Watauga is situated in the Little Tennessee drainage northwest of Franklin, North Carolina. Several maps and other documentation attest to the considerable Cherokee presence along the Little Tennessee River and its tributaries during the 18th century. The Middle Cherokee town of Watauga consistently appears on 18th century maps between the towns of Cowee and Nikwasi on the Little Tennessee River in present day Macon County, North Carolina. Watauga was visited in 1776 by William Bartram, who described the town as large and with a council house situated on an “ancient artificial mount”. Although historic Cherokee townhouses were not always built on mounds, when they were the visibility of monumental architecture provides an opportunity to identify a town’s central location.
Many such locations have always been known to the Cherokees, and some have been the subject of archaeological research. The inconsistent archaeological documentation concerning Watauga, however, has led archaeologists to question exactly where the town was, if the Watauga mound had been destroyed, and even whether a mound ever existed at Watauga at all. Recent archaeological and archival research has more firmly identified the location for at least part of Watauga Town, determined that an “artificial mount” still stands, and found that the area of the “Watauga plains” is one of the better preserved Historic Cherokee sites in western North Carolina.