Hiwassee River (Murphy)

Hiwassee River
Hiwassee River, Murphy, North Carolina

We stumbled upon this river while in search of the legendary fairy crosses. We searched along her shores for the staurolite crystals as we wandered down to an Irish sounding town called “Murphy” through which the infamous Hiwassee River flowed. The river has many names, including the Heia Wassea, Highwassee, Eufasee, Eufassee, Highwassee, Quannessee, etc. The proper name, the “Hiwassee” comes from the Cherokee word “Ayuhwasi” meaning “meadow” or “savanna”. The Creek indians (Muskogee) say its name is the “Koasati” and “Hitchiti” for “copperhead snake”. This could be for the numerous copperhead snakes the river gives a home to. The Hiwassee is a 147 mile long River that has its headwaters flowing from the northern slopes of the Rocky Mountain in North Georgia flowing down into North Carolina and turning west to Tennessee where it dumps into the Tennessee River. Where it flows through North Carolina it has three sections where it is dammed by the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) at the Hiwassee Dam, the Chatuge Dam, and the Appalachia Dam. These Dams were all constructed in the 1940’s. Some of the river’s waters are diverted from the Appalachia Dam into a pipeline tunneled 8 miles through the mountains and being gravity-fed through the Appalachia Powerhouse for electric. The river is well known for its white-water rafting, as it possessed class 1-3 rapids at various points along its course. River is used at various points for boating, fishing, and water skiing. The river has major tributaries including the Nottely River, Coker Creek, Valley River, Big Lost Creek, Spring Creek, Toccoa River, and the Conasauga Creek. The region through which this river flows was inhabited by various ethnic groups, including the Muskogean groups before the arrival of the Cherokee. The riverbanks were first explored by westerners in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. There is good reason to believe that Hernando de Soto probably crossed this river where it merges with the Tennessee River at Hiwassee Island in 1541 C.E. There is probable evidence that Juan Pardo followed a trail along its shores in 1567. Earliest European maps of the river valley dated to the 17th century vaguely showing the river basin occupied by a mountain branch of the Apalachee and the Kusa. The Tama-tli, the Apalachee, and the Kusa were also known to have had occupation here. It was in this valley that the early English explorers and traders found the Muskogean and Yuchi towns occupying in the 1690s which led to territorial battles including the massacre of the remaining Yuchi tribes. It was also here that a 40 year long war between the Creek and the Cherokee ensued beginning in the early 1700’s. The area eventually became the Cherokee homeland by the 18th century. Near the mouth of Peachtree Creek by present day Murphy, North Carolina was a Cherokee town called Hiwassee (Ayuhwasi). The tribes had established various routes and paths through the area such as the Great Trading Path, the Overhill Trading Path, and the Warrior path. By the 1760’s the Cherokee lost all of their lands in present day North Carolina east of the 80th longitude which runs through Murphy and crosses the Hiwassee River there. This was the penalty to the Cherokee by the British since they had assisted the French in the French and Indian War. American Independence Battles took place in the area, and the river was home to one of the largest camps such as Fort Cass on its southbank near Charleston, Tennessee. Today, it is a hallmark of the town of Murphy, North Carolina as it passes a Cherokee Indian mythology site known as the “Leech Place”. This legend tells of a house-sized leech that could control the waters of the Hiwassee and use them to sweep hapless people to the bottom of the river and consume them. This place was called the “Tlanusi-yi” or “The Leech Place”.

Read about the folklore about the monster that haunts these rivers: The Leech Place: http://www.technogypsie.com/faerie/?p=537



Ruins along the Hiwassee River in Murphy, NC
Ruins along the Hiwassee River in Murphy, NC


Signpost near the Hiwassee River, Murphy, NC
Signpost near the Hiwassee River, Murphy, NC

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