The history found in our state parks is fascinating, in part because you never know how you might stumble across it.
An example is this glimpse at a little-known aspect of our first state park, the Mount Mitchell Motor Road. It apparently was built soon after the state park’s 1916 founding to entice tourists to the mountain’s summit. It was a time when Americans were discovering motoring vacations and entrepreneurs were discovering how to profit from that. The private road climbed from just east of Black Mountain to Camp Alice, private rustic tourist accommodations just below the summit. A small railroad had been built earlier along a similar route.
Remarkably, this brochure for the Mount Mitchell Motor Road was found by a state park employee while he was renovating his 1920s-era home. Andy Griffith (yes, that’s his real name), the senior maintenance mechanic at Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, found the brochure stashed under the insulation in the home’s attic. Griffith said, “My understanding of it is that the road was open to the public sometime in the early ‘20s and only operated for a few short years.”
The brochure’s hype got the elevation wrong (it’s 6,684 feet) but it’s still enticing: “Thousands of tourists every year, including many world travellers, widely acclaim this wonderful trip beyond description, beautiful and magnificent beyond compare.”
A number of state parks have histories as former resorts or tourist attractions – Pilot Mountain, Morrow Mountain and Lake Waccamaw to name a few. And, most state parks are littered with engaging historical footnotes, which visitors can explore in our visitor center exhibit halls.