Falling Water Branch Falls

Falling Water Branch Falls

Nikon D800, Nikon 17-35mm lens at 17mm, f/10, 0.4 second, ISO 100, polarizing filter.

Beauty Rating:
5
Accessibility:
Trail and bushwhack
River:
Falling Water Branch
River Basin:
French Broad
Watershed:
Very small
Elevation:
3,480 feet
Type and Height:
Very steep sliding cascade with a main portion about 30 feet high
Landowner:
Mount Mitchell State Park (See Overview section)
County:
Yancey
USGS Map:
Mount Mitchell
Hike Distance:
Approximately 0.5 mile
Hike Difficulty:
5-8
Photo Rating:
6
Compass:
70°
Canopy:
Closed
Waterfall GPS:
Trailhead GPS:
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Driving Directions

From US 19E in Burnsville, get on NC 197 heading south and set your odometer to 0. In the community of Murchison, NC 197 turns right and crosses Cane River. Do not turn right. Continue straight on what is now Ewart Wilson Road. At 12.1 miles from US 19E, you’ll reach an old gated road on the left. (A short distance farther down the road is a swinging bridge over Cane River that looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.) Park at the gate.

(As of this writing, this property is not yet part of the state park. See the Overview section for more info.)

Hike Description

As of this writing, the property is not yet part of the state park and you cannot visit the falls legally. I will update this listing as soon as the land transfer occurs. Until then, please use this writeup for informational purposes only. See the Overview section for more info.

I have not measured trail distances, so everything is just a ballpark estimate. The dirt road leads beyond the gate, passes through an old homesite, and parallels Ewart Wilson Road for a short distance before turning away and following Falling Water Branch upstream. In about 0.3 mile, the road crosses the branch and follows upstream on the river-left side. You’ll soon come to another old road cutting sharply to the right. Continue heading upstream and in a short distance you’ll come to another crossing.

The waterfall is several hundred feet upstream from this crossing. The forest is open and it’s relatively easy to bushwhack up to the falls. That’s how I went, but I believe you could access the falls easier by staying on the old road, which swings away from the creek at this point. I suspect it goes to a switchback and comes back around on a parallel course of the creek and leads to a point very close to the falls where only a short climb down the bank would be required. However, I did not investigate this option, so you’re on your own if you try it.

Overview

Mount Mitchell State Park turned 100 years old in 2016. It couldn’t have received a better birthday present than to double in size. The Conservation Fund announced in 2016 that it was acquiring two tracts of land totaling over 2,700 acres on the western slopes of the Black Range and would transfer the property to the state park.

On one of the new tracts is Cattail Peak along the crest of the Black Mountains. At 6,584 feet (only 100 feet lower than Mount Mitchell), it is the highest privately owned mountain in the East.

The new land also includes nearly the entire watershed of Falling Water Branch. The small stream tumbles through a scenic and mostly open forest that provides excellent wildflower habitat. Falling Water Branch Falls is the highlight of the forest and is sure to become a popular destination for waterfallers.

As I write this on February 11, 2017, the new property has not been transferred to the state park. I’m not even certain if The Conservation Fund has yet acquired all of the property. So, I’m afraid you can’t legally visit the waterfall yet. From everything I’ve learned, it is virtually certain that the transfer will take place soon, so I am comfortable providing the information here. As soon as the land becomes part of the state park, I will update this listing. Until then, I discourage you from visiting the falls.

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