The majestic Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina rises to an elevation of 4,000 feet above the Catawba River in Linville, North Carolina. Because of the vast gain in elevation there are a total of 16 distinct ecological communities found on Grandfather Mountain. Not only is Grandfather Mountain a majestic landmark of North Carolina, but some of the highest surface wind speeds can be experienced here. The highest wind speeds that have ever been recorded to date are in excess of 200 mph, only one other mountain range in the US holds a record that surpasses that of Grandfather Mountain and that is Mount Washington in New Hampshire. The peak is located at 5,946 feet, which makes it the highest peak on the eastern escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes by the South side of the mountain.
You might ask why Grandfather Mountain is called what it is and the only answer I have been able to find to this question is that when the early pioneers saw the mountain, they thought that the north face of the mountain resembled that of an old man looking upwards toward the sky. Take a look at Grandfather Mountain profile from the village of Foscoe, which is seven miles North of Linville and ten miles South of Boone, and perhaps you too will see the profile of an old man.
Grandfather Mountain has two rivers that begin at the mountain, and those are the Linville River, which flows eastwards, and the Watauga River which flows West. There are many streams that begin on the slopes of Grandfather. Located on the top of Grandfather Mountain you will find a vast forest of Southern Appalachian spruce-fir, along with a non-native Balsam Wooly Adelgid, the latter has nearly depleted the spruce-fir population, which is in the process of making a rebound. Until 2008 Grandfather Mountain was a privately owned and operated nature preserve and tourist attraction.
One of the largest attractions to the mountain is the mile-high swinging bridge, the highest in America. Hugh Morton built the bridge in 1952. The swinging bridge links two peaks. It does as its name implies, it swings in the wind and can be felt as you walk across it from one peak to the other. It is not dangerous, but one must not have a vertigo problem, however it is very safe indeed.
Grandfather Mountain was inherited by Hugh Morton from his grandfather and decided to develop it into a tourist attraction. Hugh died on June 1st, 2006 at the age of 85. His pictures, many of which included photographs of Grandfather Mountain, Mildred the Bear and many other aspects of Grandfather Mountain life were donated to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
2,600 acres of undeveloped portions of Grandfather Mountain was purchased from the Morton family for a sum of $12 million by the State of North Carolina on September 29, 2008. This area will be added to the states State Park system, making it the 34th North Carolina State Park. The Morton family will continue to operate the park as a nature park and travel destination under a new not-for-profit entity called Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.