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Old Fort & Andrews Geyser

More in the Area: Point Lookout Trail | Black Mountain | Pisgah National Forest | Mt. Mitchell | Linville Falls | Linville Gorge | Catawba Falls | Montreat
Old Fort, NC

Located at the foot of the Black Mountains, Old Fort is a small quaint town often called the "gateway to the west." If you are traveling along Interstate 40 east toward Asheville, Old Fort is the little village near I-40 that you passed by before you drive the winding section up the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. The town of Black Mountain is located at the top of the ridge.

Here's a sampling of what you will find:

Point Lookout Trail: This great, paved trail is a beautiful bike ride up the mountain. New for 2009. See our Point Lookout Trail Guide.

Catawba Falls: A new parking area built in 2012 allows for easy access to the 1.5-mile hiking trail to this 100-foot waterfall in Pisgah National Forest. See our Catawba Falls Guide.

Old Fort Arrowhead Monument: In the center of Old Fort, built in 1930 this hand chiseled granite monument served to honor the peace finally achieved between the pioneer settlers and the Native Americans. At the unveiling, over 6,000 people attended including chiefs from both the Catawba and Cherokee tribes. These two tribes had never smoked a pipe of peace together until that day.

Train Depot: Old Fort's train depot is in the heart of town. Located directly behind the historic "Arrowhead" this depot is is beautifully renovated and includes a Visitor Center. The bright yellow building is hard to miss.

Andrews Geyser: Read more about this manmade geyser below!

Old Fort History
Since 1869 travelers through these mountains looked for the familiar sight of a tall water plume, a manmade geyser, and a resort hotel tucked away at the base of the Blue Ridge this signaled the start of the long climb to Asheville through some of the most scenic terrain in North Carolina. Originally a fort built by the colonial militia before the Declaration of Independence, the settlement served for many years as the western outpost of the early United States. The fort is now being rebuilt by the non-profit corporation "Davidson's Fort Historic Park.

Downtown Old Fort

Sweet Stop Diner

Old Fort Mountain Music: Every Friday evening for more than a decade, folks have gathered to hear and play bluegrass and traditional mountain music. Nobody’s paid, everyone’s welcome and coffee and sodas are still just a quarter! Friday evenings; 7:00pm; Rockett Building, Main Street in downtown Old Fort; for more information call 1-888-233-6111.

The NC Gold Fest is the first Saturday in June (and the Friday before) at the Mountain Gateway Museum. Oktoberfest Festival is always on the weekend of the first Saturday in October, three days of food, crafts and entertainment at the Mountain Gateway Museum.

Directions to Old Fort from Asheville: I-40 east to exit 72. About 22 miles from downtown Asheville
Mountain Gateway MuseumMountain Museum
Mountain Gateway Museum: Old Fort is home to the state run museum exhibiting mountain lifestyle and history from the earliest inhabitants to the twentieth century. Summer muse programs, festivals and a variety of other activities are held there and at their outdoor amphitheater on Mill Creek. Exhibits include artifacts used during the expansion of the railroad, as well as several rotating exhibits each year. Free. Open Tuesday-Saturday 9-5, Sunday 2-5, & Monday 12-5. Closed for state holidays. For info, call 828-668-9259 or visit

Andrews Geyser

Andrews Geyser
Andrews Geyser is in Old Fort, North Carolina in the McDowell County. Andrews Geyser is a manmade geyser shoots up over 80 feet high at times. Its water supply is drawn from the Mill Creek. Enjoy the mighty, misty column of mountain water that shoots straight up, twisting a bit in the wind, always raining down. Andrews Geyser is free, open to the public, and surrounded by a sizable concrete wading pool that’s a super spot to get misty. The park includes picnic tables and stone benches, where you can sit back and watch the water show. Catch a rainbow with early morning or late afternoon sun.

Andrews Geyser
Andrews Geyser after a frigid weather - a huge mound of ice! See more photos of frozen waterfalls.

History of the Andrews Geyser
In the late 1800s, the area's railroad, owned by Southern Railways, went no further west than Old Fort. Passengers and cargo going further than Old Fort had to be hauled by horse to Asheville and points west. Col. A.B. Andrews, an engineer and then a vice president for Southern Railways, successfully lobbied the state legislature to authorize money and, more importantly, prison labor to help push the railroad to the Swannanoa Gap, now known as Ridgecrest. The treacherous terrain required 12 miles of track be built to traverse the three miles of distance, including seven tunnels.

In 1879, a resort hotel, the Round Knob Hotel, was built in Old Fort to draw tourists. The owners of Southern Railway decided they should create something to commemorate those who died while building the difficult run to Swannanoa, but they also wanted something that would help attract tourists as well. Thus the idea of the geyser, whose towering spray ultimately rose directly adjacent to the hotel, was born.

The railroad bought a seven-acre plot up the Mill Creek valley to dam the creek, to create a lake, and to run a 6" pipe down the valley to a 1/2" nozzle to create the geyser. The Round Knob Hotel and the geyser were an attraction that drew people to the hotel for about 20 years. In 1903 however, the hotel burned to the ground due to a stray ember from one of the trains. It was a total loss.

The 'Fathers of Old Fort' didn't want to lose the hotel and the geyser, so in 1911 a friend of Col. Andrews, a wealthy New Yorker, rescued the geyser. He bought the land around it, moved it across the creek, redesigned it and named it in honor of Col. Andrews. And that is where the geyser still stands and sprays today, powered by the dam and the lake on that secluded 7 acres of land, totally surrounded by the protected lands of the Pisgah National Forest.

To get to there from nearby Old Fort, take U.S. Highway 70 West (for three-tenths of a mile) to Old U.S. Highway 70. Turn right and travel 2.4 miles to Mill Creek, where you turn right and go 2.1 miles. Andrews Geyser will be the aquatic eruption to your left.


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Writing & Photography By Mark File - ©2003-2015 File Investments, Inc - All Rights Reserved