tag Archive | nature

Creation of Lake Norman Altered the Landscape

Boating on Lake Norman, circa 2002. Image from North Carolina State Parks.

Boating on Lake Norman, circa 2002. Image from North Carolina State Parks.

On September 28, 1959, Southern Power Company—now Duke Energy—broke ground on the Cowan’s Ford Dam on the Catawba River. The dam was the starting point for creating what is now Lake Norman in Catawba, Iredell, Lincoln and Mecklenburg Counties.

The company’s plans for the area actually had their origins in the late 1800s, when the company began buying land around the Catawba River, but it continued to allow people to live on the property for many years.

A ranger and hikers at what was then Duke Power State Park, circa 1965. Image from North Carolina State Parks.

A ranger and hikers at what was then Duke Power State Park, circa 1965. Image from North Carolina State Parks.

Duke Power began filling the area with water in 1962 but, since the Catawba River’s flow was not very strong and the dam was not completely finished, it took more than a year to fill it. Lake Norman now covers more than 32,000 acres, making it the largest manmade body of water in North Carolina.

The lake is named for former Duke Power CEO Norman Atwater Cocke. A state park, originally named for the company, was established on part of the lakeshore in 1962.

In late 2012, archivists from Davidson College began a crowdsourcing project to try and get a firmer grasp of structures and locations that went underwater when the lake waters rose in 1963.

One of the most significant of those locations is the original site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Cowan’s Ford.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Aquariums Date to Bicentennial Year

Kids enjoy an aquarium program in the 1970s. Image from the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

Kids enjoy an aquarium program in the 1970s. Image from the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

On September 10, 1976, the facilities now known as the North Carolina Aquariums opened to the public for the first time. Their mission was to promote the awareness, understanding, appreciation and conservation of the diverse natural and cultural resources of North Carolina’s ocean, estuaries, rivers, streams and other aquatic environments.

Known as the North Carolina Marine Resources Centers until 1986, the aquariums were originally intended more as research facilities than as destinations for visitors.

A $53 million construction program in the early 1990s dramatically expanded the footprint of each facility and offered more opportunities for visitors to interact with nature. Jennette’s Pier became part of the state aquarium system in 2011.

Each aquarium and Jennette’s Pier highlights the unique aquatic environments that can be found in the region in which it is located and in different locations across the state. Together they welcome more that 1 million visitors annually and are rated among the best places to visit across the state.

Helping to conserve North Carolina’s unique coastal environment and conducting cutting-edge research continue to be central to the aquariums’ mission.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Mile-High Swinging Bridge Dedicated

Umstead (center, behind girl) dedicates the bridge with developer Hugh Morton (front right) and others. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

Umstead (center, behind girl) dedicates the bridge with developer Hugh Morton (front right) and others. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On September 2, 1952, gubernatorial candidate William B. Umstead dedicated Grandfather Mountain’s Mile-High Swinging Bridge near Linville, and became the first person to cross it.

Earlier that year entrepreneur Hugh Morton had inherited Grandfather Mountain, whose craggy features and high vistas had made it a popular tourist attraction since the 1890s. Morton envisioned building a bridge between Grandfather’s Convention Table Rock and Linville Peak to improve visitors’ access to the best scenic overlooks.

Designed by Greensboro architect Charles Hartmann, Jr., and fabricated by Truitt Manufacturing Company in Greensboro, the 228-foot suspension bridge was reassembled in three weeks at Grandfather Mountain by Craven Steel Erecting Company. The total cost was $15,000.

Visitors to the bridge in the 1950s. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

Visitors to the bridge in the 1950s. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

In 1999, the mostly wooden bridge was rebuilt using galvanized steel at a cost of $300,000.

Former state tourism director Charles J. Parker coined the name “Mile-High Swinging Bridge” at the 1952 dedication. While the bridge’s elevation is slightly more than a mile above sea level, it actually hangs only 80 feet above the ground.

And while suspension bridges can swing, especially in high winds, thick cables anchor Grandfather Mountain’s bridge to the ground, limiting its movement.

Visit: Grandfather Mountain, now part of Grandfather Mountain State Park, is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Botanist Andre Michaux at Grandfather Mountain

On August 30, 1794, French explorer and botanist Andre Michaux climbed Grandfather Mountain. Upon reaching the summit, Michaux believed he had climbed the highest peak in North America. Michaux was ultimately proven wrong because Mount Mitchell rises nearly a hundred feet taller than Grandfather at 6,684 feet.

At the time of the American Revolution, the value of the unexplored regions of the new nation was unknown, especially along the barrier of thickly forested slopes of the Appalachian Mountains. French King Louis XVI appointed Michaux as royal botanist and sent him to investigate the plants in America that might be of value.

Michaux’s foray to the top of Grandfather was not his first visit to the Tar Heel State. In fact, he frequently returned to North Carolina in search of plants new to science and for the enrichment of French agriculture and forestry in addition to scientific expeditions he made to Florida, the Bahamas and Canada’s Hudson Bay.

He would describe and name a significant percentage of the vascular plants native to the Carolinas, and some his most significant botanical discoveries were made in western North Carolina.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Eno River’s Patron Saint, Margaret Nygard

Nygard sits on the banks of the Eno River. Image from North Carolina State Parks and Recreation.

Nygard sits on the banks of the Eno River. Image from North Carolina State Parks and Recreation.

On August 16, 1966, a group led by local activist Margaret Nygard and her husband, Holger, voiced opposition at a Durham City Council meeting to a plan to dam the Eno River. The city had been perusing the plan for more than year in attempt to bolster the local drinking water supply.

Nygard, a Durham teacher and social worker, and a group of concerned local citizens used the energy generated by that meeting to form the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley, now known as the Eno River Association. The association, in turn, worked with The Nature Conservancy to build a partnership with the area’s local governments and the state to formulate a plan to save the natural and cultural resources of the Eno area.

The idea for a state park was proposed and an initial donation of 90 acres from a local farm family was made in 1972. A state conservation board endorsed the park that same year, and the following year, Governor Jim Holshouser officially announced the park’s creation.

Thanks to the stewardship of the state and the Eno River Association, Eno River State Park has continued to grow since its inception. Today it encompasses more than 4,000 acres along 35 miles of the river’s course through Orange and Durham Counties.

Visit: Like all other state parks, Eno River State Park is open to the public every day of the year except for Christmas Day.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jockey’s Ridge Patron Saint, Carolista Baum

Baum with Jockey's Ridge in the background, circa 1973. Image from North Carolina Parks and Recreation.

Baum with Jockey’s Ridge in the background, circa 1973. Image from North Carolina Parks and Recreation.

On August 15, 1973, Carolista Fletcher Baum placed herself in the path of a bulldozer removing sand from Jockey’s Ridge and refused to move. The driver cut off the engine and talked with Baum, who, after some time, left the dune unscathed. When the operator left, Baum took the distributor cap so the machine would not start.

Baum received word of the bulldozer from her three children who long had climbed the dune for the spectacular views it offered.

Though local groups had talked about protecting the large dune from encroaching development for years, Baum was the driving force that made the idea a reality. She helped form the People to People to Preserve Jockey’s Ridge after her dramatic protest, raising money and organizing petition drives to capture the attention of state and local lawmakers.

She even drove to Raleigh every day for three weeks to keep the dune in the minds of legislators.

In 1973, the Division of Parks and Recreation issued a report in favor of preserving Jockey’s Ridge as a state park, and a year later the dune was declared a National Natural Landmark. When the General Assembly appropriated funds to create the park in 1975, the preservation of the dune was secured for generations to come.

Visit: Like all other state parks, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is open to the public every day of the year except for Christmas Day.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Banker Ponies Protected Since 1998

Wild horses on Shackleford Banks. Image from Zach Frailey via Visit North Carolina.

Wild horses on the Shackleford Banks. Image from Zach Frailey.

On August 13, 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Shackleford Banks Wild Horses Protection Act.

The act, which amends the 1966 law that created the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, directed the National Park Service to partner with a local non-profit, Foundation for Shackleford Horses, Inc. to manage the herd of wild horses located on the uninhabited 9-mile long island east of Morehead City between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout.

The banker ponies, as they are often called, are small horses believed to have been descended from Spanish mustangs abandoned in the area about 400 years ago. Some have also tried to link the horses’ ancestry to Ponce de León or the Lost Colony, though their exact lineage is lost to history.

The 1998 act provides for a target range for the herd of between 110 and 130 horses. When the herd exceeds that target, a round up is held and excess healthy horses are adopted to out to different places around the country.

The seashore, in conjunction with the foundation, is charged with the management of the herd for its own protection and health, as well as that of the natural resources of the seashore.

The Shackleford Banks herd is one of four herds of wild horses that can be found up and down the Outer Banks.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.