www.ncwaterfalls.com's Rich Stevenson's WRAL interview, you know Transylvania County has over 500 waterfalls. In the ultimate waterfall guide, North Carolina Waterfalls, author Kevin Adams estimates there are between 1,000 and 1,500 cascades/falls in North Carolina.
I won't, and can't, begin to cover them all. Nor will I go into depth on the subject. North Carolina residents and visitors have three complete sources at their disposal: ncwaterfalls.com and Mr. Adam's book, both of which should be used when planning a waterfall outing, and Mr. Adam's new waterfall map (see website for details).
But I can give you a few good tips!
When visiting any waterfall, it is imperative that you first consider safety. It's so important, the resources I mentioned above dedicate space to it. Waterfalls mean wet rocks. Wet rocks mean slippery conditions. And even if you think you're as sure footed as a gazelle, human weight and wet rocks don't go together. Elisha Mitchell, the man who determined the peak now known as Mt. Mitchell was the highest in the eastern US, slipped over a waterfall and died, and we've been hearing about waterfall deaths since then. So before you plan your trip, read my waterfall warning, and then read the warnings on Rich Stevenson's page and in Kevin Adams' book. It's that important.
Planning is Key
To avoid wasting time or getting lost in the woods searching for waterfalls, plan your trip carefully. This is where Kevin Adam's material and ncwaterfalls.com comes into play.
In North Carolina Waterfalls, Mr. Adams separates the state into "hubs". Within each hub, he not only lists the waterfalls in that region, he also provides descriptions along with travel and trail directions. So why use ncwaterfalls.com? To quote from Mr. Adam's website:
Using Rich’s site, this update page, the North Carolina Waterfalls book and the Waterfalls Of North Carolina Map, you’ll have the most detailed and up-to-date information available for the waterfalls in North Carolina.So pick up the book or map, determine which hub you'd like to visit, and then carefully read the descriptions there and on Rich's website. You'll see that a few waterfalls, such as Looking Glass Falls, pictured above, are visible from the road. Some, like Skinny Dip Falls and the falls at Graveyard Field, are located along a trail. For others, you'll need to use a topo map. If you're not into using a map and compass, or you have mobility issues, you'll want to avoid the latter. As you'll see below, I learned this the hard way.
Some hubs have more waterfalls than others. For our waterfall expedition, we originally chose the falls near Cashiers, NC. Both Cashiers and nearby Highland contain a number of falls (though Lake Toxaway appears to top the chart in number of waterfalls within a region.)
Eager to view as many falls as we could in one day, I made the mistake of changing our route. Instead of driving straight to Cashiers, we proceeded north on Hwy 276 in Pisgah Forest, where, after visiting Log Hollow Branch Falls, we would then drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Hwy 215 (what I call Waterfall Lane) and then head down to Hwy 64 and eventually, Cashiers.
Because I didn't plan this portion of the trip, we wasted a great deal of time searching for several waterfalls while other falls, more accessible we later learned, were nearby. We did find a few, though, and also, while heading to Courthouse Falls, we stopped to enjoy the bubbling waters of the creek that runs alongside the narrow, unpaved road.
The day now waning, we doubled back and headed to Skinny Dip Falls off the Blue Ridge Parkway. As I mentioned earlier, this falls is located at the end of a rock-and-root-littered trail. But it was worth the bumps getting there:
So while we didn't see the dozen that I'd hoped to see (I dream big), we did enjoy five waterfalls and some lovely cascades along a creek. Not bad for a single day. But the waterfall visits on this trip didn't end there. In my next post, I'll discuss one fall the Piedmont has to offer.
If you do visit a Carolina waterfall, I highly recommend that you check out both Kevin Adam's book and ncwaterfalls.com. And please, use extreme caution around water and on wet rocks.