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Archive for the ‘Chattahoochee National Forest’ Category

Water Levels Update: normal spring levels currently, so get out there and enjoy waterfalls!
Spring Greenery Update: Wonderful spring greenery (in Georgia at least).

I took a trip this past weekend going up to Moccasin Feeder 1Moccasin Creek, near Lake Burton and before the creek flows through Moccasin Creek State Park. I thought I’d try to get to the Upper Falls on Moccasin Creek, which eluded us on my first trip here; and though I didn’t make it there again, this time it was because sometimes the journey is more important. On my way to the trail head, at Lake Burton I encountered evidence of the dramatic destruction a F3 tornado did to over 100 houses by the lake, a tornado I hadn’t heard about (obviously the news was then dominated by the more deadly tornadoes the same day in Alabama). After passing by that, amazed, I started the Hemlock Falls Trail, following cascading Moccasin Creek. I’d been along this trail before, but that time the sun made it such that I didn’t get any decent photographs. The trail easily goes to Hemlock Falls in just 1.1 miles, passing 4 other small falls along the creek before it. Most visitors stop there, but the the trail continues up to Upper Falls, though it requires wading the creek to get there.

This time, I waited until late in the afternoon–so the sun would be hidden from view–and I was rewarded with wonderful photography conditions. The first waterfall I encountered was for a small feeder stream into Moccasin Creek, a nice delicate 15 ft fall (see in the photo above). Then shortly after that was the first drop on Moccasin Creek itself, a 10 ft slice through rocks, which I thought was in a really nice setting, and I was here for quite a while taking photos. The spring greenery really jumped out for me this day (as you’ll also see also for the other photos today). Moccasin Creek Falls 1

Only another 0.1 miles up the creek, there was another 10 ft waterfall, but it didn’t look as photogenic to me, Moccasin Creek Falls 3I knew I was losing time, and it required bushwhacking to get to it, so I passed it up this time for greener pastures. That didn’t take very long, since in another 0.1 mi, the next drop occurred, a 10 ft two-step drop that is right before a bridge on the trail crossing to the other side of the creek. Like the first fall, it only required a minimal off-trail scramble to get to it, but I’d only recommend it if you don’t mind risking getting dirty in the mud.

The little falls were coming Moccasin Creek Falls 4quickly now, and again in only another 0.1 mi was the next waterfall, a roaring 20 ft drop. It was actually causing some spray, though I was able to keep my lens dry–and I didn’t slip on the wet rocks, like I did last month at Crow Mountain Creek. I didn’t find this waterfall quite as photogenic, though it was a nice setting, and again the greenery was beautiful around it. However, I did find Moccasin Creek right above this fall really beautiful with many different rock textures and pools: Moccasin Creek

Back on the trail, I was on my way to Hemlock Falls when I thought I heard the sound of a waterfall nearby. Moccasin Feeder 2I followed my ear through an empty campground to a 100+ ft waterfall from a feeder stream. It was pouring down the hillside that created the canyon for Moccasin Creek. This waterfall wasn’t listed in any book I knew of, including a waterfall hiking book that listed the first feeder stream (up top of this page). I’m sure that it is very seasonal–though with the rock base for it, it seems to run somewhat frequently. It was quite striking to see for its height, and it pours immediately into Moccasin Creek, as you can see in the photo.

After this slight detour, I made it finally to Hemlock Falls, which I had to myself (unlike last time with a lot of kids swimming there). I captured photos of it; however, it was getting dark enough that colors where shifting such that I couldn’t get as appealing of a photo as the previous falls (I did what I could with Photoshop to correct colors for the shot below). So even though I had wanted to make it to the Upper Falls, I felt like I saw so many falls this day–and spent so much time photographing them–that it was okay not making it there. Next time I will make it there! But in the meantime, I enjoyed Hemlock Falls, and then journeyed back to the car before sunset.
Hemlock Falls

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Water Flow Update: good water flow in north Georgia, especially since there have been lots of recent rains.
Spring Foliage Update: foliage decent up to almost 2000 ft in Georgia, above that just starting (dogwoods, etc, but not greenery).

Blood Mountain is the 6th highest mountain in Georgia (at 4,458 ft), and the highest point of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, surrounded by a great wilderness area. It has a wonderful view from on top of it after a great (though steep) hike. And being high, water flows off it steeply, so there are a number of waterfalls falling from the sides of it. Both Scott and I (at different times) had visited some of these waterfalls, but there were more we hadn’t hit yet, so that was the plan for this past Saturday morning. Another part of the motivation was that I had a copy of a nicely done new book of hikes to Georgia waterfalls, Waterfall Hikes of North Georgia, by Jim Parham, which described hikes to these waterfalls.

The first waterfall was Crow Mountain Creek Falls 1Crow Mountain Creek Falls (we passed by Dick’s Creek Falls, which we both had photographed before, and there were a lot of fishermen there). Around 3 years ago, I found out about this waterfall, only finding one photo of it on the web. So I tried to find it, bushwhacking up the creek for 1 hour before giving up–on the way back, I came across the trail to the falls, but without time to go back. So I have wanted to visit these falls to see them for a while. We followed the book’s directions, and followed a old logging road up for 1 mile up to the top of the falls, and were definitely impressed by them. They are a series of multiple cascades and slides that descend for more than 100 ft. The only problem is that there wasn’t really a great viewpoint to photograph these falls well. The first photo here I actually fell on the wet rock getting into position, and dropped the camera, though it has (thankfully!) been working well since then–thanks for being weather resistant!

Crow Mountain Creek Falls 2We continued down the side of the mountain, trying to find a viewpoint of the falls that really displayed how impressive they are. Toward the bottom of them, I found this vantage point, which I had to climb onto a bunch of downed trees to get into, but I think gave the best perspective I could find. The falls in first photo are all in the uppermost part of this second photo, just to give you perspective on the size of it. Though we had to admit they aren’t the most photogenic falls, it was a very cool waterfall to see (finally for me!), and the sun stayed away enough for photography. So mission #1 for the day was accomplished.

The next task was to get to Upper Blood Mountain Creek Falls. Both of us have previously been to Milddle and Lower Blood Mountain Creek Falls, but not the upper falls. Pool Below Upper Blood Mountain FallsWe used a higher-clearance vehicle to cross Crow Mountain Creek, and drove to the end of the road at the entrance to Blood Mountain Wilderness. Then it’s a easily-followed trail for 1 mile (the last 1/2 of which along Blood Mountain Creek) to the upper falls. At the base of the upper falls was this beautiful little cascade into a nice pool Upper Blood Mountain Creek Falls on the right, really showing off the nice setting here. Then you have to climb a little up a bolder field to get to the base of the upper falls, the main drops of which are around 40-50 ft tall. As you can see in Scott’s photo, the water spreads over a rock face, then takes a sharp right turn down the mountainside. We sat and just enjoyed the setting for a while, then returned back up the final hill to the car.

There was one final stop Upper Dick's Creek Falls this day, which was a “bonus fall” that we didn’t know before existed, Upper Dick’s Creek Falls. We saw it right beside the road to Upper Blood Mountain Creek, but visited it on the way back, especially since there were fishermen there the first time. We stopped by and visited this nice little 20 ft fall as the finale for the day. It was not an amazing fall, but required no effort to get to, and still has the wonderful brown creekbed color I love in north Georgia. Visiting 3 waterfalls that I hadn’t seen before made this definitely a successful day!

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(though it’s early in the season, I thought I’d start adding spring season updates)
Water Level Update: lots of water currently on falls in north Georgia
Spring Greenery Update: no greenery (not surprisingly) in north Georgia yet.

There was a lot of rain over this weekend, and actually in NE Georgia there was a flash flood warning on Sunday. I’ve been wanting to go waterfalling, so I thought it would be perfect chance to visit some normally low-flow (and easily accessible) waterfalls with lots of water on them. I convinced fellow waterfaller Scott to join along, and we went to Rabun County (Georgia’s home to the most waterfalls) to explore. (disclaimer: you have to be careful waterfalling when creeks are at flood stage, and make sure you know what you’re doing. We chose carefully what falls we visited to not get in trouble with mother nature.)

Our first stop was Ada-Hi Falls (sorta) in Black Rock Mountain State Park, to visit the highest altitude waterfall in Georgia (well over 3000 ft elevation). It is a very small drainage, so it is often only a trickle (as it was last time I tried visiting it 3 1/2 years ago, as you can see on the right–though that was autumn, so it should be expected). For that reason, I hadn’t gone back for these years–but I figured flood stage today was the perfect time to visit it. As I mentioned, it’s in Black Rock Mountain State Park, and is a very steep but short <1/2 mile trail to the fall from nearby the campground general store. The trail was a little slick but not difficult, and has Ada-Hi Falls stairs for the very steep sections.

Wonderfully, today there was a lot of water going over the falls, and it looked really beautiful, as you can see (it even had some light fog around). Because of steep terrain around, there is a viewing platform, which significantly limits your photography composition possibilities, but it was still great to photograph it. So if you’re waterfalling nearby and there has been a lot of rain recently, I’d recommend it–otherwise, I’d skip it and visit other waterfalls, since it is admittingly very rare that it looks this beautiful, and there are a lot of wonderful waterfalls in Rabun County. Both of us also really liked the rock texture the water poured over (see below).
Ada-Hi Close-Up
The next stop was in Warwoman Dell, where I visited in a previous post. As I mentioned in that post, there is a small waterfall in the Dell itself, but because it was only a dribble, I didn’t photograph it that time. So again, I thought that with very high water levels, it was perfect time to capture that waterfall. We stopped by the Dell, Warwoman Dell Falls and climbed up 44 old (and mossy) stone steps. There, we came to a previously planned railroad bed; here is some history of the Dell, including about the proposed railroad. The top stone steps actually had water pouring down them, and at the top we were treated to this small but pretty waterfall (and a flooded trail). The photo here shows the waterfall with the railroad bed on the left. The sun now appeared from behind clouds, and it limited what we could do photographically with this waterfall.

Since the sun was now out, it put a damper on our waterfall photography for the rest of the day. We did explore some, finding some waterfalls we hadn’t found (or seen photos of) before–one of which we knew had to be there, though it was good to actually find it. …but that’s for another day, once we’ve explored them more fully. For me, it was great to spend time waterfalling for the first time in months, getting ready for the upcoming waterfall season!

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got a little story for you all… (sorry, I’m not Southern enough to say ya’ll)

I woke up last Saturday, and saw a perfect thick blanket of clouds over Atlanta, making me want to go waterfalling. After a quick debate, I decided where to go.. off Warwoman Road in Rabun County. A little background of why… I visited Becky Branch Falls and Martin Creek Falls 3 years ago, and took a photo of Martin that while I like, I’ve never understood why it’s one of my most popular waterfall shots on Flickr. Regardless, when my friend Little m:) was in town last year, I led an expedition to Martin, remembering it as a relatively easy fall to get to… but I failed, and we managed to get lost. We were along Martin Creek, but couldn’t find the trail, and we came up to the base of a fall, with ruins of a trail, but definitely not like I remembered it. It was very sad… okay, not really, but it was annoying, and haunted me. So I vowed to return, and to find Martin Creek Falls again.

On this day though, the first stop was Becky Branch Falls, near the Warwoman Dell Area. The dell is a valley that the Cherokee named after a woman they called “Warwoman.” Becky Branch FallsThis description of the trail to Becky Branch describes also some history of the dell. From there, it is a quick 1/4 mile hike up to Becky Branch along the Bartram Trail, a long trail that meanders through this part of Georgia (and the Carolinas). It’s ~20 ft tall, easily accessible, with a nice rooster tail. It’s worth the short hike. Also in Warwoman Dell itself, there is a small fall, but it is low flow, and it was only dribbling that day, so I didn’t take any photos of it.

Next I prepared myself for the main event of the morning, Martin Creek. I had the same information I had both when I succeed easily and failed before (Jack Anthony‘s info). I parked at the same location, and crossed Martin Creek. …there I discovered our error last time. Instead of heading up the hill straight ahead, last time we followed a trail that remained along Martin Creek itself. Martin Creek Falls I even last time climbed partly up the hill, and found ruins of an old trail, now abandoned (maybe before re-routing the Bartram Trail?). Instead this time, I followed the other trail up the hill, and I found the Bartram Trail again. I followed this as it led up Martin Creek–further upstream than where we were last time–and after 1/3 of a mile, it easily led me to Martin Creek Falls, just as I remembered. It’s an impressive 30 ft fall, though it was too windy that day, which blurred the foliage in my photo.

On my way back, I wanted to understand what was this fall that we explored last time? The creek has rapids around Martin Creek Falls, then becomes placid for 1/4 of a mile before starting rapids again, Martin Creek Cascadelike those you can see here on the right. Then the creek shoots down a narrow channel in rock, and comes out of the narrow canyon into the falls we explored last time, mistaking them for the “main” falls (we thought perhaps changed by storms).

I then backtracked down the hill, to the trail we went on last time. Again, I saw the yellow mark on a tree branch (which should suggest the Bartram Trail, one thing that confused me last time). I followed it to the base of the lower falls, and with minimally getting my feet wet–but totally worth it–I climbed past the lowest cascades (which only Little m:) did last time) to see this stunning scene in front of me:
Lower Martin Creek Falls
I’m not quite sure the photo can show how beautiful it is.

I then scrambled back to the trail, contented that I finally solved the mystery of Martin Creek…

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Water Levels Update: typical spring levels, exact amount depending on recent rain, but most falls have enough flow.
Spring Greenery/Blooming Update: fully green, even up to the highest altitudes. Flower blooming doing well around 2000 elevation in Georgia.

I want to apologize that with lots of waterfall trips recently (and work), I haven’t been good about updating the blog. This is a trip from two weekends ago, though the above information is from yesterday. Also I want to warn you that this entry is photo-heavy, but I visited a lot of falls on that day, and weather was cooperative.

I spent a Saturday nightBig Joel Falls at the Enota Mountain Retreat in north Georgia (near Brasstown Bald). They have trails to two large waterfalls on trails leaving from their property, Gurley Creek Falls and Big Joel Falls. I actually spent the night in a “waterfall room” hotel room nearest Gurley Creek Falls, and I listened to the creek as I slept. They describe Big Joel Falls as being 400 ft fall, though the part I could see if it was only 150-200 ft, from a trail ending in a viewpoint. It didn’t look like climbing to the creek was very easy (and very muddy since light rain), so I didn’t get closer.

The next AM, I visited 200 ft Gurley Creek Falls, right outside my window. A trail goes up to the upper reaches of it, stopping by one of the best cascades that drops into a small pool. Upper of Gurley Falls This cascade was nice, but I couldn’t find a way to get to the Purple Trilliumbase of the full fall easily (no trail), so I didn’t try to bushwhack that morning. Along the trail, there were a lot of wildflowers, especially trillium, including Purple Trillium, which I hadn’t noticed before, a real treat. I left the retreat to find more falls, but I definitely feel like it is a great location as a base in the north Georgia mountains, having both hotel rooms, and camping sites.

I next went to Anna Ruby Falls, Anna Ruby Falls trying to better capture a fall I haven’t done justice to in the past (and to visit a friend who ended not able to come). This is one of the most famous falls in Georgia, with its own visitor center, and what I feel are restrictive hours–you’re only allowed there from 9-6. The paved trail to the falls is 0.4 mi uphill following Smith Creek. I made it shortly after 9 AM, and it was sprinkling, so I had the falls to myself (very rare there, normally filled with lots of people). The falls themselves are impressive to see, and they are famous as a double fall, with Curtis Creek (on the left) dropping 153 ft, and York Creek (on the right) dropping 50 feet, joining to form Smith Creek. I was able mostly to keep my camera dry as I got a variety of photos. Compositions are limited by large wooden decks, and you aren’t allowed to leave the platforms. On my hike back, I took photos of the stunning Smith Creek, and weather was perfect for photography, with bright forest greenery and even lighting. Smith Creek

I then went to Falls by Forest RoadUnicoi Gap (where AT passes), and turned onto forest road 44. After 1/3 of a mile, I saw this little fall right beside the road. It isn’t impressive, but easily accessed while driving to the upper Chattahoochee. I continued on the forest road for 5 miles to the Upper Chattahoochee Campground. From the campground there is a short trail to Horse Trough Falls, an impressive 100+ fall. It had a lot more water than when I last visited, and was much more impressive. Like Anna Ruby, the composition options are limited by a viewing platform, though it isn’t as crowded. On the trail, there is a walking bridge, which is the first bridge that crosses the Chattahoochee. I followed a faint Horsetrough Fallstrail there along the young river (this is not far from the spring that is the river’s source), to a lower fall on the upper Chattahoochee. The trail is rough at times, requiring climbing under and through rhododendrons, but it’s rather short. The waterfall is in a beautiful location with it surrounded by large rock walls, and I wanted also revisit from 2 years ago. There Lower Falls on the Upper Chattahoocheewas light fog around the fall, which I think provided it with a magical setting for photography (as fog often does). I call it the “lower falls” because I know from a contact of mine that there are upper falls, though I didn’t try to find them, since I needed to get home, and bushwhacking around the rock walls would be slow.

The weather was so great in that day, perfect for waterfalling (except for the occasional light rain). The fog along Forest Road 44 (to the Upper Chattahoochee) gave me opportunity to photograph a dogwood in the fog, with which I will leave you. Enjoy the spring, and I’ll be posting soon from other recent trips. Get out there and enjoy the waterfall season!

Dogwood Fog

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Water levels update: normal spring levels, plenty of water for most falls; but not at extremely high levels that some low-flow falls might require.
Spring greenery update: unlike in Atlanta, not much greenery, esp. above 1500-2000 ft. Buds are starting, so should be green in next two weeks.

Since neither of us have done much waterfalling recently, and spring is on its way, both Wizum and I wanted to get out to find some waterfalls this weekend. We chose an area neither of us had visited, Long Creek Falls, just off the Appalachian Trail, actually just a few miles north of the beginning of the AT. After around 10 miles driving on forest service roads (bumpy, but manageable with passenger car), we made it to Three Forks on the AT. Like the other “Three Forks” in Georgia, it is where 3 creeks come together at the same spot, but to be honest, the other Three Forks is more impressive. There were a surprising number of hikers and families at the trailhead and on the trail, especially considering the extent of the drive.

It’s a mile long hike on the AT beside Long Creek, and around 1/2 mile in, we heard rushing water, and saw a side trail, so we explored. Here we found a nice 15-20 ft waterfall that we didn’t even know was there, which we’re calling Lower Long Creek Falls for now.

Lower Long Creek Falls

Lower Long Creek Falls

After visiting the lower falls, we saw another fall, which we held off until the the way back. After 0.9 mi, the waterfall spur branches off the AT (and Bartham Trail) and descends to the fall easily. Long Creek Falls are impressive, having lots of water flowing. It has a small initial drop, then one large drop off a rock face to a shallow pool. It is a very nice fall, definitely worth the 2 mile (round-trip) easy hike.

Long Creek Falls

Long Creek Falls

Middle Long Creek Falls

Middle Long Creek Falls

We enjoyed relaxing in the presence of the fall for a time, then decided to head back. On the way back, we followed a faint trail to a middle series of cascades, including another 15-20 ft middle falls (between the main and lower falls). There were a lot of trees in the way, and sun shining in, so I don’t think I was able to capture how impressive this location really was when being there. It isn’t as powerful, but had more of a hidden feel.

After making it back to the trailhead, we then continued down the forest road to stop by Noontootla Falls. The fall is on a tributary of Noontootla Creek, actually, though there were a number of impressive shoals and cascades on Noontootla Creek itself that looked interesting to visit sometime (when sun isn’t out). It’s a very tall fall, greater than 100 ft.

Noontootla Falls

Noontootla Falls

There is not really a trail to the fall, just very steep and challenging scrambling up the right side of the creek along cascades, making it to the base of the large fall. Because of not having an impressive viewpoint, I don’t think the photo really shows how tall and impressive these falls are. They are great to see, even if it doesn’t translate as well photographically.

We then slid down the hill carefully, and drove the 10 miles on forest roads back, I think both glad to have gotten outside and done some waterfalling. I hope this spring will allow many other opportunities like this, especially as the green returns!

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This past Saturday was a perfect waterfalling day, perfectly overcast with no rain (but with lots of recent rain). So I knew I couldn’t pass it up, and I decided to visit a fall I hadn’t in ~4 years, Dukes Creek. I hadn’t been there in a while since though it is very impressive (>200 ft), there are a lot of trees in the way, and you can’t get a good shot of it, it isn’t very photogenic. But it was time to re-explore it; off I went to north Georgia.

Dukes Creek Falls is in the National Forest, and there is a parking lot ($3), and a <1 mile nicely kept trail. Being it in January, the trail wasn’t too crowded, though a number of people were there. Even one of my Flickr contacts was there earlier in the day (great minds think alike?)! For those who don’t want to descend, there is a distant viewpoint of the falls before the ~300 ft descent (photo of that view below). I hiked down the trail, and started at the bottom, taking photos as a reason to stop on the way back up.

Now, with this fall is a bit of a nomenclature problem. The fall officially called Dukes Creek Falls (on USGS Topo) is actually on Davis Creek right before it joins Dukes Creek, as you can see it doing here. Dukes Creek Falls is very tall, but again, from the base you can’t get a great shot of it. What I don’t know, is if the creek before Davis Creek joins it is called Dukes Creek already, or is Dodd Creek. I think it is Dukes, so I am going to go with that for the remainder of this.

Both the shot of Dukes Creek Falls and the photo on the left are from the base of the trail, where there is a nice series of boardwalks. This photo is of the last drop of Dukes Creek before it joins with Davis Creek, a nice 15 ft double drop. From here, you can’t see all of Dukes Creek’s cascades before it.

From there, I started the climb back up on the trail. After an initial ascent, the trail follows along Dukes Creek above the main fall area. Around mid-way up the trail, I scampered down the hillside to the most impressive fall (~10 ft drop) during that stretch, which I think is more beautiful than either of the falls at the base. (I wouldn’t recommend this scamper unless you are used to off-trail hiking.)

As I made it up to the top of the trail, I stopped and took a photo at the viewpoint for the fall, which is not a bad setting, though you can only see the upper half of the fall. (It looked cool with the fog today, at least.)

After I finished the trail, I went exploring (as was described in Anthony’s site above) the top of the falls you see in the photo on the right. You drive on a forest road beside the parking lot for Raven Cliff Trail. After making it to the pull-off, it’s a short unmarked but easy-to-follow trail to the top of Dukes Creek Falls. Right above the main fall is a very nice 30 ft fan with a great pool in front of it, seen below. Across the impressive open valley also you see Dukes Creek itself cascading down 200 ft to meet up with Davis Creek, more impressive than you can tell from the other side.

I definitely need to go back in spring (or autumn) to try to capture this open area’s beauty on top of the falls. I know that there are falls also on Davis Creek further above Dukes Creek Falls, but given I needed to get home, they will wait until next time visiting there. Definitely an enjoyable day, really getting me enjoying winter waterfalling!

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