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Deep in the mountains of Jackson County, just outside Sylva, North Carolina, sets a large, baffling stone. It is a soapstone boulder, and it’s covered with a plethora of strange drawings that some archaeologists believe may be 2,000 to 3,000 years old. Even the Cherokee Indians consider the site ancient, pre-dating their presence in the area. The rock has been studied by researchers across the world, but no one has ever deciphered the bizarre petroglyphs on the stone or figured out who made them.
According to Cherokee legend, the markings on the rock were created by Judaculla, a slant-eyed giant who dominated the mountains in years long past. He was the “Great Lord of the hunt,” a powerful being who could leap from one mountain to another, and even control the weather. They believed the rock not only marked his territory, but even bore his 7-fingered handprint, since he once used the rock to steady himself from a fall.
For many generations, the Indians treated the place as a sacred site. And, even in recent years, it was used in secret, late-night initiations by numerous student groups from the nearby Western Carolina University. Amongst the student population, it’s well-known that ceremonies at the rock have provoked many creepy incidents. Ghostly noises are common at the site (especially considering it’s only a few hundred feet from an old graveyard), and there are even reports of eerie illuminations around the stone and UFOs appearing in the clearing above it. All in all, it’s widely known as a paranormal hot spot.
The stone sits at the base of a mountain, and a large vein of copper runs down under the site. The entire mountain is filled with a variety of metals and minerals. This layout can create detectable electromagnetic anomalies around the rock, and may have inspired ancients to consider the area sacred.
It seems Judaculla Rock is one of at least three other such stones on the same property. However, one of them was buried in a 20th century mining operation, and the other cannot be found, perhaps covered with vegetation or severely eroded. The visible relic is probably the tip of a vast iceberg. Considering the site has never been excavated, there’s no telling what other ancient markings and artifacts may lie a short distance below the surrounding earth.
Everyone who sees the stone has a different theory about what the markings may mean. Some think it could be a map, a peace treaty, a battle plan, abstract religious symbols, simple story illustrations, antiquated graffiti, or a veritable Rosetta Stone of some kind, providing the key to unlock a new language. One of the strangest qualities is that, despite the number of markings, not a single one comes across as an immediately-recognizable image. However, most everyone agrees on one thing: this is a “special” place.
Judaculla Rock is now owned by Jackson County and can be visited during the day free of charge.
There is a boardwalk around the rock. The following information was found on American Trails
Project Profile: Judaculla Rock
Location: Cullowhee, NC
Owner: Jackson County, NC Parks & Recreation
Designer: Equinox Environmental
Contractor: Parker Excavating, Inc.
Boardwalk Length: 70 ft.
Tread Width: 7 ft. 6 in.
Color: Melbourne Tan
Installation Date: March 2011
Judaculla Rock is a 2,000-3,000 year old soapstone boulder, the Southeast’s largest petroglyph, and a sacred site on a Native American settlement in North Carolina. Cherokee legend attributes the markings to a protective, slant-eyed giant who left his foot and hand prints on the rock. Jackson County Parks and Recreation needed to construct an observation deck in order to accomplish three things: prevent pedestrian foot traffic damage, enhance the visitor experience, and appease the seven-fingered Judaculla giant.
Collaborating with Equinox Environmental, PermaTrak designed a horseshoe-shaped observation deck complete with several cantilevered lookout points extending towards Judaculla Rock. “The craftsmanship and engineering on it made for an easy project to install,” said installer Doug Parker. Non-intrusive precast concrete pier foundations made certain the installation and finished product respected the integrity of the land. Fred Grogan of Equinox Environmental reported, “The PermaTrak system was selected for this project over a wooden structure based on a number of factors. These included ease of ongoing maintenance, ability of prefabricated components to easily achieve design intent of the observation deck, as well as minimal installation costs by utilizing in-house Jackson County employees.”
Photo Credit Brian Bowen
From US 74, take Exit 85 to Business Route 23 through Sylva. Stay on 23 1.3 miles to NC 107, then turn left onto 107. Drive 8 miles south on 107 and take a left onto Caney Fork Road, County Road 1737. Go 2.5 miles then turn left onto a gravel road and drive 0.45 mile. The rock is on the right, and parking is on the left.There are no restrooms, water fountains, or other such amenities.