Pigeon Gap watering hole, spring restored on Waynesville Mountain

By Evelyn Coltman | Aug 26, 2014
Photo by: Donated LANDMARK RESTORED — The Pigeon Gap watering hole and spring was recently restored, thanks to the combined efforts of Eagle Scout Joey Rolland, BRCO, Carolina Development LLC, Haywood County Historical and Genealogical Society, Tanna Timbes, Hester Boone and Mike McDonald.

While travelers riding over Waynesville Mountain through Pigeon Gap are appreciative of recent highway improvements, they may be unaware of another important renovation to the area — the restoration of a significant piece of Haywood County history, a collaborative effort of Eagle Scout Joey Rolland, the Bethel Rural Community Organization (BRCO), Carolina Development, LLC, Haywood County Historical and Genealogical Society, Tanna Timbes, Hester Boone and Mike McDonald.

A monument erected to commemorate a popular watering hole and recreational area from the 1800s/early 1900s, located behind the entrance to the Estates at Boulder Creek on the Waynesville side of the mountain, has been hidden and forgotten as ivy and vines have threaded their gossamer veneer over two centuries of history.  After automobile traffic superseded horse and buggy travel, many people forgot about the site, though it continued to be a popular picnic area in the 1940s and 1950s.  A slight change in road direction of Highway 276 also assured the eventual obscurity of the location.

In 1924, the Community Club of Waynesville constructed an impressive stone wall behind the watering area with an affixed plaque, assuring the location’s place in Haywood County history.

Carolina Development, the owner of the site, contacted BRCO about restoring the wall and monument since Timbes and Boone, the original owners of the location, had instituted a conservation easement through Haywood County Historical and Genealogical Society requiring protection and preservation.

BRCO has taken on numerous historic preservation projects since 2005, and its Historic Preservation Committee agreed the site restoration would fit the committee’s preservation mission.  Simultaneously, Rolland needed an Eagle Scout project, and BRCO determined that the Pigeon Gap Watering Hole/Spring restoration would be a perfect solution to the needs of both.

Rolland, members of his family, Bill Terrell and Mike McDonald (affiliated with BRCO) assisted with the restoration; McDonald donated funds to cover the improvements which included clearing the growth, providing cover to inhibit regrowth, cleaning the wall, polishing the monument, and building a bridge.  BRCO, serving as overseer of the project, provided signage designed by Ted Carr.

A bit of historical background enhances an understanding of the importance of preserving the Pigeon Gap watering hole and spring.  Prior to the Cherokee and their ancestors, Passenger Pigeons flew from their resting sites along the Pigeon River in Pigeon Valley (Bethel) through Pigeon Gap on their annual migration route.  Prior to white settlement in Haywood County, Native Americans used the passage across the mountain as a trail. The original route through Pigeon Gap from Bethel — the one used by white settlers — veered to the left on the Waynesville side of the mountain and wound its way toward Waynesville.

Because the trip was an arduous, prolonged endeavor over a winding road, a watering hole for both people and their animals was developed from an already existing spring.  Sojourners would take advantage of the Pigeon Gap Spring to quench their thirst, and they frequently used the popular area to enjoy picnics and recreational outings.   The water at the spring was reputed to be of excellent quality.

Rolland, BCRO and the other partners that assured the location’s perpetuity have once again made a visit to the watering hole possible.  For those wishing to visit the restored Pigeon Gap watering hole an spring, take a left onto a small gravel road (if coming from Bethel) just after the crest of the mountain and just before the Estates at Boulder Creek. Park and walk past the gated barrier to the spring.  If coming from Waynesville, turn right just after the Estates entrance prior to reaching the top of the mountain.

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