GIBSONVILLE — It’s likely the man known as General George Washington’s most dependable officer never imagined his stay at High Rock Ford would forever be enshrined.
It’s also guaranteed fact that General Nathanael Greene and the more than 4,000 men who gathered at the encampment near the established river crossing, would never have imagined the area’s new recreational history, carved out by outdoor and history enthusiasts more than 230 years later.
On April 27, local officials and members of the community gathered near the large rock outcropping to celebrate the launch of the High Rock Ford Historic Site and Haw River Trail Access.
Made possible by a Duke Energy Water Resources grant, the collaborative effort between the Museum and Archives of Rockingham County, or MARC, and the Dan River Basin Association, preserves nature and local history.
The roughly quarter-mile trail runs along the Haw River and prominently displays the historic value of the county’s first milling site. Visitors learn how the mill expanded operations over the years, about its decline and the historic importance of the land in 1781, when Greene and his militia prepared for one of the most significant battles of the Revolutionary War.
The wedding of this historical site to its new future means serenity, created by the beautiful sights and sounds of the area now unlocked for public use.
For the first time, kayakers and canoeing enthusiasts have a Haw River public access point in Rockingham County.
Plus, the site is the highest point of navigation on the Haw River Trail — an Alamance County public access project that focuses on conservation through recreation.
The 40-mile stretch of paddle trail and 19 miles of land trail feature 15 recreational parks and trail heads.
On the paddle trail, boaters can drop-in at the new Haw River access and experience a new three-mile float to the nearest takeout point on Brooks Bridge Road in Alamance County.
On the ground, the new trail, blazed by Round Rock Design landscape architect Tony McGee, is the first portion of larger public path to run along the current route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail — a long-distance backpacking and hiking corridor that takes explorers from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks.
With the project, local and visiting paddlers have public access to the county’s four rivers — the Dan, Smith, Mayo and Haw — for the first time in recent history.
High Rock Ford was donated to the Rockingham County Historical Society (now known as the MARC) by James G. W. McLamrock in 1984.
Local historians also purchased the Troublesome Creek Iron Works in 1954 and donated it to the historical society.
The iron works was used in the Revolutionary War, and both British and Whig troops camped at the site, following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.
Later, President Washington visited the site during his southern tour in 1791.
McLamrock “hoped these properties could be turned into sites where people could learn about Revolutionary War history,” said MARC Board Director Jeff Bullins during the ribbon cutting ceremony on April 27.
“He had a vision for what could be done here, and the historical society recognized the value of (High Rock Ford) and has waited a long time for an opportunity to make Mr. McLamrock’s dream a reality.”
Bullins thanked the several community partners and leaders who helped the MARC turn the dream of opening the historic park into reality.
“We want to tell the story of Rockingham County,” said Bullins. “This park helps to tell that story in immeasurable ways.”