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What about North Carolina's seven "natural" wonders?

By D. G. Martin
Posted Monday, January 18, 2010

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Chapel Hill, NC - “Why didn’t you make a list of North Carolina’s seven natural wonders?”

I got this question after I shared my choices for our state’s seven manmade wonders in a recent column.

The same group that identified the Seven New (manmade) Wonders of the World, which prompted my earlier column, has also identified the Seven Natural Wonders: The Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights), Grand Canyon, Paricutin (a cinder cone volcano in Mexico), Victoria Falls, Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest, and the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro.

The group is also selecting the Seven Natural Wonders for North America. Current leaders are Niagara Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Redwood National Forest, Great Blue Hole (a large underwater sink hole off the coast of Belize), Yosemite National Park, Everglades National Park, and the Bay of Fundy.

So why don’t some of us talk more about our own natural wonders? North Carolina is full of natural treasures. We should have our own list.

Some have already tried. For instance, Charlotte Observer editorial columnist Jack Betts has already tackled the challenge in his blog.

Well, sort of.

Betts listed his “nominees” for the state’s seven natural wonders and included Cape Lookout Bight (a natural harbor), Lake Mattamuskeet, the Neuse River (below New Bern at Minnesott where it is wider than the Mississippi), Duke Forest, the Uwharrie Mountains, Linville Gorge, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell and Clingman’s Dome.

Note that there are nine sites on his list.

To really start the arguments, I think somebody has to narrow the list to seven and then buckle down and wait for the reactions of people across the state whose favorite place has been left of the list.

So here we go. Here is my list.

1. Grandfather Mountain. It is not our highest mountain, but it surely looks the part. Why? Because it stands almost alone and dominates its surroundings in a powerful way. When visitors go all the way to the top, they feel that they can touch the clouds in the sky. I may be prejudiced. My mother loved this mountain, which she claimed she could see on a clear day from the entrance to the college on North Main Street in Davidson.

2. The Black Mountain Range, including Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in eastern North America.

3. The Outer Banks, especially the protected areas like the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. This long thin strand of sand that stands between us and the Atlantic Ocean is what many people across the country think about when someone mentions North Carolina.

4. The Carolina Bay Lakes, including Singletary Lake, Baytree Lake, Jones Lake, Salters Lake, Lake Waccamaw and White Lake in Southeastern North Carolina and Lake Mattamuskeet. Lake Mattamuskeet has to be on my list thanks to Jack Betts, to the Nature Conservancy’s Tom Cors and to Phil Manning’s description (in “Islands of Hope”) of the majestic parade of the comings and goings of the migratory water foul that visit there.

5. Chimney Rock, now a part of the state parks system.

6. The waterfalls near Brevard, including the 400-foot drop of Whitewater Falls (said to be the highest falls east of the Rocky Mountains), the beautiful Looking Glass falls, the popular Sliding Rock, and about 250 others.

7. Pilot Mountain. It rises dramatically so far above its surroundings that some people think it must have once been a volcano.

What do you think of my list? If you don’t like it, make your own. Write a column or a letter to the editor with you seven natural wonders, and I bet you will find your writings printed in the newspaper.

Remember this. Your list will have just as much authority as mine does.


D.G. Martin is hosting his final season of UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs Sundays at 5 p.m. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at

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What about North Carolina's seven "natural" wonders?

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