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Mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and diverse ecosystems are the essential fabrics that form the magnificent natural tapestry of the Blue Ridge mountains and foothills in North Carolina, honored by Congress with the designation of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.

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The Blue Ridge Mountains are among the oldest in the world. These ancient mountains are the backbone of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, with soft peaks forming a sea of blue ridges extending like waves over the vast landscape.

Though old and weathered, the Blue Ridge Mountains still boast the highest peaks in the eastern United States. Many are over 6,000 feet in elevation. The North Carolina mountains also include the massive Great Smokies and transverse ranges such as the Black Mountains, Great Craggies, Great Balsams, and Nantahalas.

This patchwork of mountain ranges has given rise to a stunning diversity of ecosystems, plants and wildlife. The North Carolina mountains draw outdoor enthusiasts from around the world to hike, climb, rappel, botanize, bird-watch, ski, or simply revel in the view from the top.

Rivers and Gorges

The oldest river in the world, ironically named the New River, begins in the North Carolina mountains. The Linville River has etched its serpentine way through the mountains to create Linville Gorge, the deepest gorge in the Eastern United States. The Chattooga and Nolichucky Rivers thunder through the North Carolina mountains and offer some of the finest whitewater rapids in the country.

These and many other North Carolina rivers and streams in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area are a magnet for fishing and water sports enthusiasts. Fly fishing is especially popular in the clear rivers throughout the area. Outfitters and river tour companies offer whitewater rafting, canoeing, and kayaking for all levels of skill.


Waterfalls in the North Carolina mountains sparkle like natural gems, daring photographers, artists, and poets to capture their beauty. From the 412 foot plunge of Whitewater Falls to the gentle flow of countless unnamed falls in mountain forests, the drama of splashing waters delights visitors throughout the year.