Judaculla Rock, a Cherokee petroglyph site with a nearly 3,000 year old history, is a well kept secret in the midst of western North Carolina’s beautiful mountainous terrain.
Not many people know about it, but it’s there. I stumbled across it after opening a children’s Fifty States book I bought my son last year for Christmas. Right there in North Carolina was a place labeled Judaculla Rock. The next week, I grabbed my husband and drove to Cullowhee, North Carolina. Cullowhee is one of prettiest areas in the state. Hands down. It helped that we went during the time of year when the trees are no longer green, but vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. We drove around winding roads with the most beautiful autumn back drop I’ve ever seen. We listened to Johnny Cash and Willy Nelson as we discussed the bear hunters we were passing along a stream.
When we finally arrived, I was quickly drawn into reading all of the information posted around the rock; trying to learn as much as I could. I totally got sucked in and eventually forgot about the bears all those guys were hunting. Eventually.
In all honesty, the writing on the stone was a little hard to make out. I had to look at a map of the rock, that was posted on the railing, to see the markings on the rock.
Experts believe the Cherokee used the soft soapstone to quarry bowls almost 3,000 years ago. If you look to the bottom right of the picture you can make out the marks they left.
With over 1,500 engravings, the boulder has more designs on it than any other petroglyph site in the eastern United States. Archaeologists believe the carvings were made up to 1,500 years ago and as recently as 300 years ago.
The rock is named after the Cherokee’s legendary giant, Judaculla, who lived in the Balsam Mountains. Legend says he watched over his hunting grounds from his judgement seat at Devil’s Courthouse. Yes, Devil’s Courthouse is actually the name of a mountain. One legend says he chased some disrespectful hunters down the mountain and jumped down near Caney Fork where he put his hand down on a rock to steady himself – leaving his handprint. You can see the legendary handprint below the line on the rock.
After we spent time reading all of the information about the rock, we continued our journey on in to Oconoluftee to hopefully catch a glimpse of some Elk. We drove up to the Oconoluftee Visitor’s Center where we caught a few Elk just hanging out. We then got onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for just a few miles. It was sunset and the view was breathtaking. As we were exiting off the Parkway, a huge bull walked right out in front of us with his harem of about 6 more female elk. I tried to get a picture, but wasn’t quick enough. It was a site to behold.