Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hit the Indian Heritage Scenic Byway

From N.C. DOT. Never even knew this existed. Pretty cool. And a good idea for an area that could use a boost.

If you're looking for a quick getaway after being cooped up this winter, a trip on the Indian Heritage Trail Scenic Byway is the perfect adventure. The byway snakes through 18 miles of Richmond and Montgomery counties near the center of the state, but takes visitors much further – back to a time centuries ago when Native Americans were the only residents of North Carolina.

The byway begins at the intersection of Ellerbe (State Road 1441) and Millstone (S.R. 1452) roads just east of the town of Ellerbe in Richmond County. Travel 2.5 miles down Millstone Road to reach Ellerbe, which received its name from W.T. Ellerbe, a South Carolina plantation owner who established a recreational and health facility around what he believed to be healing mineral springs in the area.

In Ellerbe, turn right onto U.S. 220 North (Church Street) to follow the byway. For a quick side trip, continue straight across the intersection of Millstone and Church streets to reach the Rankin Museum of American Heritage, located two blocks down on the left. The museum boasts one of the largest American Indian collections in the state, featuring artifacts from North Carolina tribes as well as those from further reaches, including Amazon Indian and Eskimo items. Natural history exhibits, and an extensive fossil collection can also be found here. (Museum hours are 10-4 weekdays, closed Wednesday, 1-5 on Saturday and 2-5 on Sunday).

Traveling north on U.S. 220 from Ellerbe, motorists pass through North Carolina's famous peach-growing region. Leaving Ellerbe, travel one mile and turn left onto N.C. 73 North. A N.C. Department of Transportation rest area with picnic tables is located to the right. Just a half-mile down U.S. 220 from the intersection is the facility originally established by W.T. Ellerbe, today known as the Historic Ellerbe Springs Inn and Restaurant.

Continue 11.5 miles before turning right onto Indian Mound Road and crossing into Montgomery County. The Town Creek Indian Mound Historic Site – the only state historic site in North Carolina dedicated to Native American heritage – is 1.5 miles down the road on the right. This archaeological site was an important ceremonial center for the Creek Indians of the Pee Dee culture, some 300 to 400 years ago. Visitors can tour the reconstructed temples and see various exhibits. (Site hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m., closed Mondays).

The byway ends where Indian Mound Road intersects with N.C. 731, just east of Mount Gilead. Without stops, the drive is about 35 minutes.

For maps and descriptions of all 54 scenic byways in North Carolina, visit

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