White Owl Falls is the perfect introduction to the Thompson River, in the far southwestern section of North Carolina. It is a beautiful waterfall and easy to get to. The Thompson River is probably the least known of the four main rivers that all make up Lake Jocasse in northern South Carolina, along with the Toxaway River, Horsepasture River and the Whitewater River. This land is waterfalls paradise. Some are easy to get to and some are not. White Owl Falls just happens to be one of the easy ones.
White Owl Falls lies just a couple of miles south from the intersection of US 64 and NC 281, near Sapphire, NC. It is right along NC 281. I made an error on my first visit here and ended up not seeing this waterfall. There is a parking area just north of the bridge crossing the Thompson River. I parked here, crossed the highway, walked over the guardrail and made my way to the river. There was no waterfall. I checked both sides of the bridge….no luck. I rechecked Rich Stevenson’s directions at his NC Waterfalls web site, and realized my error. Parking was not supposed to be just upstream from the bridge, but about 1/4 of a mile upstream near the Brewer Rd intersection. The Thompson River snakes it’s way north along 281 for a short ways and the waterfall was actually downstream a good ways from where I was looking for it. Let this be a lesson to all… Read the directions…lol
This is your parking area, along NC 281. Another small parking area (if heading south) is on the right side of the road that will save a few steps. Walk down the road, on the lefthand side, and cross the guard rail. There will be concrete drainage that leads to the trail. It will be marked by these:
Once you have found this location, it is maybe 1/5 of a mile down a trail that requires a little bit of scrambling, but ok for the most part. Once at the river, you will find yourself on the right side of White Owl Falls, a beautiful, but small 15 foot waterfall.
With low water, the Thompson can be easily crossed here for plenty of photo ops on both sides of the River. On your next trip to the Whitewater Falls area, or Gorges State Park, make sure and check this one out. You will only be minutes away!
Here is a a short video of White Owl Falls from my Waterfalls Hiker Youtube Channel.