U.S. Highway 64 Through the Hickory Nut Gap
The most traveled east-west roadway in North Carolina was always U.S. 64 before Interstate 40 was built in the 1960‘s and 1970‘s. It runs from the Outer Banks to the Tennessee border in the Great Smoky Mountains. As it leaves the Piedmont Plateau and climbs into the Blue Ridge Mountains, it enters the ancient Hickory Nut Gap in Rutherford County as it hugs the Broad River flowing out of Lake Lure.
As early as the 1840’s, horse drawn stage coaches used this same right-of-way as they ferried passengers from the east to the small village called Asheville, and on to Knoxville in Tennessee. In those days, the narrow rutted trail through Hickory Nut Gap was the most challenging of the entire journey. Pearched twenty feet above the Broad River with no guard rails and no shoulder, the road claimed many horse teams and frightened riders. Frequent flash floods and washouts made the sharp rocks below seem all the more menacing.
Because of controlled releases from the Lake Lure dam just a mile upriver, the rocks are void of any sand or sediment, and the river flows crystal clear as it meanders through the previously treacherous gap.