Western North Carolina (often abbreviated as WNC) is the region of North Carolina which includes the Appalachian Mountains, thus it is often known geographically as the state's Mountain Region. It contains the highest mountains in the Eastern United States. Western North Carolina is sometimes included with upstate South Carolina as the "Western Carolinas", which is also counted as a single media market. The region covers an area of about 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2), and is roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts. The population of the region, as measured by the 2010 U.S. Census, is 1,473,241, which is approximately 15% of North Carolina's total population.
The term Land of the Sky (or Land-of-Sky) is a common nickname for this mountainous region and has been more recently adopted to refer to the Asheville area. (Areas in the northwest portion of the region, including Boone and Blowing Rock, commonly use the nickname "The High Country", rather than "Land of the Sky") The term is derived from the title of the book, Land of the Sky, written by Mrs. Frances Tiernan, under the pseudonym Christian Reid. The book often mentions the Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains, the two main ranges that are found in Western North Carolina. The Asheville area regional government body, the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, utilizes the nickname.
Located east of the Tennessee state line and west of the Piedmont, Western North Carolina contains very few major urban centers. Asheville, North Carolina, located in the region's center, is the area's largest city and most prominent commercial hub. The Foothills region of the state is loosely defined as the area along Western North Carolina's eastern boundary; this region consists of a transitional terrain of hills between the Appalachians and the Piedmont Plateau of central North Carolina. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have a reservation situated in the Western North Carolina region, adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The northern counties in Western North Carolina are commonly known as the state's High Country. Centered on Boone, the High Country boasts the area's most popular ski resorts, including Ski Beech, Appalachian Ski Mountain, and Sugar Mountain. The area also features many attractions, historical sites, and geological formations such as Linville Caverns, Grandfather Mountain, Blowing Rock, Tweetsie Railroad, Shatley Springs, and Mystery Hill. Education, skiing, tourism, and Christmas tree farming are among this area's most prominent industries, although agriculture and raising livestock also remain important. The counties that make up the High Country are: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey.
The westernmost part of Western North Carolina is part of the Tennessee Valley. Asheville is the major hub of far western North Carolina. In this area, there are a few hydroelectric projects managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority, including Fontana Dam. Tourism, especially outdoor ventures such as canoeing, whitewater rafting, camping, and fishing are extremely important to local economies in the area.
The Foothills is a region of transitional terrain between the Piedmont Plateau and the Appalachian Mountains, extending from the lower edge of the Blue Ridge escarpment into the upper Catawba, Yadkin, Broad, Saluda, and Savannah River valleys. The eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge drop sharply to the foothills section, going from 3500–4000 feet (1,000–1,200 m) at the top to only 1000–1500 feet at the base. The foothills region contains numerous lower peaks and isolated mountain ranges such as the South Mountains, Brushy Mountains, and Stone Mountain State Park. The foothills are divided into many small river and creek valleys that contain much of the region's population. Although no large cities are located in the foothills, the region does contain many small towns; the towns often developed around a single industry such as furniture or textiles. As these industries steadily moved to low-wage markets in Asia and Latin America since 1990, the foothills towns that depended upon them have often suffered from job and population loss; some of these towns are developing a new economy based on tourism and catering to affluent retirees who have settled in the region. Many farmers in the northern foothills are poultry farmers as well, and winemaking and vineyards are growing in popularity. Among the towns of the foothills region in North Carolina are Tryon, Columbus, Chimney Rock, Lake Lure, Forest City, Rutherfordton, Spindale, Mount Airy, Elkin, and Marion and the cities of North Wilkesboro, Wilkesboro, Hickory, Lenoir, Shelby, and Morganton.
The region has three major public universities: Appalachian State University is located in Boone, Western Carolina University is located in Cullowhee, and UNC Asheville is located in Asheville. All three are part of the University of North Carolina system. Several small, private colleges and universities are also located in the region. Mars Hill University is located 15 miles (24 km) north of Asheville. Founded in 1856, it is the oldest college or university in western North Carolina. Montreat College, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, is located 15 miles (24 km) east of Asheville. Lees-McRae College, located in Banner Elk, is also affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Warren Wilson College, located in Swannanoa, is noted for its strong pro-environment policies and social liberalism. Brevard College, located in Brevard, is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Lenoir-Rhyne University, located in Hickory, is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Three major Interstate highways cross the region: Interstate 40, which traverses east-west, Interstate 77, which runs north-south through the northeastern section of Western North Carolina, and Interstate 26, which traverses north-south (although it is actually an east-west highway and is signed as such). Interstate 240 is the only auxiliary interstate route in the region and it serves downtown Asheville.
US 421, a multi lane expressway, is the major highway in the northwestern part of the state. US 19, US 23, US 64, US 74, and US 441 are the major highways in the far western part of the region. US 70 runs east through the area connecting Hickory and Asheville. US 221 also runs through the area. This highway, which begins in Perry, Florida, connects the town of Rutherfordton to Jefferson. US 321 runs north from Hickory to Watauga and Avery Counties before going into Tennessee.
Two major class 1 railroads run through the region, CSX and Norfolk Southern. In addition, two tourist railroads also operate in the area, the Tweetsie Railroad theme park and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), located southeast of the city of Asheville in Fletcher, also serves the area with non-stop jet service to Charlotte, North Carolina; Newark, New Jersey; George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Orlando Sanford International Airport near Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Detroit, Michigan; O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois; and LaGuardia Airport in New York City. Non-stops to St. Petersburg–Clearwater International Airport in the Tampa Bay Area are set to begin in June 2013.
Tourism is a major part of the economy in the area which contains half of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. There are also several lakes and dams scattered throughout Western North Carolina like Lake Lure and Fontana Dam. Many visitors travel to the region every summer and autumn from major cities like Charlotte and Atlanta to escape the hot weather and see the leaves change colors. The timber industry is also a major economic sector.
The Appalachian Regional Commission was formed in 1965 to aid economic development in the Appalachian region, which was lagging far behind the rest of the nation on most economic indicators. The Appalachian region currently defined by the Commission includes 420 counties in 13 states, including 29 counties in North Carolina. The Commission gives each county one of five possible economic designations— distressed, at-risk, transitional, competitive, or attainment— with "distressed" counties being the most economically endangered and "attainment" counties being the most economically prosperous. These designations are based primarily on three indicators— three-year average unemployment rate, market income per capita, and poverty rate.
In 2003, Appalachian North Carolina— which included most counties of Western North Carolina and two counties in central North Carolina— had a three-year average unemployment rate of 6%, compared with 6.2% statewide and 5.5% nationwide. In 2002, Appalachian North Carolina had a per capita market income of $21,168, compared with $23,443 statewide and $26,420 nationwide. In 2000, Appalachian North Carolina had a poverty rate of 11.7%, compared to 12.3% statewide and 12.4% nationwide. Only one North Carolina county— Graham— was designated "Distressed," while six— Cherokee, McDowell, Mitchell, Rutherford, Swain, and Yancey— were designated "at-risk." Forsyth County (which is normally grouped with central North Carolina) was the only county given the "attainment" designation, and four others— Buncombe, Davie, Henderson, and Polk— were designated "competitive." Most Western North Carolina counties were designated "transitional," meaning they lagged behind the national average on one of the three key indicators. Graham County had Appalachian North Carolina's highest poverty rating, with 19.5% of its residents living below the poverty line. Forsyth had Appalachian North Carolina's highest per capita income at $26,987. Watauga County's unemployment rate of 2.3% was lowest of all 420 counties in the Appalachian region.
Along with other rural regions which have received national notoriety, changes brought by heavy tourism and population growth from re-locators present a double-edged sword. Local business benefit from increased economic revenue but increases in costs of living, over-dependence on a tourism economy and lost of natural habitat to development can degrade the quality of life for which the region became noteworthy.
There are 82 mountain peaks between 5,000 and 6,000 feet (1,500-1,800 m) in elevation in western North Carolina, and 43 peaks rise to over 6,000 feet (1,800 m). Among the subranges of the Appalachian Mountains located in western North Carolina are the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, South Mountains, Brushy Mountains, Sauratown Mountains, Great Balsam Mountains, Great Craggy Mountains, the Plott Balsams, and the Black Mountains. Mount Mitchell, in the Black Mountains, is, at 6,684 feet (2,037 m), the highest point in eastern North America. Valley and foothills locations typically range from 1,000–2,000 feet (300–610 m) AMSL.
The major rivers in the region include the French Broad River, Nolichucky River, Watauga River, Little Tennessee River, and Hiwassee River flowing into the Tennessee River valley; the New River flowing into the Ohio River valley; and the headwaters and upper valleys of the Catawba River, Yadkin River, Broad River, and Saluda River flowing through the foothills towards the Atlantic. The Eastern Continental Divide runs through the region, dividing Tennessee-bound streams from those flowing through the Carolinas.
Western North Carolina generally consists of 29 counties, that when combined form a total regional area of roughly 13,000 square miles (30,000 km²). The region is roughly the size of Massachusetts. The counties commonly included in the region are as follows:
Western North Carolina communities in the region include:
The 1963 Western North Carolina 500 was a NASCAR Grand National Series (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) event that was held on August 11, 1963, at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in Weaverville, North Carolina.The transition to purpose-built racecars began in the early 1960s and occurred gradually over that decade. Changes made to the sport by the late 1960s brought an end to the "strictly stock" vehicles of the 1950s.Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is a city and the county seat of Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States. It is the largest city in Western North Carolina, and the 12th-most populous city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. The city's population was 89,121 according to 2016 estimates. It is the principal city in the five-county Asheville metropolitan area, with a population of 424,858 in 2010.Bee Mountain (North Carolina)
Bee Mountain is a mountain in the North Carolina High Country and is wholly in the Pisgah National Forest. Its elevation reaches 2,946 feet (898 m). The mountain generates feeder streams for the Catawba River.
It is one of the more isolated mountains in North Carolina, with only one road (Roseboro Road/SR1511) that remotely goes near it.Boone, North Carolina
Boone is a town in and the county seat of Watauga County, North Carolina, United States. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, Boone is the home of Appalachian State University. The population was 17,122 at the 2010 census.
The town is named for famous American pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone, and every summer since 1952 has hosted an outdoor amphitheatre drama, Horn in the West, portraying the British settlement of the area during the American Revolutionary War and featuring the contributions of its namesake. It is the largest community and the economic hub of the seven-county region of Western North Carolina known as the High Country.Chatuge Lake
Lake Chatuge is a man-made reservoir created by the Chatuge Dam which finished construction in 1942. The lake is relatively shallow with depths of 30 feet (9.1 m) and reaches 144 feet (44 m) by the dam.East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad
The East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad (reporting mark ET&WNC), affectionately called the "Tweetsie" in reference to the sound of its steam whistles, was a primarily 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad established in 1866 for the purpose of serving the mines at Cranberry, North Carolina.
The 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge portion of the ET&WNC was abandoned in 1950, however the 11-mile (17.7 km) 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge segment of the line from Johnson City to Elizabethton, Tennessee still exists today as the East Tennessee Railway.Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina
The Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina is a diocese in the Episcopal Church. It consists of 28 counties in western North Carolina and its episcopal see is in Asheville, North Carolina, seated at Cathedral of All Souls. The first recorded worship from the Book of Common Prayer west of the Catawba River was in 1786. Valle Crucis, where one of the two conference centers is located, began as a missionary outpost in 1842.
In 1894, a resolution was adopted in the Convention of the Diocese of North Carolina that the Western part of the State be set off and offered to the General Church as a Missionary District. The following year, in November 1895, the first Convention of the District of Asheville was held at Trinity Church in Asheville. In 1922, after all the requirements had been fulfilled, a petition from the Jurisdiction of Asheville to become the Diocese of Western North Carolina was presented at the General Convention of
The Episcopal Church. It was accepted on September 12, 1922.
The Ravenscroft Associate Missions and Training School of the North Carolina Episcopal Diocese and the former residence of the Bishop was once housed at Schoenberger Hall in Asheville. Diocesan offices are located at the Bishop Henry Center in Asheville.
The diocese contains 63 parishes, 6 summer chapels, a diocesan School - Christ School, Asheville; A retirement community, Deerfield, Asheville; 2 conference centers - Lake Logan, and Valle Crucis; a thriving summer camp, Camp Henry, and over 15,000 members. The diocese is divided into six deaneries. Its cathedral is the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, located in Biltmore Village.
The diocese is a proponent of social justice, especially in issues concerning immigration, poverty and the marginalized. The diocese is notable for two small mountain parishes that contain frescoes created by Ben Long, an Italian-trained artist: the fresco of the Last Supper at Holy Trinity church in Glendale Springs and Mary Great with Child and John the Baptist at Saint Mary's Episcopal Church in Beaver Creek. In another, much larger parish, St. Paul's Episcopal located in the foothills of Wilkesboro, two recent Long frescoes can be seen. These frescoes depict Paul the Apostle in prison and his conversion of the Damascan Road. They were completed in 2003.
The diocese has historically practiced a higher churchmanship than most dioceses in the Fourth Province, and especially the other two dioceses in the state.Great Balsam Mountains
The Great Balsam Mountains, or Balsam Mountains, are in the mountain region of western North Carolina, United States. The Great Balsams are a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which in turn are a part of the Appalachian Mountains. The most famous peak in the Great Balsam range is Cold Mountain, which is the centerpiece of author Charles Frazier's bestselling novel Cold Mountain.
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along its length and at Richland Balsam (milepost 431), the Parkway is at its highest point (6053 feet).Hooper Bald
Hooper Bald is a grassy bald mountain in the Unicoi Mountain Range located in the Cheoah Ranger District (northwestern district) of Nantahala National Forest in Graham County, North Carolina, United States. The summit is 5,429 ft/1,655 m.McAlpine Mountain
McAlpine Mountain is a summit in Henderson County, North Carolina, in the United States. With an elevation of 2,923 feet (891 m), McAlpine Mountain is the 1673th highest summit in the state of North Carolina.The peak was named for Henry McAlpin, an early settler.Mount Mitchell
Mount Mitchell is the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and the highest peak in mainland eastern North America. It is located near Burnsville in Yancey County, North Carolina; in the Black Mountain subrange of the Appalachians, about 19 miles (31 km) northeast of Asheville. It is protected by Mount Mitchell State Park and surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. Mount Mitchell's elevation is 6,684 feet (2,037 m) above sea level.Mulatto Mountain
Mulatto Mountain is a summit in Ashe County, North Carolina, in the United States. It has an elevation of 4,304 feet (1,312 m). Mulatto Mountain is the 574th highest mountain in the state of North Carolina.North Carolina's 10th congressional district
The 10th Congressional District of North Carolina is a congressional district in central and western North Carolina. It currently includes all of Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln, Polk, and Rutherford counties, and part of Catawba, Iredell, and Buncombe counties.
Republicans have won the district continuously since 1969. Republican Patrick McHenry has represented the district since 2005. Jeff Gregory (D) was defeated in the 2010 election to represent this district. The 10th district was part of the controversial statewide redistricting by the Republican-led state legislature in 2011. The district's northwest border was redrawn to include most of heavily Democratic Asheville, long the heart of the 11th District. At the same time, some heavily Republican areas in the 10th were shifted to the 11th. While this made the 10th approximately seven points more Democratic, it was not nearly enough to overcome the heavy Republican tilt in the western Charlotte suburbs.North Carolina's 11th congressional district
North Carolina's 11th congressional district encompasses most of Western North Carolina. Starting in the 113th Congress, it is represented by Mark Meadows, a Republican. He replaced Democrat Heath Shuler, who retired in 2013. Shuler had won the seat in the 2006 midterm elections, defeating 8-term Republican Representative Charles H. Taylor.
The 11th District was traditionally one of the most competitive congressional districts in North Carolina. This was largely because of the district's volatile politics. It was historically anchored by Asheville, which was heavily Democratic. However, many of the city's suburbs are among the most conservative areas of North Carolina. The rest of the district was split between Democratic-leaning counties in the south and Republican-leaning counties in the north. Consequently, congressional races in this district have historically been very close and hard-fought.
In 2011 the Republican-dominated legislature redrew the district, shifting most of Asheville to the 10th district. The new map split Asheville in such a way that in some neighborhoods, one side of the street moved to the 10th while the other side of the street stayed in the 11th.
To make up for the loss in population, the 11th absorbed some strongly Republican territory in the Foothills which had previously been in the 10th. On paper, the 11th was one of the strongest Republican districts in the South.
In February 2012 Shuler announced he would not seek a fourth term. Meadows won the seat in 2012.North Carolina's 5th congressional district
North Carolina's 5th congressional district covers the northwestern corner of North Carolina from the Appalachian Mountains to the Piedmont Triad. While the bulk of its territory is in the mountains, it stretches just far enough east to grab its largest city, Winston-Salem. Although that city is heavily Democratic, and the college town of Boone leans Democratic, the rest of the district is overwhelmingly Republican. Large portions were controlled by Republicans even during the “Solid South” era as much of northwestern North Carolina was Quaker or mountaineer and therefore resisted secession. Two counties in the district – Avery and Yadkin – have never voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since their creation, and Wilkes County has never done so since before the Second Party System.
The fifth district is currently represented by Virginia Foxx, a Republican.Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest is a National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. It is administered by the United States Forest Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture. The Pisgah National Forest is completely contained within the state of North Carolina. The forest is managed together with the other three North Carolina National Forests (Croatan, Nantahala, and Uwharrie) from common headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina. There are local ranger district offices located in Pisgah Forest, Mars Hill, and Nebo.Sassafras Mountain
Sassafras Mountain is the highest point in the state of South Carolina, United States. It is in the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains.Scouting in North Carolina
Scouting in North Carolina has a long history, from the 1910s to the present day, serving thousands of youth in programs that suit the environment in which they live.Waterrock Knob
Waterrock Knob is a mountain peak in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the highest peak in the Plott Balsams and is the 16th-highest mountain in the Eastern United States.The mountain is a popular destination with tourists and amateur hikers, as it is easily accessible from the parkway. A visitors' center is located near its summit and a hiking trail leads to its top. The hiking trail and visitors' center are manned and maintained by the National Park Service, part of the United States Department of the Interior.