Brown Mountain Lights

Ever heard of the Brown Mountain Lights?  The mysterious lights appear and disappear, seeming to move over the ridge of Brown Mountain (in BurkeCounty, near Morganton).  The Brown Mountain Lights have been have been made famous by Cherokee legends dating back to the 1200s and by modern reports.  White settlers of the High Country reported seeing the lights throughout the 1700 and 1800s.  They were documented in print by the Charlotte Observer as early as 1913.

Western NC Attractions describes them as “…being a glowing ball of fire, to being a bursting skyrocket, or a pale almost white light. The fact that they never seem the same is as fantastic as the lights themselves. At times they seem to drift slowly, fading and brightening and at other times they seem to whirl like pinwheels, then dart rapidly away.”

There are many theories that try to explain the lights, but most are legends  or have been disproven.  The few that remain are explained by Western NC attractions: Of the many scientific theories made to explain the Brown Mountain Lights, none have been proven. Some suggest that the lights are caused by a combination of several minerals and gases in the area. One geologist suggested that possibly deposits of radioactive uranium ore in the area may be responsible for producing the lights. Another suggests phosphorus, but this element oxidizes quickly and is not found here. Pitchblende Ore, from which radium is derived, has been mentioned, but the rays from radium are invisible.”

If you’d like to view the lights, try these spots:

  • Brown Mountain OverlookLocated 20 miles north of Morganton, on NC highway 181, 1 mile south of the Barkhouse Picnic Area.
  • Wiseman’s View OverlookLocated 5 miles south of the village of Linville Falls on Kistler Memorial Highway a.k.a Old NC 105 or State Road 1238.
  • Lost Cove Cliffs OverlookLocated on the Blue Ridge Parkway, at mile-post 310, 2 miles north of the NC highway 181 junction.

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