The last time I went to Catawba Falls, outside of Old Fort, was in the middle of the drought in 2007. The falls were nice but the water level was pitiful. But since I have to write an article for Mountain Xpress, I revisited the falls yesterday. What a difference.
The picture on the left are of the falls yesterday with plenty of water. Below, on the right, is a picture of the falls two years ago in the middle of the drought.
This water, now in Pisgah National Forest, supplied the electric power for the town of Old Fort.
In the early 1900s, Colonel Daniel W. Adams, a pioneer in the
development of hydroelectric power, bought thousands of acres of land
in the Old Fort area, including the Falls. In the 1920s, he built the
dams you’ll pass on the hike, which created electricity for the town of
Old Fort. In 1928 he sold the power plant to a small power company.
Eventually Duke Power Company took it over and closed the Catawba
The access was private for decades, though hikers came through anyway. Now it’s been reopened.
Right now, the water level is high and we had to shimmy a bit to get across the stream. We’re in hunting season, hence the orange.
The upper falls are also impressive – see below – but very challenging to get to. The path to the upper falls is not officially maintained. Most people walk the one mile to the lower falls and return the same way.
What you do not want to do is climb the falls themselves. Stick to the path.