5 Facts About NC Nature We Promise Aren’t Made Up

Grandfather Mountain. Image via Shutterstock

By Leah Sherrell

August 3, 2023

Whoever came up with the phrase “the great outdoors” was really talking about North Carolina.

One of the best things about North Carolina is its sheer natural beauty. Although forests cover nearly 60% of the state, there’s so much here worth bragging about. Seriously, we just can’t stop writing about all the things that make North Carolina unique.

Last week, we talked about flora and fungi in the state that could’ve shown up in any number of sci-fi movies (namely that glowing mushroom and a carnivorous plant). This week, we’re focusing on the biggest gems, the first dinosaurs, and internationally recognized state parks.

Read on for five fun facts you can share with anyone asking about what North Carolina has to offer.

We’ve got gems and lots of them.

According to NCpedia, our state is the only place in North America with “significant emerald deposits.” North Carolina’s emerald deposits were found in the 1800s and are located in Alexander, Mitchell, and Cleveland County. In 2003, a 1,869-carat emerald (most likely the largest on the continent) was mined from Hiddenite, NC. Today, Emerald Hollow Mine is the only emerald mine in the world where the public can search for these precious gems.

What may be even more interesting is that the town of Hiddenite is named after the 4th rarest gemstone in the world. North Carolina is the the only place in the world where this gem is found.

The ancients walked here.

Hypsibema crassicauda is a plant-eating, duck-billed dinosaur from the Cretaceous period. In 1889, Washington Caruthers Kerr found its fossils in Sampson, NC, making it our state’s first dinosaur discovery and the country’s third.

While experts theorize North Carolina had a large presence of dinosaurs throughout the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous period, there is little fossilized evidence of these claims. Changing coastlines and soil formation processes have destroyed or displaced much of our state’s evidence of ancient reptilians.

Grandfather Mountain has more than that Mile-High Swinging Bridge.

Grandfather Mountain is 300-million-years-old, 5,000 acres, and is home to 16 ecological communities (aka food chain and web systems). In 1992, the United Nations incorporated the state park into their UNESCO Man and Biosphere program which facilitates tourism and environmental preservation.

Though Grandfather Mountain is part of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve, the U.N. does not make any decisions about the park. The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation manages all business and resources independently.

We’ve got dizzying heights.

5 Facts About NC Nature We Promise Aren’t Made Up

Whitewater Falls, NC// Shutterstock


Whitewater Falls in Cashiers, NC is the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. It drops 411 feet and leads to a second drop, the Lower Whitewater Falls, in South Carolina. You can catch a view of the NC side in a few different ways. There is a paved, wheelchair-accessible upper level overlook. If you’re not one for stairs, you can stay on the lower overlook, and if you want to do a bit of hiking, you can enjoy the view walking down the trail leading to Foothills Trail.

For a longer list of trails in NC, check out this article.

A beach with no waves or undertow? Yes, please.

White Lake, a lake in Bladen County, touts the slogan “the nation’s safest beach” because it actually kind of looks like one. The lake has clear, blue, water and white sand because it’s fed by underground springs.

Unlike a seaside beach, there are no public access points. Private property surrounds the entire body of water, but according to Carolina Traveler, you can access it through the businesses and resorts in the area.


  • Leah Sherrell

    Leah Sherrell is a multimedia reporter for Cardinal & Pine. A graduate of UNC-Wilmington, she's a resident of Kernersville with a background in video production and communication. Leah uses many forms of media to explore the multifaceted lifestyles and cultures present in North Carolina.



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