Hickory Nut Falls flows over the edge of Exclamation Point down 404 feet into the knobbled gorge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, which separates the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Piedmont.
In former years, this line was more poetically known as the World’s Edge, and served as the territorial line between the Cherokee and the Catawba.
Half a billion years ago, the swift-moving falls cut through the mountains’ geologic faults, exposing large swaths of gneiss with a curious feature—a great number of elliptical, white mineral grains.
These markings are hardly visible in the direct sunlight that floods the outcroppings popular with hikers.
But in the shady confines of the gorge, where the oak and basswood trees light up like bronze as the sun retreats, the washed rock faces glow like the aurora borealis, and these markings seem to be thousands of tiny, glittering eyes peering out from the mist of the falls.
This may be the reason for, or else the result of, the ancient belief that the gorge was home to the Yunwi Tsundsdi–the Little People. Believing that this area was watched by thousands of supernatural beings whose main desire was to keep the peace, the Cherokee and Catawba strictly refrained from attacking each other when they met within this gorge.