Blue Ridge Parkway | MUSEUM OF NORTH CAROLINA MINERALS (MP 330.9)

Museum of North Carolina Minerals at Mile Post 331 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Museum of North Carolina Minerals at Mile Post 331 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Contrary to the name, the Museum of North Carolina Minerals is much more than a collection of rocks, or even a museum for that matter. I’m sure that’s what it started out as, but its modern incarnation is more of an educational facility than one where you just go in and look at stuff. Audio and video presentations along with interactive exhibits make a stop at the museum fun for both kids and adults. The facility also doubles as a Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center where you can get information and maps on the Parkway, plus there is a small gift store that sells an assortment of minerals along with Parkway souvenirs.

The museum is typically open daily from May through the end of October from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, if a visit is high on your list, before making travel plans be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the Blue Ridge Parkway.

A thorough visit to the museum, with time to read all of the materials and play with the interactive exhibits, takes about one hour.

The lobby at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals has a Blue Ridge Parkway information desk and gift store

The lobby at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals has a Blue Ridge Parkway information desk and gift store

The main exhibit area is divided into two sections, one of which tells the history of mining in North Carolina. This neat exhibit explains how mines work, and even has oral histories from ol’ timers who worked in the mines.

North Carolina Mining Exhibit at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals

North Carolina Mining Exhibit at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals

The second half of the museum is chock full of exhibits on the geology of the Earth and on minerals in general. Of course there are cases of rocks that you would expect to find in a mineral museum, but the main focus is on the science of minerals. Exhibits cover topics such as the tools and techniques used by geologists, how the earth was created, and the peculiar properties of some minerals such as radioactivity and the ability to conduct electricity.

Interactive mineral properties exhibit at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Interactive mineral properties exhibit at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals on the Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the mineral cases in the Museum of North Carolina Minerals on the Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the mineral cases in the Museum of North Carolina Minerals on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Another one of my favorite exhibits explains what different minerals are used for, and with the push of a button, a light on a map of North Carolina shows you where they are found in the state. There are over 4,000 different minerals on earth, but only 100 are found in any significant quantity. You can find around 300 different mineral types in North Carolina.

Minerals of North Carolina exhibit at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Minerals of North Carolina exhibit at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Outside the museum is a trailhead for the Orchard Trail at Gillespie Gap, which is part of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. If you are standing at the parking lot, look to the field at the left of the building. The trail starts near the forest on the far end of the field. The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail follows the route of Virginia and North Carolina militiamen who, in late September and early October of 1780, crossed over the Blue Ridge Mountains into eastern North Carolina and marched towards South Carolina in search of British Major Patrick Ferguson and his army. Just weeks earlier, Ferguson had made a threat to come to their part of the county and wipe out anyone who didn’t pledge allegiance to England. The Overmountain Men met up with another contingent of militia from present day Elkin, North Carolina, so not all of the men were from “over the mountain.” The inevitable meeting between the two sides took place at Kings Mountain in South Carolina on October 7, 1780. The militia wiped out Ferguson’s army, killing him and taking over 500 prisoners. A plaque outside the entrance to the museum commemorates the day in which the Overmountain Men came through this area on their way to South Carolina.

Gillespie Gap plaque commemorates the Overmountain Men of the American Revolution

Gillespie Gap plaque commemorates the Overmountain Men of the American Revolution


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Last updated on November 28, 2023
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