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Lake Lure Flowering Bridge

Updated: Apr 19

The road leading into the town of Lake Lure wound sharply along the hills surrounding the picturesque man-made body of water. Like a scene from a movie, the trees broke open and we were confronted by the sheer beauty of the landscape. The lush peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains towered over an expansive, impossibly blue lake. As our eyes climbed upward, we saw the smooth granite cliffs of Chimney Rock, which stood stark against the rich green shades of summer foliage. Entering the town of Lake Lure felt like entering a bygone era, one characterized by simple pleasures and harmony with the natural world.

As we continued down the winding road, we passed countless lake homes of every color and age. The residences which dotted the perimeter of the lake created a sort of kaleidoscope, with the water below reflecting back to us a colorful array of structures ranging from tiny shacks on stilts to enormous mansions complete with backyard boathouses. We passed the town’s man-made beach which was dotted with locals and tourists alike. Across the street from the beach, the Mediterranean-style 1927 Lake Lure Inn stood pristine. I couldn’t help but wonder what F. Scott Fitzgerald thought when he first visited the resort town in the 1930s. Was he as awestruck as I? I supposed he had to be, considering he visited so frequently.

We carried on past the town in my father’s little Jeep Liberty, slowly weaving our way along serpentine roads toward Chimney Rock. My friend Abbie and I had planned a spontaneous day trip to Chimney Rock Village, with the intent of shopping and snapping some pictures along the way. On the hour-and-a-half drive up from Belmont, Abbie remembered a place she went with her family in years past. It was a sort of community garden situated along a historic bridge; an ideal picture spot if there ever was one. We enthusiastically decided that we simply had to find it, however, we lacked the foresight to look up the bridge’s address before losing service.

Several minutes after passing through downtown Lake Lure we passed over a bridge spanning a small river that emptied into the lake on our right. Directly parallel to the bridge on which we drove was a much older bridge, the entire length of which was lined with vibrant flowers and plants. We had found the Flowering Bridge at last.



After parking in the gravel lot on the western side of the river, we wandered towards the gardens. A paved walkway led us first through the pollinator and swing gardens. The Flowering Bridge’s volunteers had planted annual flowers in the pollinator plot which attracted bees, monarch butterflies, and even hummingbirds. The swing garden was lined with antique and handmade seats which were perfect for a short rest. We next passed through the atrium gardens, which were covered by an overhead sprinkler system that provided us with much-needed relief from the summer heat. The walkway throughout the atrium region of the walkway was lined with lavish green plants, making it feel as though we had wandered into a tropical paradise.



Abbie then directed me to a “secret garden” hidden behind a flowering arch on the left side of the main pathway. The area was full of dense blue and purple hydrangea bushes and featured a vertical wall covered in plants and antique mirrors on the far side of the garden. The hydrangea had been allowed to grow a bit out of control, which added a wildish and dreamlike atmosphere to the area. After a few hundred pictures, we found our way back to the main pathway.



Drawing closer to the bridge itself, we passed an interactive potting shed, which allowed visitors to plant their own carrot seeds. Directly next to the potting shed was a cottage garden, complete with a handmade akin to a wooden hobbit house. Our progress along the path grew slower as Abbie stopped to take a picture of every single fairy house. These handcrafted structures were scattered throughout each area of the garden, and they seemed to only grow more frequent as we neared the bridge. The Bridge’s volunteers had also decorated the gardens with local artwork, antique furniture, sculptures, and fountains. The eclectic nature of these seemingly random additions made our journey along the walkway feel like a treasure hunt, and we created a game out of spotting especially curious objects.



When we finally made it onto the bridge, a twisting pathway led us past a series of successive garden plots. We passed through a rock and succulent garden, a prairie garden, a rose garden, and a tropical garden. Each was decorated with unique features, whether that be a fairy house, a bird feeder, or some obscure sculpture. Perhaps the most bizarre yet exciting addition to the gardens was a Canadian goose lounging in one of the planters which hung over the side of the bridge. The area encompassing the goose, which we later learned was named Gertrude, was blocked off by a makeshift barricade of colorful string and a weather-worn drink cart. After reading the Flowering Bridge’s Facebook page, we learned that Gertrude was a seasonal resident who has nested in the Bridge’s flowering pots several summers in a row. Over time, Gertrude has become a member of the garden community, and she has even inspired artwork that is now featured throughout the walkway. I will not lie, I was initially terrified of how close we were to Gertrude; I have heard how mean Canadian geese can be. I eventually warmed up to her after Abbie bravely snapped a few pictures without being mauled. 

 

As we continued past Gertrude, we passed another pollinator garden which was full of happy worker bees. We then passed another tropical garden, as well as a plot dedicated to NC wildflowers. As we made our way towards the end of the bridge, we passed several more plots, including a fragrance garden (which smelled of heaven), a herb garden, a garden planted by local schoolchildren, and the founders’ circle garden, which is dedicated to the original creators of the Flowering Bridge. We passed through a magnificent flowered arch that marked an end to the bridge. 


Before turning around and making our way back to the car, we visited the Franklin Garden, which honors the Flowering Bridge’s Franklin tree. The Franklin tree has been dubbed the garden’s most historic plant, and its species can no longer be found in the wild. The Franklin tree, or Franklinia alatamaha, has late-season white flowers and striking red leaves in the fall. It cannot grow in compacted wet clay, and should not be planted where cotton has been grown. The plant was saved from extinction by botanist John Bartram and his son, William, in 1765. John collected specimens of the plant and named it after his friend, Benjamin Franklin. All currently existing Frankin trees, including the one at the Flowering Bridge, originate from the specimens that John and William collected over 200 years ago. This history is explained on a plaque by the Flowering Bridge’s Franklin tree garden.



On our way back across the bridge and through the western gardens, we discovered an area that we had not yet explored. Nestled to the right of the main walkway was a small pathway down towards the river bank. Not yet ready to depart the whimsical fairytale, we made our way down the hill. We passed a small boat that had been transformed into a flowerbed and cement blocks painted with classic novels featuring dogs, such as Ribsy and Good Ol’ Snoopy. We made our way into a garden dedicated to dogs, complete with a Doggie Stick Library. We later learned that this area is named the Riverside Dog Garden, and it remains one of my favorite features of the Flowering Bridge.

After considerable stalling, we made our way back to the car and continued our journey. The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge is one of those weird yet wonderful things that you tend to happen upon when traveling; one of those unplanned treasures that create long-lasting memories. There is not a doubt in my mind that I will return to Lake Lure to visit the Flowering Bridge in the coming years... hopefully, I will make it in time to see Gertrude’s newly hatched goslings.


--Mollie Lund

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