Wonderful Waterfalls

of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains

Waterfalls are perhaps nature's most captivating wonder. They are magical, holding all the secrets of the woods. Although it seems simple— falling water— we are astonished at finding one of these moving spectacles hidden within the folds of the forest.

Mountain streams leave their birthplace, stretching and rushing towards the sea. They are fed by springs and rains as they travel down ancient slopes following channels carved out years before. Reaching an edge, they fall, creating an enchanting place to become lost in time and space.

For some people, waterfalls are simply an excellent place to picnic. For others, waterfalls are the center of all wild places. Whichever the case, waterfalls make you feel good. They are therapeutic. Some scientists believe this is because of the negative ions they produce, similar to a “cozy-glowing-toasty” fire, the endless rolling of the ocean surf or a thunderstorm.

Remember when you were a kid and you'd plan your attack on an Oreo. cookie? You'd twist the chocolate wafer apart and dig your teeth into the filling until the cream surface looked like tire tracks in the snow. The chocolate wafer could stand alone, but the cream filling is a special treat. The same can be said about walking in the woods and discovering a waterfall. A hike could stand alone, but it is even better when combined with the chance to visit a waterfall.

Waterfall trekking in the mountains of the Blue Ridge is a marvelous way to experience the outdoors. Trails can be accessed easily from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and lead through national forests, national parks, state and city parks, and even through private and commercial properties.

You can seek out a different waterfall every time or hike to a favorite falls over and over. During an early morning walk, you might catch a glimpse of a wild animal drinking from his water hole below the falls. Or you could camp beside a waterfall and fall asleep to the sound of rushing water.

Waterfalls have interesting names. Some falls have more than one name. Carter Creek Falls is also called Douglas Falls. Others share common names, such as Upper Falls or the Cascades. Silver Run Falls has a beautiful name, Blue Suck Falls has an unusual name. The name Widow's Creek Fallsmakes you curious. Like many waterfalls, Soco Falls and Lower Cullasaja Falls get their names from Indian words.

Visiting one waterfall is not the same as visiting them all. They are all different, taking on many shapes and many forms. A waterfall might free-fall off a sheer drop or cascade down a slide. A waterfall might flow over several drops in a row,or plunge into a pool and then plunge again, creating individual waterfalls.

Each waterfall has its own personality. Someare exceptional for the water volume they command; others, for the tremendous height from which they fall. Grand or gorgeous or graceful, bubbling brook or roaring river, we've never met a waterfall we didn't like.

The personality of a waterfall changes with each rainfall. Rain saturates the ground and fuels the creeks and rivers. Falls swell with an abundance of water—a delicate cascade might become a raging waterfall on the next visit, and vice versa.

The personality of a waterfall also changes with every season. The colors reflected in the clear mountain water shift from pastels and greens to shades of autumn and earth tones. As months fall off the calendar, foliage around the falls bloomsand flourishes and withers away. The weather turns from warm to hot, from cool to cold. At one time of the year, a flower grows out of a crack in the rock, watered by the constant spray of the falls; at another time of the year, an icicle hangs in its place.

Visit a waterfall in the spring and you'll see a pink-and-purple procession of flowering mountain laurel and rhododendron. Waterfalls overflow from April rains, which bring May wildflowers to blanket the earth. The hillsides cry out for a wedding.

Visit a waterfall in the summer and you'll enjoy the cool mist that drifts lazily off the face of thefalls. This time of year, you can allow the waterfall to absorb you. Sink into the swimming hole at the base of the falls, lean back, and let the water from above cascade over you. Relax and restore your soul.

Visit a waterfall in the fall and you'll be surrounded by the brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges of the hardwood forest. Color frames the white frothy cascade, painted leaves swirl and dance on the surface of the clear stream. Lie on a warm rock and bask in the sun for awhile. The Indian summer days of autumn, with crisp air and cloudless skies, send an irresistible invitation for anadventure in the woods.

Visit a waterfall in the winter and you'll experience a subdued wilderness and wonderfulsolitude. Formations of ice create picturesque sculptures, dangling from rocky cliffs. The snow-covered ground brings a stillness to the forest, the bare trees open up unobstructed views. There is beauty in a colorless scene—white on gray and brown.

The hills of the Blue Ridge harbor an incredible number of waterfalls. Visitors, and even locals, are usually unaware of how many extraordinary cascades adorn the area. The waterfall collector will find heaven in the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia, where hundreds of named waterfalls, and thousands of others, are waiting to be discovered.

Welcome to the waterfalls of the Blue Ridge!

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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