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:
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.
Arrowhead Gallery and Studios: See and buy works from 40+ artists and artisans, featuring a wide variety of arts and crafts, classes and workshops. Tuesday-Saturday 10-6, Sunday 1-4. 78C S Catawba Ave
Places to Stay and See in Old Fort
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 www.MountainGatewayMuseum.org.
Andrews Geyser: Located just outside Old Fort in McDowell County, this 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.
Events: 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.
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.