Drover's Road By-Way
The historic Drovers Road By-Way travels through the mountain narrows along the floor of a steep river gorge as it winds along an ancient riverbed surrounded by wilderness beauty and natural wonders. From there the road ascends a mountain slope before crossing its gap and descending into the beautiful broad mountain valley interior of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Drovers Road; originally considered an early turnpike, is a natural access into the interior of the Blue Ridge Mountains for drovers who were moving livestock, mostly flocks of turkeys and some geese, herds of hogs and some cattle in and out of the mountains to the markets.
Officially the road is 10-miles long even though the interior mountain hub for market was in Asheville North Carolina to the north dating back to 1798.
Standing at the crossroads in the heart of downtown Asheville is a giant obelisk monument dedicated to these hearty drovers who followed the Drovers Road with several statues of life size hogs and turkeys formed in bronze. It is one of the most important historic sights in the mountain city of Asheville, a city widely renowned for its historical sites and heritage.
The Drovers Road By-Way follows Highway 64/74A and passes along the southern shore of Lake Lure in Rutherford County North Carolina, traveling into the Hickory Nut Gorge below the monumental shoulders of Chimney Rock State Park. The by-way winds alongside the cascading white waters of the wild "Rocky" Broad River as it makes its way thru the mountain gorge.
At the eastern end of the Drovers Road By-Way, as you enter the mouth of the gorge is Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock Park, a towering pinnacle of solid rock giving the state park its name. Chimney Rock stands erect here as a natural monument greeting all who enter or exit the entrance of the gorge. This gateway was a welcoming site for those early frontiersmen and settlers who dared to enter and follow the "Rocky" Broad River into the forbidding reaches of the mysterious Blue Ridge Mountains. Here the scenic road by-way passes through the resort town of Chimney Rock Village along its journey. From the by-way below in Chimney Rock Village, you can witness the falling waters of the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls descending from high above, an absolutely awe inspiring visual, one of the many wonders Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park has to offer.
The Rocky Broad Riverwalk along the north banks of the "Rocky" Broad River in Chimney Rock Village offers an easy access to the white water river's natural boulders and cascading pools . The natural boulders scattered along the "Rocky" Broad River offers fly-fishing and pockets-of-fun for private swimming holes when rainfalls aren't too heavy for safe white water recreation. When accessing these and other white water courses and waterfall areas, the Highlander recommends that you wear quality made river sandals for safety sake.
Heading west a couple of miles you'll reach the junction of 64 and 74A, here you will find the community of Bat Cave known for its local "bat cave." Highway 64 turns southwest here heading for Henderson County while Highway 74A continues northwest along the old Drovers Road to Buncombe County and Asheville North Carolina.
Along the river and by-way you'll see several newer constructions, plus some historic looking buildings still in use while others are no more than homestead ruins from a time long gone. There are some unique shops along this route and a stately old Victorian home that seems out of place along this scenic by-way in the narrows of this wilderness country.
Due to the necessity of early travel along this essential route and the popularity of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure, the Drovers Road By-Way has seen a lot of historic traffic in its time. Today the by-way caters to tourists and local residents, yet its history is a testament to itself and the local region.
As the scenic by-way climbs north, bending and turning up the mountain slope to Hickory Nut Gap you'll find the historical site of the Sherrill Inn and Tavern located at the mountain gap. The Inn and tavern was an important stop over for travelers between the years 1834 to 1909. Bedford and Elizabeth Sherrill built the Inn after securing a mail contract between the towns of Rutherfordton in Rutherford County North Carolina and the city of Asheville in Buncombe County North Carolina. This historic mail-stagecoach line was named The Fly Cloud.
During the Civil War, Union soldiers commandeered the Sherrill Inn for a time. The site was headquarters for Union Army Colonel William J. Palmer, a commander of one of General George Stoneman's brigades. Colonel Palmer was not a party to one of General Stoneman's other brigades of recruits, which wrecked havoc in Rutherford County. A tragic wartime event that is locally known as "Stoneman's Raid." Colonel Palmer arrived in the area, the day after the Union raid on the town of Rutherfordton and apologized to the bereaved citizens of Rutherford County after finding out what the "Home Yankees," a group of southern volunteers who enlisted in the Union Army had done against what they considered were local Confederate sympathizers and innocent citizens.
Though kind in his words towards the citizens of Rutherfordton, the Sherrill family members who owned the Inn and tavern didn't appreciate the "gentlemen officer's" polite nature even though the Colonel was highly regarded and referred to as the "Quaker warrior." It is said that when feeding the Union officers at the Inn, one of the Sherrill family daughters had shaken her stocking over the eggs as they cooked and declared, "Those Yankees can eat the dust off may feet and think it's pepper." This lack of 4-star service could be considered understandable from a Southerner's point of view during the un-welcomed visitors' occupation of their remote Inn.
The Sherrill Inn and Tavern is located 300-yards south of the historic marker along the Drovers Road By-Way at Hickory Nut Gap. During this time in history Hickory Nut Gap was known as Sherrill's Gap, named after the innkeepers. Heading north from the gap, Drovers Road By-Way winds and switchbacks down the northern mountain slope a relatively short distance where it accesses the broad Fairview Valley. The beauty of the valley is much the same as it has been for generations, the town of Fairview up ahead begins the outer edges of the city of Asheville's ever expanding metropolitan area.
Just before the city of Asheville the Old Drovers Road crosses the renowned Blue Ridge Parkway along the valley road at the official end of the scenic by-way. From here the parkway heads up to the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest point in all the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains, but that's another tale and another scenic drive.
To reach the actual historic end of the old trail where the Drovers Road monument stands in Asheville, you take Interstate 40 west and exit at US 25 north which is also the Biltmore Estate exit. Then follow US 25 into downtown Asheville to witness the historic sight before returning to Rutherford County.
The historical heritage, mountains and valleys along with the breathtaking beauty of Hickory Nut Gorge, the Broad River and the indescribable wonders of Chimney Rock State Park, along with Lake Lure and its resort communities, make the Drovers Road By-Way a must-see when visiting this mountainous region of the Blue Ridge Foothills and Mountains.