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An important Gap in the Piedmont

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The Other Choke-Points in the Piedmont


Though it is true that stream fords are the most common and generally governing geopolitical choke-points in the piedmont of the southeast, saddle gaps and water gaps too attract and capture routes. A good example is the saddle gap south of Occaneechi Mountain, where I-85 passes, near Hills borough, NC. [In the image to the right, highest land is represented as white.]
The Occaneechi Mountains border the Eno River south of Hillsborough, NC. In fact the river, flowing generally north to south west of Hillsborough hits the west end of these volcanic remnants and turns over 90 degrees and heads east of northeast for about seven miles. It then cuts through a soft spot in the Occaneechi hills and heads east and then south to pass behind the Occaneechi chain for a ways before turning once again east. Porters, pack horsemen, wagoners and highway engineers all have had to cope with this peculiar geology.
Coming at the Eno east of the Occaneechi ran…

Lessons learned and questions raised about mountain gaps

"Gaps" are to mountainous terrain what fords are in the piedmont. They are the critical "chokepoints" through which traffic must pass. Like fords, some gaps are better than others; easier to get to, easier to get through, safer. So, calculating the earmarks of critical gaps is important. Any suggestions to that end will be appreciated.

Working on a presentation about Daniel Boone's routes to the Cumberland Gap gave me the opportunity to consider gaps, and I mapped over one hundred and fifty of them along his likely routes. Here are the observations made, thus far:

1. Many, perhaps most mountain gaps are unnamed as such on USGS topographical maps.

2. Gaps come in two varieties; "saddle gaps" and "water gaps". Of these two, water gaps (if they can be safely navigated by water or by foot, horse, or other conveyance) are preferred as they require less climbing than do saddle gaps. A water gap that occurs off the line of march between two i…

Mills as tools for finding roads

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Old Mill Seats and Fords and Dubious Archaeology


Mills are important to the TPA for two reasons. First, they're important because they are so darned amusing, and second they are important for, as a rule, they identify a ford location and we like to know about fords. Lately we've been spending a good deal of time looking at mill remnants and trying to understand a bit more about the residue of water powered industry in our colonial southeast.

Mills amuse in different ways. Molinary technology fans are interested only in the machinery of milling which is, by the way, a fascinating study by itself. Other folks are interested in the rusticity of standing mills, the nostalgic, outer appearance of mills. Yet others are captivated by the hydrology of water powered mills. From the TPA standpoint, though mill and machinery are wonderfully engaging, hydrology is our thing. This derives from the fact that there seems to be a strong correlation between the conditions needed for ma…