Abandoned mine shafts from the 1800s riddle the western half of North Carolina, and the U.S. Forest Service has taken action to block off one of the most notorious of them.
Known as the “sinkhole,” the 6-foot wide, 30-foot-deep pit mine is conspicuously located along a popular biking trail in Pisgah National Forest, about 130 miles northwest of Charlotte.
“Over the last decade there have been multiple minor incidents involving people and animals falling into the vertical hole,” the U.S. Forest Service reported May 11.
“Due to these safety concerns, the US Forest Service determined the best course of action was to permanently mitigate the mine shaft. Several options were reviewed including closing or relocating the trail, filling the hole, or building a permanent fence.”
The remote trail in Burke County was closed in February while experts worked with “professional trail builders” on a solution. Their decision was revealed this week when the U.S Forest Service posted photos showing a 12-foot by 10-foot flat grate now covers the opening.
Not only is it safer, officials said, but the aluminum cover also maintains the “character of the rest of the Holly Springs Trail.”
The trail, which is rated “most difficult” for bikers and hikers, was reopened this week, officials said.
Mining became a booming industry in North Carolina in the 1800s, after gold was discovered in 1799. Digging for gems and minerals also became profitable.
“North Carolina was the nation’s only gold-producing state from 1803 until 1828, and continued as a leading producer until 1848 when gold was discovered in California,” the NC Department of Environmental Quality reports.
“By about 1830, the leading mines in North Carolina were hard-rock mines rather than surface placer operations. Output probably peaked in the early 1830s and again in the late 1840s.”
Burke County has a ghost town — Henry Mill Village — that thrived and died as part of the state’s gold rush, according to Rarenuggets.com.
“Hollywood brought the town back to life for a brief period,” the site reports. “It served as the location for a town in the 2012 movie, ‘The Hunger Games.’ Tourists breathed some life back into Henry Mill Village temporarily, but a permanent resurrection did not happen.”