According to legend, the Cherokee Indians knew of the Caverns
and hid in them before the white man discovered them about 1850.
All the Cherokees lived in this
part of the nation until about 1840 when the United States forced
them to move to Oklahoma in a bitter winter trip known as “The Trail
of Tears.” Some refused to leave and eventually were granted land in
western North Carolina at Cherokee.
White Man Finds Caverns
The first white men began to settle in this area in the late
1700’s and the early 1800’s. Written reports tell of the discovery
of the caverns by white man about the middle of the 19th
century when sawmill workers watched water from a heavy rain pour
into a sink hole in the area. The whole was filled with debris but
one of the men found an opening in the rock and made his way to what
is now the entrance of the caverns.
the caverns were discovered, there were reports of a cool spot in
the valley near a sink hole. Apparently the year-around 58-degree
temperatures of the Caverns were cooling those who lingered near the
sink hole which later became the entrance.
were reported to have taken their sewing and other “chores” which
could be moved easily to the opening in the hot summer months to
benefit from the cooling breezes. Many children took their summer
naps there. These same breezes now are piped into the gift shop and
visitor center to help air-condition the buildings.
crystal clear stream flows through the length of the caverns,
draining much of the surface water from a small Alpine cove, Dry
Valley, located directly above part of the caverns. The valley for
its name long before it was known why the water disappeared quickly
following heavy rains.
Wet Weather Falls
In rainy season, the valley
above drains to cause falls.
This stalagmite is 12 feet
high, and six inches across.