Hickory Nut Gorge & Chimney Rock

chimney_rockWhen thinking of the natural wonders of western North Carolina, many people envision Chimney Rock. The towering spire rises from rocky cliffs and overlooks scenic Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure in western Rutherford County.

Dramatic photos in the state’s tourism ads draw thousands of tourists each year. The expansive views of the surrounding mountains and foothills from Chimney Rock are permanently etched in visitors’ memories. No wonder so many immediately think of spectacular Chimney Rock when they think of our state’s iconic mountain landscapes.

Foothills Conservancy has worked in partnership with the N.C. Division of State Parks, The Nature Conservancy, and Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy since 2004 to create the new Chimney Rock State Park. Chimney Rock Park and the areas surrounding it became a protection priority for Foothills Conservancy when large tracts surrounding Lake Lure and the privately owned Chimney Rock Park attraction were put up for sale. Foothills Conservancy initiated discussions with N. C. State Parks and N.C. State Senator (later Lt. Governor) Walter Dalton about the possibility of acquiring these and other lands in the Hickory Nut Gorge to create a new state park.

By 2005, Senator Dalton had secured authorization to form a new park from the N.C. General Assembly, and land acquisition began. Foothills Conservancy first supported the efforts by Carolina Mountains Lands Conservancy, based in Hendersonville, to acquire the $16 million World’s Edge tract for the new park. Soon after, the partners learned that the owners of Chimney Rock Park were ready to sell and work began in earnest to secure the millions in needed funds and a purchase agreement to make this major attraction the centerpiece for the new state park. Foothills Conservancy worked closely with local officials, the Friends of Hickory Nut Gorge, the “Save Chimney Rock” grassroots group (which the conservancy helped launch), Senator Dalton, N.C. State Parks, The Nature Conservancy and, in the later stages of the negotiations, The Conservation Fund, to secure political support for special funding for the acquisition. Meanwhile, the owners decided to list the park with Sotheby’s for $55 million, and confidential negotiations began with a variety of buyers interested in the park’s development potential. Finally, in 2007, Governor Mike Easely and Senator Dalton announced that a purchase agreement had been reached with the park’s owners, Lucius and Todd Morse, securing the park for the state’s citizens for $24 million.

To date, Foothills Conservancy has played a lead or pivotal role in protecting 1,326 acres in Hickory Nut Gorge, including our involvement with the acquisition of the 996-acre Chimney Rock parcel and securing a $15 million special state appropriation for it, and our purchase of two tracts totaling 330 acres on Cane Creek Mountain which were added to Chimney Rock State Park in 2008 and 2009.

1. Chimney Rock State Park pdf
2. Washburn-Cane Creek Mountain pdf
3. Moore-Cane Creek Mountain pdf

Map of Hickory Nut Gorge