For nearly 4000 years the Cherokee Indians lived in the Nantahala area until white settlers started moving in to the Appalachian Mountains. In 1838 the Cherokees were rounded up and sent on a long hard trip out to Oklahoma. This trip is known today as the Trail of Tears.
By the time the Civil War started there were several well-established communities of white settlers living on small farms. Like other parts of the Southern Appalachians, almost all were of Scots-Irish descent.
In 1929, the Nantahala Power and Light Company was organized as part of the nation’s rural electrification program; the abundance of water in the region was ideal for hydroelectric power generation. The Nantahala Dam was finished in 1942 with the last eight and half miles of the river being filled with water that just produced electricity.
In 1920 the Nantahala National Forest was established containing 133,894 acres.