Alexander, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln

he blue highways of the western piedmont often follow old roadbeds.  Two of the oldest routes, Sherrill’s Path and Island Ford Road, are offshoots of Pennsylvania’s Great Wagon Road, which brought thousands of German and Scots-Irish settlers to this region of North Carolina.  By the time of the Civil War, their “old fields” were among the most productive in the state for production of wheat, fruit orchards, cotton, dairy products and livestock. 

Apple growers, some with a reputation for saving and popularizing heirloom varieties, still thrive today.  North Carolina is one of the nation’s top apple producers.  Farmers in this region invite families to reinvent fun with u-pick-it orchard experiences. Sample a crisp apple fresh off the tree or take home homemade applesauce, apple butter or cider. 

The Piedmont’s rich clay also solved a dilemma for early 19th century residents in the Catawba River Valley who needed food storage containers and tableware. Local farmers-turned-potters found ways to finish their pots with an alkaline glaze, which produces distinctive shades of brown and green. These days, old Catawba Valley pots are highly prized by collectors. Fortunately, artists in the region carry on the tradition and produce beautiful pottery available in their studios and through local galleries.

The area is an important hub for the state’s historic textile mill industry, as well. The Catawba River and other streams, creeks and rivers afforded accessible and powerful sources of energy for 19th century cotton mills.  Industrialization boomed into the next century and spurred the construction of complexes like the Loray Mill in Gastonia, the largest mill under one roof when it was constructed in 1902.  The building, along with a surrounding mill village, is now part of an architectural heritage driving tour of Gaston County.

The rolling terrain and low mountain ranges of the region offer scenic and recreational experiences. Visit Crowders Mountain State Park for hiking, camping and rock climbing. Rising 1,625 feet, the peak of Crowders provides spectacular vistas of the surrounding Piedmont plateau.

Nearby Kings Mountain, which sits astride the state line of North and South Carolina, is designated by Congress as a National Military Park to commemorate a victory by American Patriots over American Loyalists during the Revolutionary War.

One of the state’s most popular gardens, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, is located here on 450 acres near the banks of Lake Wylie. Nine major themed gardens with magnificent water fountains and canals and plants from around the world are featured.

Festivals for all occasions, community theaters, and regional museums also celebrate the cultural fabric of the area.  Plan your trip using the drop down list of towns and the map at the right, or by the category links on the left.

 

Scenic Byways
   
Photo Credits:
Split Rail Fence - Bill Russ
 
Leon Fagan Chain Saw Art
Chinese Tea Pot - Blue Gill Pottery
 
Bunker Hill Covered Bridge
Dedmond Pottery pots
Lincoln County Apple Festival

 

     
 
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