Burke County was formed in 1777 from Rowan County. The act was to become effective June 1, 1777. It was named in honor of Dr. Thomas Burke, a member of the Continental Congress and governor of North Carolina, 1781-1782. It is in the west central section of the state and is bounded by Catawba, Cleveland, and Rutherford, McDowell, Avery and Caldwell counties.
The Grand Canyon of North Carolina
The Linville River with its source high on Grandfather Mountain has, by its tremendous scouring action, formed one of Eastern America's most scenic and rugged gorges. The steep walls of the Gorge enclose the Linville River for 12 miles. The river's swift waters descend over 2,000 feet before breaking into the open levels of the Catawba Valley, Elevation averages 3,400 feet along the rim of the Gorge and 2,000 feet on Linville River. The Linville Gorge Wilderness, in the western North Carolina Mountains, is part of the Pisgah National Forest. The gorge is formed by Jonas Ridge on the east and Linville Mountain on the west and is bisected by the Linville River, which drops into the valleys below. The odd assortment of rock formations located on Jonas Ridge includes Sitting Bear, Hawksbill, Table Rock, and the Chimneys. Elevations range from 1,300 feet on the Linville River to 4,120 feet on Gingercake Mountain. The terrain is extremely steep and rugged with numerous rock formations. It is covered by a dense hardwood/pine forest and a wide variety of smaller trees and other plants. Recreation opportunities include hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, fishing, and hunting.
The Brown Mountain Lights
Among the most fascinating natural wonders of the High Country are the Brown Mountain Lights. The mysterious lights appear and disappear, seeming to move over the ridge of Brown Mountain (in Burke County, near Morganton). The Brown Mountain Lights have been have been made famous by Cherokee legends dating back to the 1200s and by modern reports. White settlers of the High Country reported seeing the lights throughout the 1700 and 1800s. They are the stuff of story and song.
In 1771, German scientist, Gerard Will de Brahm, viewed the lights and reported, "The Mountains emit nitrous vapors which are borne by the wind and when laden winds meet each other the niter inflames, sulphurates and deteriorates." The US Geological Survey, however, put forth another explanation in 1913: headlights lights from a train in the Catawba Valley. The government scientists did not bother to explain how the lights appeared before the advent of the locomotive. Ironically, a flood in 1916 destroyed the railroad line credited as the source of the lights... and, the lights continued.
No one knows the true cause of the Brown Mountain Lights. This mystery engenders a delightful sense of whimsy and wonder, making the tales of the supernatural preferable as an explanation.
Campgrounds and Cottages
Cottages within the area.
|Catawba Falls Campground Old Fort, 828-668-4831 WiFi available|
|Springmaid Mountain, Spruce Pine 828-297-0725|
|Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park, Marion 828-652-7208|