Cullowhee Valley North Carolina
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Cullowhee Valley North Carolina and Western Carolina University

Cullowhee, located in the central valley region of Jackson County, is one of the most picturesque valleys in the entire Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains.

In every direction, mountains boldly rise from the valley floor with the Tuckasegee River winding its way down the middle. This area was one of the first sites for settlements in the Jackson County region in the early to mid-1800's. The first schoolhouse was built in the 1830's. The elongated shape of Cullowhee Valley made the landscape very habitable then, as it is now for those looking to build a new life in an awe-inspiring natural setting. It's a place where one can escape from the outer world and focus on matters of inspiration and self-development. For those reasons alone, it's no wonder that Cullowhee has become the 'home' of Western North Carolina University.

The roots of the university began in 1888 when the residents of Cullowhee sought to have access to a better education. Founded in 1889 by Robert Lee Madison as a semi-public secondary school, the Cullowhee Academy provided education for regional youths and trained teachers for other regional areas in far Western North Carolina. The academy boarded students from neighboring counties and other states as well. In 1905, the state assumed title to the school and property and changed the academy's name to the Cullowhee Normal & Industrial School. In the school's pursuit of higher education, the name was again changed to the Cullowhee State Normal School, followed by the Western Carolina Teacher's College, and finally in 1967, it was changed to Western Carolina University, a perfect title for the beautiful and inspiring campus located in a ideal mountain setting only a few miles from Sylva.

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University, a member of the University of North Carolina system, provides an education to more than 9,000 students from 38 states and 32 countries.

The university's mission is focused on quality education and preparation for responsible citizenship in a changing world. Since its founding, WCU has grown in size to become a major cultural, scientific, and educational force in the region and the state, and it's still growing, with academic programs spanning more than 12 specialties. The university's academic and cultural arts' achievements, along with its exceptional sports and athletic programs, are evident in its school's overall unified spirit. Several halls, a fine arts complex, stadiums, and athletic fields grace the campus grounds, creating a setting that's most unique and awe-inspiring.

The Western Carolina University's impressive campus grounds also provide a home for the Mountain Heritage Center.

The Mountain Heritage Center is located on the ground level of the H.F. Robinson Building, at the main entrance to the Western Carolina University campus. The Mountain Heritage Center is dedicated to the exploration and appreciation of the southern Appalachians, its land, people, and culture. The center presents exhibits and programs that illustrate issues and concerns within the early Appalachians. The center-museum has excellent exhibits and displays; the center's permanent exhibit describes the seventeenth century migration of Scotch-Irish and English immigrants from Northern Ireland and their descendants who migrated to the New World in the eighteenth century.

More than a museum, the center offers educational programs and a yearly Mountain Heritage Festival as well. Its missions is to "connect people with local history and culture, build bridges between the university and the community, and serve as a resource for cultural heritage organizations in the region."

The Cullowhee Mountain Arts, located at Western North Carolina University, "exists to support artists of every skill level. The center is committed to providing exceptional art instruction in a superb facility in the midst of an inspiring setting. Workshops and programs promise to stimulate one's imagination with instruction of the highest caliber."

One can only expect this level of quality and dedication within the campus confines of WCU's inspiring atmosphere. Quoting from their materials, "Instruction and sharing among artists takes place within an optimally configured university fine arts complex and the expansive outdoors, finding inspiration and solace as [they] explore the mountains, forests and nearby waterfalls. The Cullowhee Mountain Arts was born out of a desire to support communities of artists and learn to serve the community with art programs for both adults and youth."

Cullowhee North Carolina

Even with the university campus taking up a good portion of the Cullowhee township, there's plenty of room left for residents, the county park system, the county airport, and the modest town of Cullowhee, all located in this valley along the banks of the Tuckasegee River on Cullowhee Road. The town of Cullowhee is located on the eastern side of the university.

The town had its modest start in 1883 with the founding of the Painter Post Office, located in Rolling A. Painter's store. This began the early trend for a business district within the unincorporated town of Cullowhee. With the beginning of a new academy, built in 1889 on the edge of Cullowhee, this modest town grew as the academy expanded. The town's main purpose was designed to serve the faculty and students' needs. Though the University grew and is still growing, the town has remained modest in size due to less accessible transportation than that which exists for the larger towns of Sylva and Webster just up the road. There are several residential neighborhoods conveniently located throughout Cullowhee Township, including the incorporated neighborhood of Forest Hills, originally developed to serve the needs of the faculty.

Along Hwy 107, there's a convenient dedicated bike path located along both shoulders of the roadway, connecting the campus to the southern upper reaches of Cullowhee Valley and the upper towns region of the valley.

Though Cullowhee Township appears to be filling up with amenities, there's still a feeling of openness to the landscape. Part of that feeling could come from the location of the Jackson County's Recreation and Parks Department's system, which is located in the center of the township's valley along the Tuckasegee River.

Jackson County Recreation and Parks' mission is "to promote healthy lifestyles and to improve the quality in Jackson County through the provision of diverse recreational programming and opportunities, parks and recreation facilities, greenway and natural protected spaces." That really rounds out the excellent planning and vision of a recreational public park system within a setting that's simply stunning to the eye. The parklands, sports, and recreation areas do more than provide a fit and healthy attraction; the atmosphere is so desirable that it motivates participation. There are hiking trails all around the area, yet the park offers flat lowland access for those interested in low impact walking workouts.

For Tuckasegee River adventurers looking to run the valley's length, there's access available to the south at East Laporte River Access Park. At the northern end of the valley on Cullowhee Road there is Locust Creek Access Area. Both locations have ample parking.

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