Living Waters – One of The BRP’s Best Kept Secrets

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It is a sunny hot Sunday in the NC mountains.  My girlfriend and I have come today to see some waterfalls, relax  and maybe cool off a little. Dupont was out as i learned in the past not to go there on a summer weekend unless you love crowded trails and no place to park. I knew there were many waterfalls and places to go, taking US 276 from Brevard north towards the Parkway. First stop would be Looking Glass Falls, always a favorite. Not on this day as every piece of roadside within 1/4 mile was taken. The popularity and accessibility of this waterfall attracts tons of people, so while I was disappointed, I was hardly surprised. Next stop was Moore Cove Falls, again not a parking space to be found. I made it to the parkway and headed south. A spot I had mapped out was Skinny Dip Falls. This is one i have not seen or been to yet and was eager to make this short hike today. The trailhead leads into the forest across the road from Looking Glass Rock Overlook. On this day there was also no place to park, no place for anyone that wanted to see the Falls or the advertised attraction..the famous Looking Glass Rock. What was going on? A little further south, the famous Graveyard Fields, with a few nice waterfalls. This place was so packed, cars were parked all along every inch of concrete, as well as any grassy area near the parking lot. I was beginning to think this was not going to happen today. Luckily, I still had one Ace in my hand. At the NC 215 exit, I knew there were some falls south about 9 miles down the mountain. A location along the north fork of the French Broad River known as Living Waters. Living Waters is a christian retreat center that hosts retreats as well as several different children’s camps. They just happen to own a stretch of the North Fork of the French Broad River that is home to a number of beautiful waterfalls that are pretty close to one another. Wow, upon arrival, I couldn’t help but notice only 3 cars here. We were either blessed, or maybe we had just uncovered one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s best kept Waterfall secrets. We pulled over and prepared to enjoy but….. One thing everyone should notice here is…

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Yes, this is private property. However the folks at Living Waters allow visitors, but ask that they park along the road and not inside their retreat center. People should also be very respectful of the retreat center and river here and not abuse the generosity of the Living Waters. A small group of idiot kids were at the bottom waterfall all drinking Coronas. Certainly, they would not want to see beer bottles laying around while out on a morning walk with guests or during a camp session. The permission we have to visit this place could be revoked at any time with activity like that going on.

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As you make your way down the short walk from the road to the river, the first scene is breath taking. There is a very picturesque confluence of the North Fork French Broad River and Shoal Creek. They both pour over 20 foot ledges to form a very large pool and a gorgeous setting. There are some old, well maintained log buildings on top of Shoal Creek making this waterfall seem like something from a magazine or painting. The Waterfalls here are French Broad Falls, and Shoal Creek Falls. Both are beautiful. Getting them both in one photo is a challenge. I found a spot on the right side of the river that gives a nice side view. I also found a spot in the middle of the river for a head on view. You will have to get wet on this one but it sure felt good yesterday.

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The shots above are French Broad Falls, below are a few of Shoal Creek Falls

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After taking in all of this, one must take a walk down the 1/4 trail built and maintained by Living Waters. It leads down the river, to a waterfall named Cathedral Falls, formerly Bird Rock Falls. You will pass 2 other very nice unnamed waterfalls along this route. There is a staircase that leads to the top of Cathedral Falls and one to the bottom. This is a powerful 25 foot waterfall where all the water rushes over a narrow rock down into a gorge with a 150 foot high cliff above it. There is a big swimming/fishing hole as the water pools under the wall in an almost cave like fashion. This is a very beautiful place but a difficult waterfall to photograph I am learning.

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After this it is time to head back up trail, take one last dip at the two falls pool, then head on. This is a beautiful place, I am thankful to the kind people of Living Waters to allow us to enjoy it.

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