A Force of Nature
By Judy Garrison
Nature’s most awe-inspiring calling card is her waterfall. Not only a destination for adventure seekers but also a respite for those in search of solitude and peace. For many of these cascading waters, it requires a strenuous hike through the woods; for others, it is simply a glance or a boat ride toward the inevitable soundtrack that becomes her beacon.
For the ardent explorer or thrill seeker, reaching a secluded treasure becomes an experience in endurance and perseverance, of tackling nature and conquering her menagerie of obstacles. Others tend to avoid the obstacles yet seek the rushing rapids or gentle waters that require little effort but great reward.
To many, standing at the pinnacle or at the pool of a waterfall is a profound experience. The sounds of rushing waters or trickling streams are audible even before you catch sight of the waters; she is speaking as only a powerful creation of nature can. Most can’t explain it, but standing in silence, you listen to the language of nature and allow it to change you.
Many of these sites are heavily trafficked while others are rarely crowed. Consider what time you plan to reach the waterfall. During the week will tend to be less crowded while weekends will have you requiring patience to get that perfect view. If you don’t have the opportunity to camp near the waterfall, research the perfect time for the perfect light and let this control your timeline.
Different seasons change the character of a waterfall. The colors of fall elevate the entire setting while snow and ice in winter tell a different story. Low rainfall or a dry spell will reduce a waterfall’s drop to a trickle while a few days of heavy rain will turn the same waterfall into a torrent that little resembles what was there days before. The spring frames the water with rhododendron and other florals that are indigenous to the area.
The Blue Ridge Mountains serves as the backdrop and foundation for more than 100 hundred waterfalls located through the upstate region of South Carolina. From a thunderous cataract to a gentle tide, these natural wonders draw thousands of visitors each year. And for those lucky enough to live nearby, it’s a weekly intake for exercise or meditation.
Caesars Head State Park
8155 Geer Highway, Cleveland, SC
The mac-daddy of all South Carolina waterfalls is Raven Cliff Falls. Naturally designed for the more adventurous soul, Raven Cliff requires a four-mile round trip. Located in Caesars Head State Park, the trail is open year-round. The 420-foot drop makes it the most impressive while being the most challenging. The sharp drop in elevation is due to the drop of the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Piedmont region, thus explaining the reason why so many waterfalls are found in this area.
The wavey trail that leads to the falls includes few inclines and is relatively flat, making it a good trek for all levels. If an alternate view is desired, tack an additional two miles to the climb and head to the suspension bridge. A more inspiring view requires a more arduous expedition. The Raven Cliff Falls Loop, a lollipop loop wrapping below into the Matthews Creek Gorge and then moving upwards above the falls, covers over seven miles and raises the difficulty level to intense with a gain of over 2,000 feet in elevation. Since the inclines are steep, this hike isn’t recommended for dogs.
The falls gets it names from the hundreds of species of ravens that breed in the cliffs.
Long Creek, SC
Located in Oconee County within the Sumter National Forest on Brasstown Creek, the falls which bears the creek’s name, requires a 20-minute hike from the trailhead. Although short, it is rated moderate in difficulty. A series of three falls, Brasstown Falls offers a wonderful swimming hole at the base of the larger one to refresh after the trek. Overall distance is just over half-a-mile round trip. Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash
1220 Chau Ram Park Rd., Westminster, SC
Located within Chau Ram County Park in Oconee County, Chau Ram Falls drops 30 feet at Ramsey Creek. Flowing into the Chauga River, the falls can be seen from the parking area requiring no long walk. It’s a perfect excursion for all skill levels; dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.
Enjoy the waterfall and then spend time in the county park. Bring a picnic lunch and allow the sound of the falls to provide the perfect soundtrack. There are more than four miles of walking trails plus the longest suspension bridge in Oconee County.
The unique name combines the names of the two bodies of water that converge: Chauga River and Ramsey Creek.
Stumphouse MountainTunnel Park, Wahalla, SC
An impressive 200-foot drop is the beauty of Issaqueena Falls located near Stumphouse Mountain Park. The tunnel is the remains of the pursuit to link Charleston to the Midwest by rail. The Civil War halted attempts, but this unique site offers a walk through the dark and damp tunnel as well as the falls.
Various legends tell tales of an Indian maiden Issaqueena hiding beneath the falls or jumping over the falls. The only constant is the maiden’s name which was given to the falls.
Park admission is $5. With this park and falls being one of the most visited in the state, plan your visit well in advance. Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash.
Reedy River Falls
601 S. Main Street, Greenville, SC
Located in downtown Greenville, the Reedy River Falls is an unexpected treasure for those visiting this urban area.
Falls Park on the Reedy, a 32-acre park, is filled with beautiful landscaped gardens, benches, walking trails, plus the 345-foot Liberty Bridge. The bridge was built to reveal the Reedy River Falls and the Lower Reedy River Falls as well as to connect the downtown to the west side. The Park, plus the falls, have contributed to the revitalization of the downtown area becoming a gathering place for the community, visitors, and all four-legged pets.
King Creek Falls
Long Creek, SC
An easy half-mile hike will lead to King Creek Falls near Wallhalla, making it perfect for an outing with your four-legged friend.
Located on the Chatooga River, a 30-minute walk will lead to 70-foot waterfall in the Sumter National Forest.
Water Falls Road, Sunset, SC
By any other name – Reedy Cove Falls, Rock Falls or Eastatoe Falls – this beauty is still known primarily as Twin Falls Spilling over a lip of granite, the larger body of water launches 75-feet while the other branch detours to its right sliding down the rock face before rejoining its sister branch. Located on a private 25-acre preserve, visitors are always welcome; all dogs must be on a leash.
Sometimes, when snow melts from the mountains or rainfall is exceptionally heavy, Twin Falls is referred to as Triplet Falls when a third fall appears. Many argue that, although there’s no intense hike or added attractions, this is the most beautiful of all South Carolina falls.
Riley Moore Falls
Riley Moore Falls Trail, Westminster, SC
Small but mighty, the 12-foot falls located on the Chauga River offers a spectacular 45-minute, one-mile hike to the falls.
A broad 100-foot cascade stretching from one side to the other might not seem much more than a blip in the river, it still offers a breathtaking experience. Once a location of a grist mill and named in the owner’s honor, it is a popular location for hikers and waterfall enthusiasts.
5500 Geer Highway, Cleveland, SC
Located on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, portions of Wildcat Falls can be observed from the highway which allow everyone the opportunity to see its beauty. The most easily visible drops 30 feet into the pool below. However, there are three tiers fed by Wildcat Creek Branch, part of the South Saluda River.
Lower, Middle and Upper Wildcat Falls offer spectacular views. The upper falls showers an impressive 100-foot drop; due to its dangerous crest, view this section from its base.
Cedar Creek Falls
Rich Mountain Road, Mountain Rest, SC
Waters tumbling 15-feet over jagged rock edges, the Cedar Creek Falls is much like many that are small yet mighty. Barely a quarter-of-a-mile trek, the falls is situated above the Blue Hole Falls.
Be careful of the slippery rocks and dress accordingly and use a walking aid to access the base.
Burrells Ford Road, Mountain Rest, SC
Easy access to this picturesque scene, the rippled water movement makes this 50-foot waterfall a popular one. Surrounded by blooming rhododendron and rich greenery, this popular spot is an easy 20-minute, half-mile hike from the parking area.
Located in an area of the Chattooga River watershed, it’s a popular site for visitors. A primitive campsite is available at Burrells Ford Campground allowing visitors to plan the perfect part of the day to visit when the light bounces off the rocks and water.
Laurel Fork Falls
It’s an 80-foot drop that will leave you breathless. Literally.
Taking the Foothills Trail with take in excess of five hours on the 8.4-mile trek to reach the waterfall.
Instead, take a boat ride on Lake Jocassee in Devil’s Fork State Park just off the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. From the lake, discover two views that offer an amazing frontal view and a stunning profile that require little-to-no-sweat. Jocassee Lake Tours offers seasonal, year-round tours at an affordable price.