During the early 1900s one of the primary industries in the Southern Appalachian Mountains was timber harvesting. The Tennessee Lumber Company moved to the Sutherland area at this time and set up a mill to cut timber. The company hired 400 men to keep the operation running. The Tennessee Lumber Company sawed 100,000 board feet a day. To get the timber to market, railroad lines were constructed throughout the land. Most of the track was laid following the natural terrain.
In 1901 the Empire Mining Company was laying track and they came to a stone ridge that stands seventy-five feet high, and was approximately 20 feet thick. The ridge was named Backbone Rock because of its appearance. This rock was above the Sutherland Community. It was an extension from the Iron Mountain Range. Beaverdam Creek flowed around the end of the rock.
|The company decided to blast a short tunnel through the rock to lay its tracks. The Empire Mining Company built the Beaver Dam Railroad to connect with the Virginia-Carolina line. After the tunnel was blasted and the track was laid the smoke stack of the train's engine could not pass through the tunnel. The top of the tunnel had to be hand chiseled to eliminate this problem.|
The lumber was about used up by 1912 and the Tennessee Lumber Company moved its saw mill. After logging stopped the United States Forest Service used the railroad bed as a truck trail. A trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s to the top of Backbone Rock above the tunnel. Today Highway 133 goes through the tunnel.
The area around Backbone Rock was developed by the Tennessee Wildlife Agency for camping, picnicking, fishing, and hiking. Beaverdam Creek runs next to Backbone Rock and through the picnic area. You will find 44 picnic tables, two logged sheltered picnic tables, open fireplaces, horseshoe pits, and camping sites. There are several hiking trails. One goes across the top of the rock. Another hiking trail takes you to Backbone Rock Falls. Now the area is part of the Cherokee National Forest and is maintained by the forest services.
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