Old Fort is a town in McDowell County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 908 at the 2010 Census. In 2010, the North Carolina Wildlife Commission added Old Fort to their list of N.C. Mountain Heritage Trout Towns. This designation includes a special $5.00 fishing license that is active for three days and is good for use in any of the state's mountain trout towns. In downtown Old Fort, the section of Mill Creek bordering Mountain Gateway Museum at 102 Water Street is a public portion of this stream and is a delayed harvest stream.
Old Fort festivals include popular annual events such as Pioneer Day hosted by Mountain Gateway Museum on the last Saturday in April. The North Carolina Gold Festival is held the first Friday/Saturday in June, also on the grounds of Mountain Gateway Museum. Old Fort's Chamber of Commerce continues their annual event with Octoberfest taking place the first weekend in October, again on the grounds of Mountain Gateway Museum. This is a N.C. state museum and is part of the N.C. Dept. of Cultural Resources.
Old Fort has several attractions, including Andrews Geyser and the Arrowhead Monument. The granite arrowhead was built as a symbol of peace between the two Native American tribes; the Cherokee and Catawba. At the dedication ceremony in 1930, thousands of onlookers gathered at town square to see the 14 ft. rose granite arrowhead sitting atop a natural stone base. The Arrowhead serves as the focal point for the town, which is traversed by U.S. Highway 70 and Interstate 40. Additionally, residents of Old Fort are reconstructing Davidson Fort, the Revolutionary War fort that gave Old Fort its current name (it was first known as Catawba Vale). Catawba Falls, the largest waterfall in McDowell County and the headwaters of the Catawba River, is located just outside the town limits. In 2009, a partnership between the N.C. Department of Transportation, the local county and town governments with assistance from the United States Forest Service and the local trails association, a portion of Old Highway 70 reopened to bicycle and foot traffic. Point Lookout Trail is a popular paved trail ascending almost 1,000 feet through the Swannanoa Gap in just under 4 miles. Point Lookout was once a popular tourist stop for travelers driving west to Asheville and the Great Smoky Mountains.
In prior years the town was well known for its weekly mountain music concerts, which attracted large audiences and many musicians from the surrounding areas to Old Fort's downtown each Friday night for a free bluegrass concert in the historic Rockett Building. In mid 2014 the organization that ran the mountain music lost their arrangement with the building owner, and the weekly music shows came to an end after 27 years.