Nantahala Forest

Picture of veil After visiting Six Flags near Atlanta, and spending one morning in Chattanooga at the Tennessee Aquarium, we drove into the region of North Carolina known as "Waterfall Country". There are several hundred in the area covered by a handful of counties, but here we present our favorites (of those we visited). Starting with this one right here. This is one of those waterfalls that is right next to the road, so you know if you're even a slightly experienced waterfall hunter, that it loses serious points from the start. Waterfalls are best experienced in solitude, preferably after a decent hike, even more preferably after a decent hike along an unmarked or non-existent trail. But enough philosophizing, this here is Dry Falls, which as you can see, isn't. Not only is it right next to the road but the semi-paved walk to the falls is under construction, so this is the best picture we could manage.
Picture of whitewater Our next stop was quite a distance away. We wanted to make sure to see this one with plenty of daylight left. This is Whitewater Falls, and unlike Dry Falls it lives up to its name. There is plenty of water, it is white, and there is more than one fall, so it actually deserves the plural form 'falls'. In light of this, we suggest renaming Dry Falls to Wet Fall. So anyway, this series of cascades is a good distance away in this picture but that's really the only way to get it all in one shot. Incidentally, this is also one of the highest falls in the eastern US, if you give them benefit of the doubt and let them measure the total drop. It's also a decent (but paved) hike.
Picture of drift Now we move on to Horsepasture Creek. One of the loveliest creeks anywhere. Not only does it have more waterfalls than we can possibly include here, it also includes kayakable class IV-V rapids. The downside, which is also the upside, is that it's fairly difficult to get to. There aren't really any official paths to it (that we know of), but if you can avoid the unfriendly property owners, it's highly scenic. This is Drift Falls, once known as one of the finest swimming holes anywhere. Not just that, all 70 feet (21 m) of it is swimmable. Or rather, slideable. If you've got a fair bit of courage and dexterity anyway. Alas, these days it is cordoned off by the local officials, who were apparently tired of having to rescue people who have courage but not dexterity.
Picture of turtleback Now we feature Turtleback Falls, which isn't nearly as high as Drift Falls, but as you can see, still swimmable for the intrepid. We don't know who this is, but he provides a nice sense of scale. Furthermore we should point out that (a) the water was very very cold, and (b) his dog refused to go over the falls with him.
Picture of pasture Now we feature the next waterfall down from Turtleback Falls along Horsepasture Creek, which we probably do not need to point out is not even remotely swimmable. Furthermore, David is not providing a very good sense of scale here either. This falls may or may not have a name, as you can see from the picture, there is a railing of sorts at this overlook, but there isn't much of a trail to get to the railing. This is as far as we wandered down Horsepasture Creek as it was getting dark and we weren't entirely sure how to get back to the car which we had just sort of abandoned alongside a road anyway, and which still didn't have a license plate (that's another story). We did find the car, and we found a hotel and we had a lovely dinner of Burger King (it was the only thing still open) while we watched news crews file reports on the local FBI manhunt from the parking lot of the hotel.
Picture of nantahala The next day we rented ourselves a 2-person raft and set off down the relatively minor whitewater of the Nantahala River. The most challenging rapid on this section of the Nantahala is the Lesser Wesser Falls shown here (unless you miss the take-out and go over Greater Wesser Falls a few hundred yards downstream). Also called Nantahala Falls, it's not really much of a falls, it more of a nice little class III rapid with a nearby viewing area where you can throw tow-ropes to all of the paddlers who fail to complete it inside their boats. There is a separate page related to this specifically on Nantahala Falls. We note for the record that we had no problem with this rapid.

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