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
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.
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
Nearby Kings Mountain, which sits astride the state line
of North and South Carolina, is designated by Congress
as a National Military Park
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.