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N.C. 281 40 miles
Enters Jackson County as S.C. 130. Visits Transylvania County, then crosses back into Jackson to end at N.C. 107 in Tuckaseegee. 281 is found in God's Country.
Between the S.C. border and Lake Toxaway, 281 provides access to many large waterfalls. They include WhiteWater Falls, Laurel Falls, the five (or more, depending on what you count) falls of the Horsepasture River and High Falls. None are immediately adjacent to 281, but all can be reached by secondary roads and Hiking Trails leading from the highway.
281 is co-signed with U.S. 64 in the Lake Toxaway area, and with 64 it crosses the Toxaway River above Toxaway Falls. North of Lake Toxaway, 281 ascends Tanasee Ridge and crosses the ECD at Owens Gap (elevation 3590).
The northern portion of N.C. 281, from 64 to Tuckaseegee, first shows up on the 1930 official map. This stretch of 281 has changed little since then, and much of it remains unpaved into 2000. A short stretch of 281 was rerouted slightly west when Wolf Creek was dammed, to keep the road away from the Wolf Creek Reservoir.
The Bohaynee Road. The predecessor to modern N.C. 281 from the Lake Toxaway area south into South Carolina was known as the Bohaynee Road. The name had several different spellings, including Bohaney, Boheynee and Boyhaynee. The road partly shows up on USGS maps as early as 1906, closely following modern 281 at least down to the Thompson River crossing. Another primitive road is shown farther south, crossing from Transylvania County into S.C. near Lower WhiteWater Falls. This road may or may not have been part of the old Bohaynee; if it once was, Bohaynee may have been realigned later to run closer to the upper falls.
A 1938 Tennessee Valley Authority book states "the Boheynee Road, a dry-weather county road of dirt surface, leads past [Rainbow] falls, 2 miles south of U.S. 64." (Actually, the state assumed control of all county roads in 1931.) In the description for WhiteWater Falls, the book states Boheynee Road "leads past the base of the falls." Travelers may have had to ford rivers without the aid of bridges, which was a common practice on unimproved roads at the time.
In the early 1950s, a tourism guide published by the state still mentions Bohaynee Road, noting a "10-mile road from U.S. 64 to WhiteWater Falls passes four other falls: Horse Pasture, John's Jump, Thompson's and Rainbow." Whitewater "is reached by a dirt road leaving U.S. 64 at Oakland, steep and narrow in places, but a lot of people drive it and acclaim the view of Whitewater nothing short of sensational.... [P]lans are already made for an all-weather road to Whitewater."
Modern USGS topos show a "Boyhaynee Road" running east-west between 281 and Silvermine Road in Jackson County (SR 1105). This is a compelely different road from the old Bohaynee. It is not listed the state's secondary road network today and is probably at best a jeep trail.
Modern 281. By 1962, the road that would become the modern 281 into South Carolina was built and completely paved. The stretch immediately around WhiteWater Falls may have been finished in the late 1950s, the same time South Carolina upgraded and paved what would become adjoinng S.C. 130. Parts of the old Bohaynee Road alignment are now used by the WhiteWater Falls parking area and access trail, as well as by the longer Foothills Trail.
N.C. 281 was extended south over U.S. 64 and the newer road into South Carolina around 1981.
281 is the only state highway that changes numbers upon entering South Carolina. Every other highway that crosses between the two states is much older than 281 is, and most got matching numbers by 1940 (two were renumbered later to avoid conflicts with Interstates). Both N.C. 281 and S.C. 130 are extensions of previously existing routes. There is a short S.C. 281 near the Atlantic coast in Beaufort, S.C. that has been there for many years, as well as a very old N.C. 130.
Except at its endpoints, 281 stays above 2900 feet. It drops steadily south of the WhiteWater Falls area, with most of the descent in South Carolina. Even if you don't care about waterfalls, it's quite an enjoyable drive between Lakes Jocassee and Toxaway. The road has plenty of curves but is not too scary.
The last remaining gravel portion of 281 measures about 9 miles, from SR 1307 in Transylvania County to SR 1756 in Jackson. It is scheduled to be paved "to secondary road standards" by 2004. The project's estimated cost is $8.5 million and involves design and acquisition of land, so 281 will likely be straightened out a bit.
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