North Carolina has more mountain ranges than just the Appalachians. In fact, we have fifteen named mountain ranges. They are: Bald, Black, Blue Ridge, Brushy, Cane Creek, Caraway, Great Balsam, Great Smoky, Iron, Plott Balsams, Sauratown, South, Unaka, Unicoi and Uwharrie Mountains.
One of the most easterly mountain ranges in the state, the Sauratown Mountains are often called “the mountains away from the mountains” because they are separated from the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. Prominent peaks in the Sauratown range rise from 1,700 feet to more than 2,500 feet in elevation and stand in bold contrast to the surrounding countryside, which averages only 800 feet in elevation. This mountain range is only about 45 minutes from my home.
|Peak in the Sauratown Mountains|
Named for the Saura Indians who were early inhabitants of the region, the Sauratown Mountains are the remnants of a once-mighty range of peaks. Over many millions of years, wind, water and other forces wore down the lofty peaks. What remains of these ancient mountains is the erosion-resistant quartzite.
|Closer Look at the Erosion-Resistant Quartzite|
The Saura Indians were of Siouan linguistic stock, and are first mentioned in the journals of explorer Ferdinand DeSoto, who in the year 1540, came upon a small band on the banks of the Pee Dee River, near the present North-South Carolina boundary. These Indians were called Saro and their village was known as Xualla. Throughout the years after DeSoto’s contact this tribe has been known by the names of Saro, Sauli, Juara, Sara, Sarrah and Saura.
John Lederer, a German, made three expeditions into the wilderness of Western North Carolina. On his second expedition in 1670, he reported visiting Saura villages along the Yadkin, Catawba and Dan Rivers. In 1728, Colonel William Byrd surveyed the boundary line between North Carolina and Virginia. Colonel Byrd reported in his journal of finding the upper and lower Saura villages on the Dan River, but they were deserted. The Saura left no written history. All that is known of these people is found in the few records of the wilderness explorers, and what modern archaeologists have been able to uncover from their village sites.