This year in the valley near our home in Asheville a black bear raised three, yes three! cubs, Mom and Pop Wild Turkey and their eleven chicks roamed undisturbed, rabbits scooted here and there, and at least one coyote howled loud enough to wake visiting grandkids. Life outdid itself right out our back door. It's easy to get close to nature here, it's easy to be IN nature just by looking out the window. Hiking, horseback riding, sharing celebrations by fireside under the stars with family and friends seems to be a "given" in the Grater Asheville area of Western North Carolina. Rivers, streams, waterfalls, mountains and the land, connect all of us who are lucky enough to live here to this "little piece of heaven and earth"...
And so I continue with the story of this incredible place I call Home. Earlier I wrote that this is a land of refined mystery and beauty. As we journey through time and territory the magic of this area will reveal itself to you. ...a sense of place so magnetic that few who visit or are lucky enough to live here are untouched... . Magic happens here ...The world can look different through green glasses, so find a pair to don and we're on our way! I said that along the way, I'd share the story of the original mystical inhabitants who (it is said )lived here long, long, long ago...even before the Cherokee ... how our mountains were formed, what rocks and minerals you can find along the trail, the types of soils in the mountains, what causes them to erode, and what you can do about this I'll tell you about the water systems and water routes and how they affect our habitats. I'll point out the grand and lovely trees that grow here (more species of trees grow in the Blue Ridge than all of Europe!) ...and what happens to ecosystems when we don't play by the rules of sustainable forestry. And I promised tol take you to some of my favorite places, powerful spots with awesome vantage points including the following (and maybe a few more!)..including The French Broad River. So I hope you will join me again today as we continue our journey and look for Part 3 in the next little while.
Asheville is situated in the sheltering embrace of the southern Appalachian Mountains and among many vocal streams. An amazing fact is that unlike all other rivers except the Nile,
the source for our streams in the mountains that surround Asheville all flow northward from there as the French Broad River. Here's a photo I took of this mighty River not long ago.
According to Hernando De Soto's 1540 chronicles, "In these mountains we found the source of the Great (Mississippi) River, by which we (eventually departed North America; the French Broad River is the head of the "Great River," the Mississippi River, upon which the army would make its escape three years later)..."
EDIT (2011) According to Richard Thornton (see comment below) however,
"Asheville was always Shawnee Indian territory until the region was taken over by English settlers in 1763. Up to then, there were two small Shawnee hamlets named Konesaga and Konestee on the French Broad. There were a lot of Shawnee on the Swannanoa River. The word means "Shawnee River" in Creek. Farther south was entirely Creek and Shawnee until they were removed in 1763. That's why there is a town with the Creek name of Etowah near Hendersonville.
How this true urban myth began was that in the mid-1980s a group of North Carolina and University of Georgia professors rolled into Asheville to promote their study of the route of de Soto. I don't know how they supposed to do a reasonable job on this when none of them spoke Spanish, Creek or Cherokee. All of the Native American words recorded by the Spanish while traveling through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee are Muskogean (Creek) words.
They were told in the morning by state archaeologists that there were NO occupied villages on the French Broad River when de Soto was travelling through the Southeast in 1541. The professors ignored the warning and gave a press conference announcing that the little bitsy mound on the Biltmore Estate was the GREAT CAPITAL OF THE ANCIENT CHEROKEE NATION!
The Biltmore Mound was excavated about a decade ago and found to be a Creek Indian chokupa dating from around 300 AD - not even a mound. However, the Appalachian State archaeologists studied architectural history at the same school where the UNC's de Soto Study archaeologists studied Spanish. The head archaeologist announced to the Citizen-Times that they had discovered the OLDEST CHEROKEE BUILDING! However, subsequent belittling by professionals outside the WNC mountains have changed the report to read a "Woodland Period council house."
So now you know, as Paul Harvey would say. By the way, I prepared Downtown Asheville's Revitalization Plan and much more recently, the Trail of Tears Memorial in Oklahoma. I know a bit about Asheville and Native American history...."
Today the people who live here are dedicated to revitalizing this great River. RiverLink, a regional non-profit spearheads the economic and environmental stewardship of the French Broad and its tributaries. Since 1987 this organization has engaged in simultaneous efforts to address water quality concerns throughout the French Broad River basin, expand public opportunities for access and recreation, and encourage the economic revitalization of Asheville's recovering riverfront district. Here's a summary of River volunteer projects you could be part of if you lived in Asheville.
The Eastern Continental Divide, impacts the French Broad making it flow northwest through the Appalachian Mountains. As it comes to Asheville, and Buncombe County, it picks up the Swannanoa River. Downstream of Asheville, the river proceeds north through Madison County, where it flows through the county seat of Marshall. Marshall Elementary School used to be situated on an island in the River as did many real estate-related offices until 2004 when Charleyand Ivan blustered in to the Greater Asheville area creating a mad-dash for the old and empty Ingles supermarket and safe harbor from the hurricanes. We still go to the old Ingles when we are searching for deeds and plat maps and surveys in Madison County.