The Highest Point in Charlotte is a Cul-de-sac

Besides my love and passion for weather and science, I also enjoy maps and geography. So it piqued my interest when I came across a recent story in Charlotte Magazine about how Uptown Charlotte got its name. When most people call their center city “downtown” Charlotte calls it “Uptown”. The basic reason wasn’t a PR stunt but has historical roots based on the elevation of center city. The geographic center of Charlotte is the intersection of Trade and Tryon at 746’ above sea level. This elevation makes it much higher than the surrounding neighborhoods and most of Charlotte. Thus making you have to literally travel uphill to get to center city. So thus the name Uptown Charlotte.

Well this got me thinking; clearly 764’ wasn’t the highest point in Charlotte or even Mecklenburg County. Turns out it isn’t and there is part of Charlotte that’s still sees Uptown as Downtown based on elevation. Now I had heard rumors that the highest point is Charlotte was the club house at Cedarwood Country Club. I even heard it was a hill at Charles T Myers golf course. Which by the way was built on Charlotte’s first landfill. Turns out both were wrong, I had to look up the elevations on a topographical map. The problem there was none of the maps had a definitive peak so the elevation contours weren’t much help. The maps did make me narrow it down to Northeast Charlotte towards the University area which everyone knows is very hilly.

I was eventually able to find the highest point in every county in the state using the North Carolina Geologic Survey. They listed the highest point in Mecklenburg County as follows.

 

Mecklenburg: point 1 mile east of Brockenbrough Airport 890’+Derita

 

Well small problem there is no longer any Brockenbrough Airport, but at least I know where Derita is. A little more research revealed that the Brockenbrough Airport is a little known abandoned airfield. There is one runway which is still there next to the Metrolina Fairgrounds and race track. It’s not an airport anymore but you can tell it was from the aerial picture below. Noticed the paved over runway which runs parallel to Fairground Road.

So now I head 1 mile east of this old airfield and I should be at the highest point in Charlotte. Using Google Earth I pinpointed the exact location at or near Emma Lynn Court. Which you can see below and also see how much higher it is compared to “Uptown”. (I also should note Apples new Maps app can’t find this place either)

highCLT2

highCLT

So what’s does this high point look like? Is there some marker or designation? Clearly it has some name like Derita Hill, Mount Charlotte, Mecklenburg Peak…right?

Nope this is all there is… a cul-de-sac.

Standing in the middle of the the cul-de-sac my GPS read 885’. Just shy of the 890’ stated in the Geological Survey map, but looking past this fence & into this back yard(picture left below) it looks a bit higher and likely 890’. I wasn’t walking into some persons yard so take my word for it.

photo 2photo (1)

Now doing further research reveals that this area does have some names that might apply to these hills. In fact the street names seem to reflect the topography of the area very well. There are names like Grays Ridge Drive and Christenbury Hills Lane but no specific name for this hill.

ridgephoto 1

So what do you think should this point have a name? Let me know in the comments sections below and by the way I added this location into Foursquare so you can check-in here. Smile

photo (1)

Lowest Point in Mecklenburg County Post.

  • Mt. Bob Morgan

  • Panovich Ridge, after all you did discover it…

  • You have every county? There was an old legend that Morrow Mountain wasn’t the highest point in Stanly County, that can’t be true, can it?

    • wxbrad

      I do I’ll post the list shortly.

    • wxbrad

      Here you James every county high point via NCGS http://www.geology.enr.state.nc.us/county/county_high_points.html

    • I heard that, too, when I lived there. It’s not really that far off from true. Morrow Mountain is listed as 900 ft. Just east of New London it gets up to about 850 ft. Note that the highest point in Mecklenburg is about as high. The reason that Morrow Mountain seems like a mountain is that the land to the east and south is only about 350 ft. (being near the Yadkin-Pee Dee River). Even taking the road to the summit, you start about 500 ft.

  • The highest point in Meck county is the top floor of the BofA tower 😉

    • I was going to say the same, but considering Brad is looking at topography… haha. Always wanted to see the view from the top of the BofA tower. Any chance that can be done anymore?

      • Not that I know of w/o knowing somebody who works in the building. 9/11 killed that, IIRC there was a restaurant somewhere on the top floors, but it’s long gone. I went up once, the view was incredible.

        • I went up to an office up top once. It was spectacular.

    • wxbrad

      LOL I actually talked with our producer about the tallest object in Meck Co. Guess what it it? Its the WCNC old transmitter tower on Hood road. BOA tower is second highest.

      • Now that is very ironic. Claim your corporate fame!

      • sskyking

        Aviation VFR maps have pretty good elevation data. They show highest ostacle to flight navigation, either terrain or man-made. Can be viewed online at skyvector.com

      • I’ve stood on top of that tower, and then basejumped off. I have a nice video of it also. 🙂

  • That’s pretty cool… Along with studying meteorology, I love studying maps, anywhere from topography to road maps. I know roughly where the highest point in my neck of the woods in Union County, but I’m not sure if it applies to the whole county.

    It’s nice that I’m not the only one who found this article extremely interesting and cool. Stuff like this would get blown off by others, but I really like topography and such. I remember being a kid in elementary school and always wanting to see Mt. Mitchell because it is the highest point in the state (and east of the Mississippi River!)

  • Brad, I had a conversation with a man years ago about the highest point in Mecklenburg County. He insisted that the maps were wrong! According to his claim, the highest point is between Cornelius and Huntersville in “Caldwell Station”(not the development, but the area near the WDAV tower.) The man was named Ken Brotherton and was a local historian. I believe his claim was that Caldwell Station is about 4′ higher elevation. It’s at least something fun to investigate.

    • wxbrad

      Lee I’ve heard this too from a few people but I can’t find a topo map that confirms this. The only true way to know would be LiDAR satellite mapping or actually survey both areas. I might have to drive up there & check it out.

  • Maria Perry

    I had heard over the years that Biddle Hall on JCSU’s campus was the highest point in Mecklenburg County.

  • Phantasmagorious

    Charlotte native here. Was told as a child that Charlotte sits in the middle of one of the Earth’s oldest volcanic craters with the rim about 12 miles radius. Thus the reason you can go about 12 miles from uptown in any direction and get a pretty good view eg., South New Hope Road in Gaston and Hwy 49/Old Charlotte Rd intersection in Cabarrus. How about naming the high point “stairway to heaven?”

    • ccarner

      Brad, I would love to know if this is true. I’m a native but have never heard this. It makes sense.

    • wxbrad

      This is bogus the area was never volcanic at least at it’s current location before Pangea.

  • All this discussion is fun, but begs the question; what is the lowest point in Mecklenburg County?

    • wxbrad

      Edwin you read my mind already looking into this. 🙂

      • sskyking

        The bottom of the County budget.

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  • Jafar Ayesh

    Ok, you have found the highest elevation point outside the
    old perimeters of Charlotte, so do not spoil it man. It would be still
    called Uptown, think of it, the reference for the Uptown
    will be always the original perimeters of the city of Charlotte, but hey do not
    feel bad, you have done a good job.

    • wxbrad

      Unless you’re coming from Derita then it would be perfectly fine to say downtown. LOL No one is changing the name just pointing out the facts.

  • This is my kinda nerdy adventure. Nice work.

  • duh311

    Check your sources. It WAS a PR stunt back in the 80’s. The Downtown area wasn’t thriving and there was a whole lot of interest in bringing people out with the investments in the (now defunct) City Fair and retail shops downtown. The name change was made to promote a new vision for what we now call Uptown.

  • duh311

    “Uptown” WAS a marketing stunt back in the 80’s when (the now defunct) City Fair was being built.

  • HincEtInde

    Meck Everest!

  • ursosarctos

    You’re thinking too hard. “Uptown” came into being because certain officials decided “downtown” sounded too negative. Pretty silly. But so is “center city.” Sounds like somebody’s been reading too many Marvel comics.

  • Love that there’s a Foursquare location check in.

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