The land now occupied by Lake Lure has an extraordinary and somewhat mysterious history. Hickory Nut Gorge, much of which today lies beneath the lake, attracted visitors and travelers long before Rumbling Bald on Lake Lure existed. The Cherokee and Catawba nations considered the Gorge to be sacred ground between their respective territories and forbade killing anyone who traveled through it. By the 17th Century A.D., the Gorge had been incorporated into the Cherokee system of major trails leading from the mountains to the Piedmont and flatlands of North Carolina. The Cherokee Trail would later become the Rutherford Traceroute for early European settlers. This route was improved and used as subsequent wagon and coach roads, and eventually was the same path trod by the Cherokee. Historians claim that as early as 1500 A.D. the Gorge would become the route for the modern NC State Highway 74 as it winds towards Asheville.
The origin of Lake Lure can be traced back to the early 1900s, when Dr. Lucius B. Morse, a Missouri physician, visited the area and became enthralled with the beauty and therapeutic quality of the Blue Ridge mountains. High atop Chimney Rock, Dr. Morse peered down to the valley below, with its rolling hills and largely undeveloped land, and imagined a picturesque resort community constructed around a serene mountain lake. So inspired by their younger brother’s vision, Dr. Morse’s brothers provided the financial backing for him to purchase 8,000 acres and bring his dream to life.
To create the centerpiece of his resort, Morse decided to impound the Rocky Broad River. Dam construction began in 1925, and the impoundment was completed in 1927. The dam’s power plant began operations shortly afterward. At normal water levels, Lake Lure covers approximately 720 acres and spans 27 miles of shoreline. Although it was Morse’s vision that led to the creation of the lake and its surrounding community, it was his wife, Betty, who actually coined the name Lake Lure.
Camp Chimney Rock for Boys also began operations in the early 1900s. Tucked away in one of the lake’s most pristine coves, the camp attracted boys (and later girls) from around the nation. Generations of youth experienced an exhilarating and challenging summer life at their treasured mountain lake. Although the stock market crash of 1929 brought a halt to the resort development that Dr. Morse had envisioned, the boys’ camp thrived on the shores of Lake Lure for another 50 years.