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Flood Warning Waterfalling

(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!

Blue Ridge Waterfalling

Wow! It’s been forever since I’ve done a blog post. I just received a notice from WordPress that our blog had 1300 views in the past year–which surprised me, but also made me feel guilty about not updating in 6 months. What’s been going on? I’ve been waterfalling (as I think Scott has some), but it mostly hasn’t been in the Southeast US (low water levels lead to not as good waterfalling), so I didn’t post it here. In the summer, I visited the upper Sierrra Nevada and Lake Tahoe region, seeing around 10 waterfalls; and in autumn I visited New Hampshire and Vermont, seeing 20 waterfalls. But there was one more trip this past year that would qualify for this blog, so I figured I’d start off the new year right, with a post!

Since it’ll soon enough be waterfalling season here in the southeast, be ready for more posts soon (as well as like last year, updates on conditions during spring). If you have any other ideas to improve the blog, let me know!

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I hadn’t done any waterfalling with Scott (the co-author of this blog) for months, so we took off for Labor Day weekend in September up to North Carolina, mostly along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a wonderful weather weekend, comfortable temperatures and sun, but that didn’t make for a good of waterfall shots…

The first stop was the Rainbow FallsHorsepasture River on our way up to the Blue Ridge. The Horsepasture is an amazing wild river (which undoubtedly deserves its own post in the future) with multiple waterfalls, but this time we only visited Rainbow Falls. Rainbow is one of my favorite NC waterfalls, with its amazing wild setting, being able to access it, and being a powerful 125 ft waterfall. Also the first time I visited it was in autumn of 2007, when I had the fall all to myself, with a radiant foliage display. This time wasn’t quite as breath-taking, but it’s still an amazing fall. Since I visited it then, access to it has changed, now accessed from the new Gorges State Park. A good description of access is on Waterfall Rich’s site. The new trail to Rainbow is easy enough (3 miles round-trip); and after sunset, we came across a black bear on the trail on the way back to the car (though no photos of it). We spent a while photographing Rainbow Falls from multiple angles, but this was the photo I liked the best.

Crabtree FallsThe next morning we started off on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the fall we visited was one I’ve wanted to see for a while, Crabtree Falls. It’s a popular stop on the Blue Ridge, with its own recreation and camping area. As Rich describes, it’s a 2 mile loop to the waterfall, descending on the way to it–so climbing back up. I really loved this waterfall–it definitely did not disappoint in seeing it. It’s an amazingly photogenic waterfall, with the curtain of water over many steps, and a nice setting. However, as you can see in my photo, there was a lot of sun, and with the partial tree cover, it made a good shot impossible. I definitely need to return when there are better photo conditions.

Our next stop on the Parkway was Linville Falls. It is also a signed stop off the Parkway, with a visitor center, and was INCREDIBLY crowded. I guess that’s what we get for going on a holiday weekend! 🙂Upper Linville Falls I had been here before, and like then, I went away not too impressed. It’s not that it’s bad, but for being as famous and popular as it is, I guess I expected more. I’m sure that on a different day, not fighting crowds on the trails, that I might feel differently. The first stop was Upper Linville Falls, a few feet double drop, which I liked better for the setting than the fall itself. We continued Linville Fallswith the crowds along the path to the view of the main fall, but I didn’t get anything that appealing from the viewpoint. The better view was from another trail (without a sign denoting the trail) that starts from the visitor center, runs along the other side of the gorge, and descends to the base of the fall. There you can climb around on the rocks below the fall, and there were many different angles for photography. It was much more enjoyable an experience there than above. As you can see from the photo, there was a lot of sun while we were there, but with my 8x neutral density filter (and a polarizer), I could manage a long exposure to get a decent shot.

We finished off our full day along the Blue Ridge with a stop at Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. We also hiked a very pleasant trail over to Mount Craig, the second highest point. There were no waterfalls there :), just beautiful views of the southern Appalachians: Mount Craig

The next morning we first visited Graveyard Fields area off the Parkway, a high-altitude flat valley. It’s very popular for hiking, but being early in the morning, we didn’t have too much of a problem with crowds. There are 3 major waterfalls there, but given low water levels, we only visited one, Second Falls. It’s a short (1/3 mile) hike down to Second Falls from the parking lot (so we figured even with low water levels it would be worth it–I’m very glad we did). The falls is on Yellowstone Prong, and given the rock color, I can see how it got its name… Though we had to deal with lots of sun, I was actually pleased with how the photo turned out, the sun allowing me to bring out the vivid colors.
Second Falls

Then as we left the Parkway to head back toward Atlanta, we drove down Highway 215 and stopped by one last waterfall, Courthouse Falls. I think it ended up being my favorite of the trip. It goes to show that it isn’t the tallest or most powerful, but the overall presentation that really appeals to me with many waterfalls. It took just 5-10 minutes to hike to it, but we had it all to ourselves, and it was in a nice rock amphitheater. It was hidden from the sun, so I could finally get a waterfall photograph that I really liked from the trip–it only took until the last one! But now I have an idea of some places to re-visit with better waterfalling conditions (and it was great to get out and do some hiking).
Courthouse Falls

I know this isn’t in the Southeast, but I thought I’d do a blog entry from a trip from last month. See, in the Southeast, we’ve moved into summer, so it’s getting so hot that the hike to waterfalls becomes less appealing (though swimming in them is appealing). Therefore, waterfalling trips are becoming less, and and it’s time to remember the spring…

Last month I Clifty Creek went to Indiana and Ohio for a weekend, for a friend’s wedding and Mother’s day, respectively. On the way, I stopped by Clifty Creek State Park, in Indiana. It’s a beautiful park, with 4 impressive falls (well, impressive in spring). There are views of the falls (partially obstructed) from above, but the best views are in the creek itself. Big Clifty Falls I creek-walked (above) to Big Clifty Falls, the most impressive of the falls. The park restricts access to the base of all the falls, so this was the closest I could get. It’s a very impressive 60 ft curtain fall. I also tried to visit Little Clifty Falls, which were only a dribble, so I didn’t take out the camera. The remaining two falls both looked good from above, but I ran out of time to creek-walk to them.

The falls in this park are impressive to see before they dry up in summer…but to be honest–though I know that they have to have restrictions–not being able to truly access the falls really frustrated me, and minimized my enjoyment of the park.

The following evening (after the wedding and Mother’s day dinner), I Lower Fallsvisited the Hocking Hills of Southeastern Ohio. Hocking Hills State Park has multiple units to it, and one of those is Old Man’s Cave, a mile-long gorge where reportedly a 19th-century hermit lived for years. A creek flows through the gorge, with two waterfalls, which were my first destination. I visited late in the evening, before sunset, which avoided sun on the falls, and less people visiting. After walking through the cave, I first visited Lower Falls (above), Upper Fallswhich drops into a nice pool. There was a branch right on the falls that wasn’t present last time I was there years ago, but I wasn’t about to fix it…

Next I walked the 1/2 mile to the other end of the gorge, to Upper Falls (on left). It’s a smaller fall (both in height and flow), but the setting is very pretty, again with nicely-colored pool, and nice rock walls around it.

My final visit before it got too dark for the night was 50 foot Cedar Falls, the most impressive and most popular fall in the Hocking Hills. Again though, Beaversince it was late in the evening, I luckily had it mostly alone. In fact, walking up to it, I disturbed this beaver, trying to find sticks for a dam just feet from the fall. It is a beautiful waterfall, and the placid water was wonderful for reflections of the fall, which is where I focused most of my time before it became too dark. I think this shows off how waterfalls don’t have to be 1000s of feet tall or very powerful to be great views to behold–not seemingly known by waterfall lists of the “best waterfalls” in the world, listing only falls >1000 ft. These delicate falls can be wonderful, too (and easier to see up close).
Cedar Falls

Issaqueena Falls

Weekend before last, Doug and myself headed up for a quick morning 2 hour drive to South Carolina and a visit to Issaqueena Falls. The idea was to hit a couple of the falls in the general area but the weather–and the amount of time and focus we put on Issaqueena–prevented us from exploring more. This was Doug’s second trip to the falls but my first to this one and to any in the northwestern part of South Carolina (note: almost all the falls in the start are located in just 3 counties – Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville).

Issaqueena FallsOur day for shooting was suspect as we hit a few rain showers on the way up. Of course, this usually can make for incredible waterfall shooting weather, and this day would work to our advantage. We arrived just after 10am and found a parking spot. Because of the falls’ close proximity of about 200 feet from the parking area, there were plenty of curious observers to check out Issaqueena Falls. Though there were people all around up top, not very many were adventurous enough (like Doug and myself) to climb down to the base. Of course those unlucky folks didn’t know what they were missing. The view from the base is fantastic and we had it all to ourselves (mostly).

While Doug started shooting from the left side I scrambled over and took some shots from the front and just below the main splash pool. It is always funny , when thinking about afterward, how differently we approach shooting from certain angles when we first arrive at a fall. I almost always hit a spot with cascades in front of the falls to capture some foreground in my shots. Doug seems to like hitting the falls from vantage points at one side or the other. In both our cases we really, I think, cover about every angle when we end up hiking and shooting falls together.

Lower Issaqueena Falls

After covering every shot possible of the main falls we headed down to get a few shots of the lower sections of Issaqueena. To our satisfaction there were two really great ledges that created some good shooting scenes. It was certainly worth the little extra effort getting down to the lower falls so if you ever check out this place do continue down for a little time at the lower falls. Thankfully, as our day went, our timing was perfect. Once we finished shooting the lower falls a bunch of people started to make their ways down to the main and lower falls. We can’t have people in our waterfall pics 🙂

At this point we headed back up to the car and drove a couple of hundred feet and parked again to explore the Stumphouse Tunnel. This time we had to deal with people in our exploration but then it also set up for a couple of neat shots while in the tunnel.  Doug was able to get his settings right and snap off a few cool shots (I’ve since deleted all my shots from the tunnel as nothing came out for me at all). Just after leaving the tunnel we headed over to an old rail car parked just outside the tunnel entrance and I did a little wide angle shooting of the trains wheels. Not soon after the heavens opened and we bolted for the car. The rain cut our trip short, but as short as it was I think we were both satisfied with the shots we were able to get.

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…

Kentucky Waterfalling

In the beginning of May, I went up to Indiana for a friend’s wedding, so I thought I’d use the opportunity to stop by some of Kentucky’s most famous waterfalls along the way.

My first stop was Big South Forkin the Big South Fork National Recreation Area, a beautiful area with gorges and viewpoints like this here of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. In the recreation area, I stopped by Yahoo Falls, possibly the Yahoo Falls Basehighest waterfall in Kentucky, at 110 ft, though it reduces to a trickle in the summer. Yahoo Falls It wasn’t flowing very much when I visited, since there hadn’t been much recent rain. It was a 1/2 mile trail to it, and you can walk to the base and behind it. It is a nice wide-open location, though the fall itself wasn’t too impressive.

My next stop was Cumberland Falls State Park, visiting the falls often called the “Niagara Falls of the South,” Cumberland Falls–though I say comparing it is just embarrassing, and it would be better just to enjoy on its own without the contrast to what it isn’t. Despite the problematic comparison, it is a impressive fall, very powerful. The fall is very easily visible from multiple crowded viewpoints that the State Park provides. Though the fall is very cool to see, Cumberland Fallsit wasn’t as interesting to me photographically. I was a few days off from what Cumberland Falls is most famous for photographically, a moonbow. According to the park, the only other fall with a predictable moonbow is Victoria Falls in Africa. Perhaps someday (or night, I guess) I need to plan a visit to capture it.

I had visited the tallest waterfall in Kentucky, and had visited the largest (by volume) waterfall in Kentucky, but the last fall I visited was my favorite. Eagle Falls is also in Cumberland Falls State Park, 1/2 mile from the main visitor center. It is a 1+ mile hike to the fall along a medium-challenge trail, which drops on a tributary right before it pours into the Cumberland River. I loved the setting of this fall, with the beautiful blue-colored pool below it. It struck me how amazing this setting was that I enjoyed all by myself, as opposed to the crowds who were visiting Cumberland Falls just across the river. It’s interesting how people will visit where they’re told to stop by signage, etc, and not explore further on their own to find hidden jewels. I guess that leaves the jewels for those of us willing to explore… Eagle Falls

Virgin Falls

One of the highlights of the trip to Tennessee last month was the 8 mile hike (round trip) to Virgin Falls Natural Area. It was a great hike (though long), over 9 miles with over 2000 ft elevation gain (per my hand-held GPS)… but it was totally worth it, as Virgin Falls is one of my favorite falls to ever visit. Scott and I did this trip with our friend Joe who was visiting Tennessee with his family.

The hike starts Laurel Pooleasily enough, then you descend to the first fall, Big Branch Fall, which due to low water level, was not impressive when we visited. Not only that, but also sun made such that none of us even took out our camera. Then the trail descends to the Big Laurel Creek, which you follow past many nice cascades and even a few pools, Big Laurel Fallsone of which had colors I really loved (photo above–looks better viewed large). From there, you continue along the creek to Big Laurel Falls, which are likely more impressive with more flow than when we visited. It also was partially in sun, so we didn’t get great shots of it, this one of the base being my favorite of my shots of it. The most cool thing about this fall is behind it was a large cave, into which the water from the fall flowed, and disappeared into the cave. It’s illegal here to go into the caves themselves, so we didn’t.

Next two falls Sheep Cave Falls along the trail are those of Sheep Cave Falls and Lower Sheep Cave Falls. This is Joe’s shot of Sheep Cave Falls. Though we saw it, none of us got photos of Lower Sheep Cave Falls, which had partial sun on it, killing all opportunity. The water comes out of a cave before going over Sheep Falls, then goes into a sinkhole under Lower Sheep Cave Falls, like Virgin Falls (below).

The finally, you arrive at the main event, the very impressive Virgin Falls. Virgin Falls Scale It is 100+ ft tall, Like a Virginroaring down a rock wall in front of you (see Joe standing beside it for scale–and he’s closer to the camera, so looks bigger than he is compared to it). It was amazing to see, though the sun that was nearby limited our composition opportunities. But it was so impressive to see in person, I don’t think anyone came away complaining (not even Alicia, though she was sore and tired). 🙂

One of the most interesting aspects of Virgin Falls is that the water comes out of a cave right above the fall, then disappears into a sinkhole right below the fall, so there isn’t a creek above ground that you can follow–it seems to arise out of nowhere. Scott and I hiked up to the top of the fall, where I captured this photo of him sitting at the crest of the fall. Shooting on Virgin

We also walked around and were able to stand right in front of the cave that provides the source for Virgin Falls (see photo below), watching the placid water come out of the cave, the water not knowing the massive drop it’s about to experience. From there, it was a tiring 4+ miles back Virgin Falls Cavemostly uphill, but seeing Virgin Falls made it all worthwhile (at least for me). 🙂

We saw a lot of very cool things during the weekend in Tennessee (more of which we still have to tell), but this was number one on my list.

Scott’s Take:
Yeah, I’m a slacker… this post has been up for a week and I’m just getting to posting something. Well, guess what? I don’t have much to add. Doug described this really fantastic waterfall great, so nothing really that inspiring to add. If you ever have the chance, and enjoy a little hike through the woods this waterfall is a must see.