Decades later, Zeagle’s Rock still retains lore

In 1969, an unknown canoer snapped this passing picture of the Zeagle’s Rock stretch of the Neuse River. 44 years later, it may be the only publicly-available color photo of the rock, and shows just how remarkable the cliff was in comparison to the surrounding typical North Carolina landscape.

This 1979 black-and-white photo depicts Zeagle’s Rock from the opposite bank of the Neuse River. The image, taken just four years before Falls Lake was cleared and filled, depicts the craggy cliff emerging from a forest of summer foliage.

In 1969, an unknown canoer snapped this passing picture of the Zeagle’s Rock stretch of the Neuse River. 44 years later, it may be the only publicly-available color photo of the rock, and shows just how remarkable the cliff was in comparison to the surrounding typical North Carolina landscape.

The filling of Falls Lake has kept most of Zeagle’s Rock hidden from public view for decades. As the small peninsula becomes overgrown with shrubs, grasses and a dead tree or two, only lore and history preserve the rock’s noteworthiness.

Four decades ago, Zeagle’s Rock towered 70 feet above the Neuse River, standing watch over a meandering Southern stream 365 days a year.

Today, the grandeur of the of the cliff has been greatly diminished by the filling in of Falls Lake, which has submerged most of Zeagle’s Rock since 1983. Just 20 feet of stone remain above the waterline, leaving most of the natural wonder hidden in the mysterious depths of the lake.

The rock lies on Rockcliff Farm, the former home of well-known North Carolina ecologist B.W. Wells, and is accessible only by kayak, motorboat or a several-mile hike. Zeagle’s Rock is most certainly not the only attraction on the property well past its prime; an early 1900’s-era farmhouse and nearby guesthouse cast an eerie aura around the entire peninsula.

Making an out-of-the-way trek to the rock is, even in 2013, still a worthwhile excursion for any curious Falls Lake-area hiker.

But staring down the side of the outcropping, past the glassy lake surface and into the dim blue-green waters until the stone face fades away seems to give the formation an added meaning.

It’s not just a unusual rock formation. It’s not just a mile-marker landmark for Falls Lake boaters. It’s not just a bottom-of-the-totem-pole tourist attraction with no easy access points.

Zeagle’s Rock is, indeed, all of those things. But it’s also a subtle memento of the lost world beneath Falls Lake, the many miles of muddy riverbanks and Piedmont forest flooded in and lost forever 30 long years ago.

What other remarkable landmarks were drowned out of human sight when the dam was built? What other one-of-a-kind settings and childhood memories were engulfed in this giant Neuse River bath tub? What else was really down there?

According to a dirty, weathered sign several hundred feet away, the rock is rumored to have earned its title in the mid-1800’s, when a man by the same name drove he and his wife off the cliff in a carriage.

Such a story is certainly good for stirring up folklore, but is it really any different than the fate of Zeagle’s Rock in the past half-century? The creation of Falls Lake, in a way, ‘murdered’ perhaps the most unusual natural formation in all of Wake County.

Visit the spot today, and you’ll see no carriage, no murky river and no 70-foot granite cliff. You’ll see little more than a barely-picturesque craggy outcropping. Zeagle’s Rock is not, and never will become, the landmark it used to be.

But you can always imagine.

2 Comments on "Decades later, Zeagle’s Rock still retains lore"

  1. Tom Atosoup | March 5, 2015 at 8:48 am |

    This is fascinating. What a travesty. You should do a whole collection of Wake County’s hidden gems.

  2. Visit http://www.bwwells.org to find out more about this home site and field trip dates. Each spring we host an annual “heritage day” event with guided tours and hikes.

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