The Gorge along Otter Creek
Otter Creek wends its way from deep in the forest below Roan Horsetop Mountain, to where it eventually flows into Cove Creek, a course of about four miles. As it passes below my house, it makes a sudden right turn, and heads under Otter Creek Road through double culverts placed there decades ago. Before it gets to those crushed and flattened metal pipes, it passes along a rock wall that has been carved for millenia by countless flash floods.
Sandbars form and reform as the water makes the turn…
The wall of the gorge rises thirty feet to the top of the ridge. Ancient layers of rock are made visible as the creek works its sculpting magic. Rhododendron covers most of the hillside, shielded from below zero temperatures by the moving water below.
Looking like a giant green bullfrog, this boulder tumbled down the wall eons ago, making the perfect home for mosses and leichens that want to be near the warmer water in winter. Ferns thrive just above the water line, even in the dead of winter. These mountain creeks often create their own micro climate zones, sheltering plants and critters from the harsh extremes of weather.
About a quarter mile west up the creek, another sharp bend carves a steep fifteen foot cliff. During heavy rains, the creek will rise six feet, rushing over Otter Creek Road, leaving large logs and small boulders strewn in the woods along the creek’s banks. Rushing water is a very powerful thing.