History & Heritage
494-SQUARE MILES OF MOUNTAIN CULTURE & BEAUTYCarved from portions of two adjoining counties in 1851, Jackson County is defined by its lofty vistas, fast-flowing water and rich Appalachian traditions.
The Tuckasegee River, the dividing line between Haywood and Macon counties until a special act of the NC General Assembly created Jackson in 1851, flows almost the length of the county. Named for President Andrew Jackson, the first county seat was at Webster, though that changed some 60 years later when Sylva took on the role due to its proximity to the railroad and an economy that was starting to boom.
With some 185 named summits and approximately 250 named rivers and creeks, Jackson County is defined by its lofty vistas and fast-flowing water. Elevations range from less than 2,000 feet above sea level in Whittier’s Tuckasegee River valley to more than 6,000 feet in the Plott Balsam and Great Balsam mountain ranges. Jackson County contains a significant amount of US National Forest land, including the 39,000-acre Roy Taylor Forest.
In addition to its lofty peaks, rushing water and unspoiled natural beauty, Jackson County is known for its rich Appalachian traditions. Its many cultural attractions range from the Native American at Cherokee’s Oconaluftee Indian Village, Unto These Hills outdoor drama and Museum of the Cherokee Indians to the Scots-Irish at Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center. Dogwood Crafters in Dillsboro and Qualla Arts and Crafts in Cherokee give visitors an opportunity to buy authentic Native American and Appalachian crafts.
Jackson County Fast Facts
- One of the highest waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains, Whitewater Falls, at 411 feet
- One of the highest lakes east of the Rockies Lake Glenville at 3,500 feet above sea level
- More Mountain Heritage Trout waters than anywhere else in the state (Jackson County has 3)
- More mountains – 185 named summits and Whiteside Mountain, which boasts the highest vertical cliffs in the Eastern United States, is considered by some geologists to be the oldest mountain in the world. (390 to 460 million years old)
- More waterways – 250 named creeks and rivers – with the most Mountain Heritage Trout waters than anywhere else in the state (Jackson County has 3) – plus more fish are stocked in our streams than anywhere else in the state (92,800 in 2016)
- More miles of Blue Ridge Parkway – 70+ – and the highest point along Blue Ridge Parkway – Richland Balsam overlook (6,053 ft.)
- The highest continuous cliff east of Rockies is at Laurel Knob (best viewed from Lonesome Valley). It is 1,200 feet of continuous rock cliff.
- Largest box canyon east of the Rockies – Lonesome Valley
- The only place in the country you can see the ‘Shadow of the Bear’
- Smallest U.S. Post office – Grimshawes (1903-53)
Jackson County TDA
The Jackson County Tourism Development Authority’s mission is to promote growth of tourism opportunities that benefits the Jackson County economy. The Jackson County Tourism Development Authority was established in 2013 by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly. The Jackson County TDA has 15 board members appointed by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and meets monthly. The Jackson County TDA is funded by a 4% room occupancy tax collected from guests of Jackson County accommodations. No property taxes are used to fund the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority.
- Bring the “Play On” brand to life through an integrated marketing strategy.
- Create an awareness and desire to explore and fall in love with Jackson County.
- To foster tourism development in the area by offering grants to projects, attractions, events, and services which will increase tourism to the Jackson County area.
- To examine the range of existing visitor attractions and services, and to use the information to identify unrealized marketing opportunities.
- To work with community organizations to achieve an effective, coordinated and comprehensive marketing program.
- To work with local government, businesses, and non-profit organizations to identify and develop new facilities, attractions, and services to improve tourism activities.
- To contribute to the economic development and quality of life in Jackson County.
The Jackson County TDA meeting schedule is available at the Meeting Schedule page.