I write this short dialogue of my recent visit to Cullasaja Falls on this day….a day in which all the folks in Florida will certainly never forget. Hurricane Irma is crashing the west coast of south Florida. I have checked in with relatives in the Vero Beach area. They chose not to evacuate. My prayers are with them. Hopefully their hurricane experience has led them to adequate preparation to ride the storm out. If everything goes well….what a story they will have to tell. The outlook is not as bleak as it was a few days ago when a closer landfall near Miami was expected and the eye wall would have been closer. While I wait, I will share a recent visit to Cullasaja Falls in North Carolina which is located about halfway between Franklin, NC and Highlands, NC along US 64.I had been in Franklin, NC for a ceremony for the release of the latest title by Marci Spencer: “Nantahala National Forest A History”. On the way home, I decided to stop on US 64 and see how the 200 foot giant Cullasaja Falls was. This can be accessed via a small pullout along US 64 on the river side of the highway. It is in the middle of a sharp curve of a very busy highway that is already narrow as it is cut right into the Cullasaja Gorge where space is not at premium levels. If driving west, do not attempt to pull into the parking area here, keep driving a little ways where it is safe to turn around and come in from the west driving east. The space seems to have been improved a little, looks like maybe 3 cars can now fit here, but that would be about it. The view from the road has always been good enough for most people, including myself. Here is a view from a few years back along the highway.This is an incredible 200 ft waterfall, the last of a run of waterfalls along a 9 mile stretch of the Cullasaja River, and the grandest. They saved the best for last, although some would argue….even myself at times that Dry Falls, about 5 miles upstream is just as nice. Notice in the photo above, that the trees are growing up and taking over the waterfall from the bottom here.Here is a shot from early in spring , just before the trees started filling in, giving a better picture what this beauty looks like. It’s too bad the sun was very bright on this day and not a better day for photos. Anyway, I show these as reference because on my visit in late August 2017, the trees have now grown over and consumed the entire drop at the bottom, which just happens to be the best part. I knew there was a path to the bottom, as my younger brother and I took this down once in 1996 while taking the scenic route home from some Atlanta Braves games. I grabbed my gear and took the path that leads straight down from the parking area. It was just as steep and slippery as I remember it being, but it was very short and I was down at the river level, quickly. The view wasn’t exactly the best, though, as a large mass of dirt and rock blocks a good portion. After seeing this, and being less than satisfied, I decided to work my way upstream, river right side, or my left side. This required a little bit of boulder hopping, some serious poison ivy dodging, and then climbing up a path to an outstanding view of the bottom of Cullasaja Falls. The view was amazing in person, with the very high rock walls of the Cullasaja Gorge to my left. Once done, I was already halfway back up and could see the path I was on continuing to go up. I had a sense that this would lead out of the gorge safely so up I went. In about 2 minutes I was roadside again, a couple of hundred feet up the highway from the parking area. This way was so much easier than they way I went down. It will be my way into the gorge and out for future ventures. Here’s hoping that the state or National Forest Service comes along and trims the trees to improve the view. Until they do, visit when the leaves are off, or be ready to go into the gorge.
Here is a short video from my YouTube channel of the falls: