A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

An inexplicable darkness beckons from across a wooden footbridge over the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee. Several hundred feet of canopy stretch along the far edge of a sandy island: a

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

An inexplicable darkness beckons from across a wooden footbridge over the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee. Several hundred feet of canopy stretch along the far edge of a sandy island: a

An inexplicable darkness beckons from across a wooden footbridge over the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee. Several hundred feet of canopy stretch along the far edge of a sandy island: a thicket of 40-foot-tall bamboo. Stepping into the otherworldly tall grass feels like striding from the Blue Ridge Mountains onto another continent as the temperature drops in the dense shade.

It’s unclear when the bamboo forest appeared, says Adam Griffith, an NC Extension agent serving the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Although the Cherokee use river cane, a native bamboo, for basketry and blowguns, this island features the invasive, non-native sort. Griffith calls it an “unintended tourist attraction,” likely introduced as landscaping. His office once tried to have the Chicago Zoo harvest the plants for panda food.

Most visitors are content to let the mystery be as they stroll through the forest or pause for a moment of reflection. Close your eyes, and the wind rustling through the narrow leaves evokes the turn of a rain stick. Listen longer, and you’ll hear the entire thicket in motion, the hollow knock of stalk against stalk.

Oconaluftee Islands Park
401 Acquoni Road
Cherokee, NC 28719

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