Exploring Upper Otter Creek
Just five miles north of scenic Lake Lure, North Carolina, Otter Creek flows from the slopes of Wolf Pen and Roan Horsetop Mountains eastward to join with Cove Creek. The #1 above shows the location of my house in relation to the creek. Since moving here almost five years ago, I had only hiked about a quarter mile past my property, as far as a historic cabin, indicated by #2 above. Now that the cabin has become unoccupied, it was time to go higher up the creek, searching for the headwaters of the stream.
Above, the old homestead, as seen last fall, sits at the base of Dick’s Mountain, and Otter Creek flows right to left on the other side of the house, past the pasture.
Adjacent to the house and pasture, I found this rotting walk bridge over the creek. Walking west along the water, I could hear the sound of water up ahead. Rounding a bend, I saw this waterfall on Otter Creek.
Sliding down a rock over six feet high, the water splashed into a deep pool. I can’t wait to come back after a heavy storm. The torrent will be amazing. Moving higher up along the creek, I found moss covered rocks, waiting for that next rain.
I walked another half mile up the valley, finding more green rocks, and a steep slope covered with forest moss and rhododendron. This was one of the most peaceful spots I have found in the entire valley.
At that point I decided to follow the creek back down, past the falls and the old farmhouse. On a high bluff over the creek, there was Sal and Donna’s house. From there they have a wonderful view of the entire valley.
Another 300 yards down was a sharp bend in the creek with a steep rock wall, directing the water under Otter Creek Road.
Just short of that bend is a small falls where one of many small branches drains into the main creek.
Just over Otter Creek Road, the course straightens out as it moves toward the bottom land where farm fields spread out north of the creek. Buddy found the perfect spot to look for anything that might have been swimming in the icy water.
Another 200 yards, and the creek levels out as it parallels Otter Creek Road.
Getting closer to the spot where Otter Creek exits the valley, the sun reflected off of the widening creek.
We walked back home after that, but my curiosity about what was higher up Otter Creek Road caused me to crank up the old Buick, and head west. The road was almost impassible, but moving very carefully, the car made its way higher up the rutted narrow dirt road. Four times I had to drive over small feeder creeks, but I could see Otter Creek off to the south, so I kept going. I came upon a stand of tall Virginia Pines. Their trunks were seven feet around.
Another few hundred yards revealed a large stand of White Pine. From the straight rows, it was obvious that they had been planted, most likely over fifty years ago.
Another quarter mile up the road, and I came upon a large freshly plowed field. Someone was farming along the creek, and they had been there in the past few days.
Adjacent to that field, I found the remnants of an old storage cabin. It must have held corn for the mules who plowed this field generations ago.
Working my way west another half mile, and crossing two more streams, I came upon an even larger field, with an abandoned cabin at the far western end. Just past the cabin, the road ended, so I turned around, and parked the Buick along the road. I walked across the field, accidentally chasing away a flock of Wild Turkeys. Dead corn stalks everywhere indicated that corn had grown there last summer.
The image above was made from the edge of Otter Creek, below, which flowed around the field, providing steady water for the crop. You can see my Buick in the distance.
From this point I felt it best to return to the car, and work my way back down Otter Creek Road. I had heard stories about Black Bears destroying a large corn field up the mountain, and I had a strong feeling that this was the field. Checking Google maps back at home, I found that the spring head for the creek was another quarter mile, and 250 feet higher in elevation from where I was standing. The map below shows the cornfield directly above the word “Otter” in blue, just right of the “McDowell Co.” label on the far left side.
Click on the above map to see detail of the entire valley and the mountain peaks that surround it. On the far left you can see Otter Creek where it originates on the mountain slope.
Slowly driving down the mile and a half road, I finally came to this large hillside farm field, just above the old homestead cabin I had walked past in the morning. The sun was setting, and I was thankful that the Buick survived the rough trip to Upper Otter Creek.
This short video will give you a better feeling for the waterfall, and for Otter Creek in general. If you’re wondering if there are otters in the creek, yes there are, but I’m yet to capture them with my camera. There are also beavers in the valley.