Headwaters State Forest in North Carolina

There’s not much information on this area yet, mostly because it’s not open to the public and the state hasn’t finished, maybe even started, on improvements, but I am lucky enough to know “The Badger”.    Mr. Thomas Mabry is a prolific hiker and waterfall enthusiast in the North Carolina forests and mountains and was kind enough to show myself and my friend, Nick Shirz,  part of the area on a recent trip.  It included three waterfalls and a drive through as yet untraveled territory by this enthusiast.

Information from www.eastforkheadwaters.com:

“Headwaters State Forest – 769 more acres

The effort to conserve the East Fork Headwaters in Transylvania County passes another milestone in 2015 with the acquisition of 769 more acres. With support from the United States Forest Legacy Program, the North Carolina State Forest Service now owns approximately 5,000 acres of the future Headwaters State Forest.

The new acquisition includes tributaries of Glady Fork and strands of white pine and mixed hardwoods. Less than 3,000 acres remain to be purchased.

NCFS Assistant Regional Forester, Michael Cheek, hopes to complete acquisition of the Headwaters tract within the next two years.

“We hope to have the land acquired, a management plan developed, and be open to the public by 2018,” Cheek says.

Protecting the headwaters of the East Fork of the French Broad River was initiated by CMLC and its landowner, former Congressman Charles Taylor, in 2009. The undeveloped property—the largest remaining contiguous private tract in western NC—is teeming with waterfalls, 25 miles of trout streams, mountain bogs hosting rare species, and more than nine miles of the venerable Foothills Trail system.

Partners utilized federal funding from the Forest Legacy program, NC’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund, philanthropists Fred & Alice Stanback, and donation of some of the land value by the Taylor family.”

I met The Badger through the Facebook group I started some years ago, in an endeavor to learn more and see more of the areas falls.  Needless to say the group has taken off, in no small part due to The Badger’s persistent participation and contributions.  That’s not to diminish the other folks participation, but I have an affinity for the The Badger’s persistence and constant posting on the site.  I also felt especially privileged when he invited me to tour this area with him.

So, The Badger, myself, and my good friend, Nick Shirz spent a good part of the day checking out three nice waterfalls in this newly partitioned area of southwestern N. Carolina, which closely borders S. Carolina.  I have to say, it was an experience I won’t soon forget and a wonderful way to spend the day.

We began by hiking to Reece Place Falls.  It was a very pleasant and easy hike on pretty much flat ground, with few obstacles and probably less than a 1/2 mile.  Reece Place is apparently named after the previous property owners, who, if I’m remembering correctly, used to farm the land at one time and sold it to the state.  This falls is about 100 feet tall by my guestimation, from the bottom splash pool to the top of the spill.  We photographed from the bottom and at about halfway up.  Here is a shot from the base.


We also climbed about halfway up the falls by way of the rocks seen in this picture.  I have to say, my old ass was a bit trepidatious trying to crawl and find handholds, while toting camera gear, to get up to the second level, but we made it and it was worth it.  I think I got the shot of the day from there and it is the one I will remember as a memento of this day.


Departing Reece Place we headed to Eastfork Falls (also referred to as Johnny Mill Shoals).  It’s pretty much right by the side of the road, but very difficult to shoot.  I think it used to be a private hunting club area, as there are still some signs, but there are also roadside parking and easy trails down to the falls.  However, next time I go, I’m getting in the water to photograph this beautiful spot.  Here’s a shot of the falls, with The Badger on his “perch” and in the process of getting his shot.  Very bright sunlight here.


Departing Johnny Mill Shoals, we proceeded to Gravely Falls.  I don’t know the story behind this place, but it’s about a half mile walk in some nice flat forest for the most part on a decent trail, but here, again, total blowout with full sunlight on the falls, so, just a basic shot for edification.


This is actually a pretty cool place and I went downstream a bit to check it out.  On the way back up, I noticed a hornet’s nest (active) right where we entered into the creek bed.  Always gotta watch out for mother nature’s surprises.  We were actually lucky we didn’t get stung.

All in all, an simply magnificent day with The Badger and Nick Shirz.  I felt privileged to be escorted by a great local waterfaller into areas that most people aren’t even aware exist and I look forward to going again.  Here we all are at the base of Reece Place.   Thanks, Badger.