Historical and Natural Importance of the Shallow Ford

Published 12:08 am Thursday, November 24, 2022

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By Jim Buice
The ford is a geologic feature in the Yadkin River. It consists of an underwater stone shelf which stretches across the width of the river, approximately 450 feet. The level of the Yadkin is variable, but at normal flow, the water is only about 18-24 inches deep across the rock shelf,
allowing for vehicle traffic, from wagons in the 18th century up to automobiles in the early 20th century, as well as foot and animal traffic. 
The bluffs and floodplain at the rocky bottom crossing site have seen thousands of years of activity and occupation. Animals such as deer waded the shallow crossing for millennia. Native American hunters were attracted to the riverbanks, fertile floodplain and bluffs as sources of both food and shelter.   
The site is the likely location of a Colonial-era tavern. The river crossing saw activity during the French and Indian and Anglo-Cherokee Wars. 
A deep ravine created by thousands of wagons descending the bluff to the river crossing is one of the state’s best-preserved sections of the 18th  century thorough fare known as the “Great Wagon Road.” The road ran from Philadelphia to Augusta, Georgia, making it a major immigration and trade route. A 1913 DAR marker rests on the edge of the ravine commemorating Daniel Boone’s frequent use of the road on his westward explorations.   
The ford also figured prominently during the American Revolution seeing a skirmish nearby between Patriots and Loyalists in 1780 as well as the crossing of Lord Cornwallis’s army in 1781.
During the waning days of the Civil War, the crossing also saw a skirmish between raiding Union cavalry and local Confederate units.   
The crossing was used into the automobile era when a bridge was built circa 1920 to span the river just above the shallow ford.

– Information courtesy of The N.C. Division of State Historic Sites, a division within the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources