Green River Cove
The Green River Cove area of Henderson/Polk County is a rugged wilderness that is rich in history, legend, and natural beauty. The Green River is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts because of the hiking, kayaking, and tubing.
It is believed that the Cherokee Indians first started spreading into Western North Carolina at the beginning of the 18th century. The fertile land and small game for hunting really appealed to the Cherokee.
When the Cherokee began exploring the Green River Cove, they came across a giant rock off to the side of the river bank with a large footprint imbedded in the rock. This geological phenomenon became known as “the Devil’s Footprint.”
The Cherokee often used legends and folklore to explain such phenomena and when white settlers started showing up in Green River Cove about 80 years later, the Cherokee told them that the footprint was made thousands of years before when a supernatural being breathing fire and brimstone came through Green River Cove.
The first white settlers started arriving in Green River Cove in the late 18th century, most of whom were Revolutionary War veterans that received land grants for their service during the war. They also appreciated the fertile land and hunting. Green River Cove became a thriving agricultural community by the early 20th century with many family farms that dotted the Cove.
The Great Flood of 1916 changed the landscape of Green River Cove. Two hurricanes swept up the east coast within a ten-day timeframe coupled with the regular summer rains completely devastated Western North Carolina including Green River Cove. The topsoil was completely washed away during the torrential rains and the agricultural base of Green River Cove was gone. Green River became a ghost town as many family farms were abandoned, leaving farmhouses and churches empty and family cemeteries behind.
Outdoor enthusiasts began “rediscovering” Green River Cove in the 1980’s and it has become a haven for kayakers across the world. The Narrows is a half mile stretch of the Green River that drops roughly 342 feet and features 11 major class IV+ to V+ rapids with widths as narrow as four feet. The Narrows features rapids with nicknames such as “Go Left and Die”, “Gorilla”, and “Sunshine”. The Narrows also lays claim to one of the foremost whitewater kayaking events in the world held the first Saturday in November, an annual event known as the Green Race, which celebrated its 23rd anniversary in 2018.
Growing up in East Flat Rock with my father being an avid outdoorsman, I spent many Saturdays and Sundays fishing and wading in the Green River and hiking through the woods and many vacations camping along the banks of the Green River.
A friend of my father’s, Posey Henderson, owned his family’s cabin in Green River Cove where we used to stay once in a while. The cabin dated back to the 19th century and was filled with history (and snakes), but I was too young to realize it at the time. Mr. Henderson was well into his 70’s but still farmed the land, walked through swarms of bees, and killed copperheads with whatever he had in his hands. I loved to hear him tell stories.
Several websites were researched and videos watched when I was writing this article. I gleaned information about the Narrows from americanwhitewater.org, greenraceamongstit.com, and some of the history from arledgefamilyhistory.org. On Youtube you may want to check out the 20th Annual Green River Narrows Race and Green River-Narrows Guide where there are many more videos on kayaking the Green River.
Dan Gibbs is a Henderson County native and received his Bachelor of Science degree in History from Appalachian State University in 1988 and his Master of Arts Degree in American History from Western Carolina in 2002. He developed a keen interest in local history listening to stories told by his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father and can trace his lineage in Western North Carolina back to the 1780’s. He writes a blog about some of the local history danswnchistoryblog.blogspot.com.