Rock and Brook

Set here in the mountains of western North Carolina, the topography of Rockbrook is really something special. Within its 220 acres, the camp includes amazing natural features including prominent rock outcroppings, waterfalls, creeks and the French Broad River. If you haven’t seen it already, watch this video and then scroll through the posts in this archive about our area in North Carolina. You’ll be impressed by the natural beauty of the camp property and its surrounding area.

After learning more about the camp topography, you’ll quickly realize that when Henry P. Clarke, the father of the camp’s founder Nancy Barnum Clarke Carrier, named this property “Rockbrook,” it was a particularly apt name. Situated between (and below!) two rock landmarks (Dunn’s Rock and Castle Rock), with numerous boulders scattered all around the camp, and as three named creeks (Dunn’s Creek, Rockbrook Creek and Hanty Branch) and several smaller tributaries of the French Broad river carve rocky courses through the camp, the terrain here is very much both stone and water, rock and brook.

camp kid zip line ride

Our camp program benefits from these topographical features in a number of exciting ways. There are excellent hiking destinations for example: the magnificent mountain view from the top of Dunn’s Rock, the spray to be felt at the bottom of Stick Biscuit Falls, and the mysterious “Kilroy’s Cabin” found only by bushwhacking for more than a mile through the woods. We have 5 different climbing routes on Castle Rock to tackle, and down below, a nice sandy eddy we can use to launch or take out canoe trips on the French Broad River. A particularly cool example, though, is our camp zip line course since the zips are built between boulders and over creeks. It takes about an hour to do the whole course— 3 zips and 3 challenging adventure bridges —and it continues to be one of the more popular optional activities we offer. The last zip is the fastest and goes right past the office building at the top of the hill giving everyone on the porch a front row seat to see the aerial poses, wide-eyed grins, and hear the yelps of delight multiple times each day.

gaga ball game

Equally popular this session, though for different reasons, has been Ga-ga Ball. Played down near our gym in a special octagonal court of 30-inch high wooden walls, GaGa is a form of dodgeball that’s nicely fast-paced, and well-suited for multi-age groups of girls. Three people or thirty people can play, so it’s a great “pick up game” for the girls during their periods of free time each day (before lunch and dinner, and during Twilight in particular). The object of Gaga is to avoid being hit in the legs by a soft ball as it bounces around inside the court after being hit (not thrown) by the players. It takes quick reflexes to jump out of the way as the ball bounces wildly off the walls of the court and the other players alike. Once hit, a player hops out of the court dwindling the number of girls still playing. As the game progresses and one person is left (the winner), the game is over, and everyone can hop back into the court to start a new game. Perpetual play!

camp girl dancing

Tonight’s Evening Program allowed us to dress up, be silly, and go a little wild on the dance floor. We held an all-girl “glow dance” down in the gym. Without much encouragement, the girls dressed in tie dye t-shirts and other colorful costumes. We pulled out neon face paint to add dots, swirls and stripes of color to their looks, and when we handed out a few hundred glow sticks, dimmed the lights in the gym, and began pumping out upbeat, popular music, we had a fun dance party.  No boys, no pressure, no judgment: there was just unbridled excitement and glee as song after song got the girls dancing.  And these girls know how to have fun in the groove! —lots of jumping to the beat, well-rehearsed dance moves now and then, and plenty of hands-in-the-air, singing-along choruses.  It was another great camp event celebrating the fun of being together, feeling happily relaxed and pulled into an activity so thoroughly that you forgot most everything else and time flew by… so good, and just how we all like.

All girl glow stick dance

Rockbrook Hosts Hike for Land Conservancy Group

CMLC-Logo2 for hike


This Sunday, February 16th, 2014, Rockbrook will host members of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy for a hiking excursion to both Rockbrook Falls and Castle Rock on the Rockbrook Camp property. Jeff Carter will join historian Keith Parker to lead the hike and provide information about the local area and the camp.

The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (now called, Conserving Carolina”) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “creating a regional network of permanently protected farm, forest, and natural land. [It] protects forested wilderness, working farms, clean drinking water, verdant trout streams, wildlife habitat and sweeping views,” according to its Web site.

Working together with Rockbrook in 2010, CMLC successfully placed 115 acres of the camp property into a protected easement insuring the natural beauty and unique habitat of Dunn’s Creek, Dunn’s Rock, Castle Rock and surrounding forest.

Rockbrook Camp is located 4 miles south of Brevard, North Carolina and is home to dramatic rock cliffs, waterfalls, and record trees. The camp was founded in 1921.

For more information about this hike, or to make a reservation to attend, please visit the CMLC Web site.

The Lodge Legend

Stone Hume Hotel
The ruins of the Hume Hotel, Dunn’s Rock, Transylvania County, NC

In the oral history of Rockbrook there is an interesting story of the connection between Brevard’s oldest hotel, The Hume Hotel and Rockbrook.  Legend says that the stones from the hotel ruins were used by Rockbrook’s engineer Royal Morrow in the construction of The Junior Lodge at RBC.  While we can not authenticate the story, it seems possible that the stones could have easily been used due to the hotel’s proximity to the Rockbrook property.  As you can see in the photo above, the ruins lie just below Dunns Rock, on the current Island Ford Road right across from main camp. Currently there is a house on the site, but there are a few remaining rocks left from the 1840’s hotel.  At the time it was built, it was the first hotel in Transyvlania County. We may never know the real answer to the mystery, but we like to think of Rockbrook’s connection to such an important landmark.  Check out this blog post from our archives for more information about the hotel.

Rockbrook Camp Junior stone lodge
Junior Lodge, do the stones match the old hotel?

Green Salamanders at Rockbrook

There is a secret about the western part of North Carolina, something few people know. It is home to more that 50 distinct species of salamanders (Order Caudata), with North Carolina as a whole having the highest salamander diversity in the world! The so-called “Lungless Salamanders” (Family Plethodontidae) are the most numerous and include one species listed as Rare and Endangered by the State: the Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus). This is the only salamander in North America with green markings, hence its name. These little guys have very specific habitat requirements and are rarely seen.

nesting endangered green salamander in North Carolina
Rare and endangered green salamander

It just so happens, though, Rockbrook’s Castle Rock and Dunn’s Rock provide a perfect habitat for the Green Salamander. There are plenty of moist, shaded rock crevices for the salamanders to hide in, and for the females, to lay their eggs. Green Salamanders spend most of the year in cool rock crevices, but hide in trees during the summer. They ordinarily live to become 10-15 years old.

Today, Alan Cameron, a 7-year volunteer with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, came out to Rockbrook for a Green Salamander field expedition. Another naturalist had observed Green Salamanders at the base of Dunn’s Rock, so Alan wanted to verify his hunch that they would be on Castle Rock too. Within 4 minutes of arriving at the rock, he found a Green! Alan believes that the environment on the camp property is ideal for this salamander and that there is likely a very healthy population of them here.

It’s neat to know (now definitely) that Rockbrook is home to this rare and endangered species of salamander. This is important because Rockbrook will always preserve its unique habitat and thereby help insure this special amphibian survives.

Oldest Presbyterian Church

The Transylvania County Historical Society has made an interesting find that ties the Rockbrook Camp property to the oldest Presbyterian church in the area. Local historians Keith Parker and Gene Baker now believe the “Mamre congregation” had its “Presbyterian Meeting house below the mouth of Dunn’s Creek” right across from the main entrance to Rockbrook. What’s phenomenal is that this church was in place in 1798. That’s the same year that the U.S. government officially obtained this land from the Cherokee! This means the property that would later become Rockbrook Camp (when Nancy Carrier’s father Henry Peck Clarke purchased it) was a thriving community more than 100 years before the camp was founded. This area, known as the Dunn’s Rock Township, was the third largest in the area when Transylvania County was formed in 1861.

1798 Transylvania County Church near Dunn's Rock

Now take a look at this view of the French Broad River valley from the top of Dunn’s Rock. We’re not sure what year it was made (and whether it’s a colorized photograph or a painting based on a photograph; thanks to Roger Raxter for giving us a copy), but you can clearly see, along the bottom edge, the old “Dunn’s Rock Bridge” crossing the river. Right next to it, you can make out the red roof of what we think is that old Presbyterian meeting house from 1798. It was just south of where the bridge crossed the river.  Like the church, this bridge is no longer there.

Such important history surrounding Rockbrook!

North Carolina Stone Hotel, c. 1840

Dunns Rock Stome Hotel

It’s always fun to bump into a surprising historical connection to camp. Here’s a great example we spotted recently— a photo of what was called the “Stone Hotel.” It’s on display in the Transylvania County Courthouse (that’s the North Carolina county where Rockbrook is located) with the caption “Built circa 1840.” But do you recognize the big rock up above and behind it? It’s our very own Dunn’s Rock! The junction of Island Ford Road and US276 (Greenville Highway) was once a bustling little town with houses, this hotel, and a general store called “Powell’s Store,” which is still standing and is currently the Mud Dabber’s Pottery. An 1870 census of the Dunn’s Rock Township, as it was called, recorded 80 men, women and children living there. You have to wonder if the hotel was still open when Rockbrook was founded in 1921, and if any Rockbrook Camp families ever stayed there. Pretty cool.