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Museum of North Carolina Minerals [MP 331]

This museum showcases the importance of mining in western NC, as well as the more than 300 varieties of gems and minerals located in the area. Featuring interactive displays about gems and minerals found in the region (spectacular emeralds, rubies, amethyst and quartz that were found in the mineral-rich Spruce Pine Mining District – mountains near Spruce Pine, North Carolina are among the richest in minerals and gems in the United States) and the historical value they bring to the local economy.

Geological activity formed the wide variety of minerals that can now be found in the Southern Appalachians. 400 million years ago in a continental collision, molten rock was forced into cracks in a dark rock called gneiss. Because the rock cooled very slowly, huge deposits of minerals formed. Today, geologists find minerals like quartz, feldspar, mica, and gemstones.

Due to the railroad and visitors to the Blue Ridge, many mountain towns flourished from mining emerald, feldspar, mica, and precious gemstones. Gem mining has become a big attraction and can be found throughout the numerous towns along and adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Museum also hosts a visitor center for the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce, with information on local businesses, attractions, lodging, food and more. A gift shop featuring souvenirs and books on Western North Carolina is located in the museum.

The Museum is located at Gillespie Gap, an important stop for Revolutionary War fighters on their way to the Battle of Kings Mountain. Each September the Museum hosts an encampment of re-enactors who assume the role of the Overmountain Men, primarily Scots-Irish settlers from Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina who came “over the mountains” and ultimately defeated the left wing of Cornwallis’ army at Kings Mountain, South Carolina. Many historians mark this victory as the turning point in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War. [1]

The museum also contains a gift shop with souvenirs and books on Western North Carolina as well as a Visitor Center for the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce that includes information about local businesses, attractions, lodging, food and more. The museum is open year round, 9 am – 5 pm, 7 days a week and there is no admission fee.

Excerpted from TripAdvisor reviews:

A stop to see the amazing variety of minerals in NC – North Carolina has an impressive variety of mineral and rocks, and this is a pleasant stop on the Parkway to see them. It is one of the few facilities right on the Parkway that stays open year round, and is a welcome oasis for the travelers in desperate need of a bathroom! ” — user Hobbits2infro Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee

What a pleasant stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway – This museum/gift shop is located south of Grandfather Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Very easy to locate with plenty of parking. It is free and there is a nice little gift shop as well. The pricing is fair and they even offered 25% off this time of year [October 2013]. A fine stop for a little break and to learn about the area. The lady on duty 10/22 was very pleasant as well. ” — user Hooked_on_travel77 Mts of western NC

Free and quick stop – This is a great stop if you are about to hit one of the gem mining places in the area or just want to know more about the minerals found in NC. Its interactive for school age children. We stop here every time we are in the area. ” — user McElspeth Raleigh, NC

[1] Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, “Museum of North Carolina Minerals”

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