Lower Catawba Falls (Under Construction)

Hiking the two miles up the gorge to experience the Lower Catawba Falls today, I was struck by the amount of heavy equipment that is being employed to completely remake the old trail and the woods that surround it. Back hoes were lifting large boulders, Bobcats were pushing around dirt, and new metal bridges were resting in the public parking area, awaiting their move up the mountain that would remake the hiking experience.  A new pedestrian bridge over the creek has eliminated the risky crossing that usually meant wet feet, especially after a big rain. All the same, people were there, trudging up the uneven trail, knowing the dramatic reward that awaited at the other end.  

rocksEven before you get to the falls, giant boulders, brought down from the walls of the gorge, clog a side creek that runs into the main stream. 

Even with the sound of bulldozers echoing through the narrow gorge, you know that your efforts will be rewarded if you just keep climbing.  Here are a few images that I captured after climbing the steep cliff alongside the high falls. From this spot, the sound of falling water drowns out the man made competition. There is not one large falls, but a series of small rivulets cascading down a sheer rock and plant covered wall over 150 feet high. It has that “Shangri-La” paradise feeling about it.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Moss and water plants cover the rocks



catawba-falls-lowerThis is an image that I made three years ago showing the entire falls after more rain.

vann-fallsYours truly in one of his favorite spots…


6 thoughts on “Lower Catawba Falls (Under Construction)

  1. I’m curious.  How do you feel about the project to take the effort and challenge out of hiking to see the falls. 

    What if they had unlimited money and decided to put in tracks and run a small gauge railroad back and forth up the canyon?  Or a tram? 

    At what point have you degraded the experience (and the canyon itself) and made it into something other than what it was or what it should be? Isn’t the wildness and the effort really the point?  Isn’t that what makes it special?

    • I’ve thought much about this project. People have died around these falls, and monthly, someone has been seriously injured climbing on the rocks. Emergency responders have not been able to get to these people because of the rough terrain. The ongoing work will not affect the falls, but the new trail and walk bridges will make the overall experience much easier for most people, and alot safer. From what I can see, they are doing this the right way, and ultimately, the nature experience will be a good one.

  2. The government does have unlimited money. It’s called taxes. It all depends on where they choose to spend it. A part of the environment that few can experience is doomed in the long run. People will only respect and support what they are comfortable with. They will will never be comfortable with something they are not familiar with. There is no better way to accomplish this than through a personal experience. There is a fine line between experiencing something in nature, and experiencing it as a tourist attraction. However, not experiencing it at all for most people means it will never get support, funding, protection, and most other things needed to insure it’s long term preservation. Direct experience is key. Finding the balance is a challenge.Lets hope the NPS has they’re act together here.

    • This is not a public park area. Most of the gorge is private land, and only recently has the trail been secured by private funds from various conservancies and gifts. The eavesment required to allow public access to the falls is a testament to the hard work and dedication of people who want to preserve the beauty and the natural experience. As far as I know, the funds to do so are private donations from foundations and trusts. This is how it should be. The government is not a major player in this one.

      • Thanks. Good to know. That means better chances that this project will be handled responsibly.

  3. Wow…………that is a big undertaking.  Nice pictures and good to see you in your “favorite spot”. Thanks,Patsy

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