Rough Creek Falls in the Cherokee National Forest

A few days ago, my Dad and I decided to visit a place we had not visited in a while. He took me there for the first time last spring and I fell in love. Why we waited so long to come back, I’m not sure.

We didn’t drive my Jeep (Dad insisted on driving this time), so we ended up parking at the end of the little road and walking to the camping area, crossing the creek, and on up to the falls. I remember going there as a kid and standing on the old concrete bridge (it has since been torn down) and looking over it and into Rough Creek. I’m not really sure why they took the bridge down. My guess is because it wore out over the decades and wasn’t safe any longer. Either that OR they wanted to try to preserve the area and keep people from driving up in there and destroying it.

Speaking of destroying… If you’re a hiker (or climber or trail runner or hunter or just a person in the woods) PLEASE PACK YOUR TRASH OUT. If you were able to carry it to your destination, I promise you can carry the trash out. Nothing infuriates me more in the woods than seeing beer bottles, cans, or other random trash lying around. No one cares if you’re drinking (edit: I don’t care if you’re drinking) but please TAKE YOUR EMPTY CONTAINERS WITH YOU.

End litter rant.

Anyway, we were able to make it from the truck to the falls in about 30 minutes. Last time we were there it wasn’t near as grown up (or summer), so the trek down the bank to the top of the falls was a little tricky. I did just fine holding onto Rhododendron limbs on the way down to brace myself. From the top of the falls we slowly made our way down the far side to the bottom of the falls. (Please use caution if you do this… it is easy to slip in pine needles. Watch for snakes and yellow jacket nests as well.)

Once we made our way down the falls I noticed a REALLY deep hole at the base of the falls. I would love to know how many hundreds (thousands?) of years it took to make that. My dad ended up getting in it and then I finally did too. On the edge I could barely touch the bottom. In the middle and up under the rock it was easily 8 feet deep. The whole layout of that falls is interesting. You’ll see at the bottom once you reach the pictures. The only thing I regret is not taking my hammocks and making the day out of it!

Overall, I love this little spot. I really debated on publishing this post because I don’t want it messed up. So please, do me a favor and if you go keep it nice and clean. ūüėä That’s all I ask. Enjoy your visit and be sure to share pics!

Notes:

**I do NOT suggest taking children here. (They will be fine at the camp ground, but I do not suggest taking them down the steep incline to the falls.)

**While 4WD isn’t a necessity to the road, it is necessary to the camping area if you don’t want to walk from the end of the road, across the creek, and to the falls. I have taken my Honda Accord to that point before (probably should not have), but my Jeep does much better because of the 4WD. I’ll attach a picture of one of the mud holes you have to drive through if you decide to drive that road instead of walk it to give you an idea of what to expect.

**Have fun & be safe! Watch your step. I saw a water snake on our visit but copperheads and timber rattlesnakes are in the area, too. If you them alone, they’ll leave you alone I promise. Remember you are in their home, they’re not in yours. Black bear and wild hogs are around this area as well I’ve never seen them in this particular area, but I have seen their sign.

(Directions at bottom of post)

Non-venomous northern water snake
Crawfish I found under a rock in the creek!
A small minnow I managed to catch. He was returned safely to the creek.
The falls at a distance. Below this are a couple more swimming holes that are bigger than the swimming hole at the base of the falls.
Side view of the falls
View of the falls from the little rocky area where I laid my stuff
The base of the falls on the same side as the bank you have to climb down
The giant hole I was talking about! (Hole isn’t really that big… just deep!)
I didn’t take any of my dogs on this trip, but I took my “nephew,” Chief ūüėČ
Huge salamander I found in the creek!
One of the mud holes on the short road to the camping area from the main road.
Top view of the falls before we crossed the creek and climbed down it
Another side view

Directions:

(For those of you who are directionally challenged like myself, you’ll appreciate these detailed directions…For those of you that are not directionally challenged like me, sorry for the excessive details. I am a very detailed person. :S)

From McDonald’s in Blue Ridge:

  • You will take GA-5 North (Blue Ridge Drive). Travel approximately 10 miles on this road until you arrive at a 4-way stop (Hometown IGA Grocery will be straight ahead of you.)
  • Take a left onto Toccoa Avenue/Ocoee Street (the name changes as you cross the state line at the 4-way stop–HWY 68)
  • Stay on HWY 68 for 3 miles and then you will use the right lane to take US-64/US-74 ramp, turn left onto HWY 64
  • You will stay on this road for approximately 7 miles. Around mile 6 you will see the Whitewater Center on your left. Continue passed it and take the second left toward Thunder Rock Campground (about 1 & 1/2 miles passed the Whitewater Center. There will be a sign for Thunder Rock Campground showing you where to turn.)
  • You will cross the bridge and pass the Ocoee # 3 Powerhouse. The road will split once you have passed the powerhouse. You will stay to the left (if you take the right you will end up at the campground.) There will be a sign with arrows pointing toward Sylco Campground and Tumbling Creek Campground, which is the direction you need to go.
  • You will stay on this road for 2.7 miles. When the road splits, you will take a left toward Tumbling Creek (7 miles)/Copperhill (14 miles).
  • After traveling approximately 1.5 miles there will be a road on your right. (There will be a small brown post with the #22 printed on it. If you see this post, you’re in the right spot.
  • If you have 4WD you can continue on out this road. Around 1/2 mile the road will end at the creek and you will see a camping spot on your left. If you do not have 4WD or would prefer to walk a little further, park at the end of this road. Just be sure you pull off to the side and don’t block the road. There is plenty of room to make sure your vehicle is out of the way.
  • Once you have arrived at the camping spot/dead end where the creek is you will have to cross the creek and continue on that road for about 1/2 mile to the falls. You will hear the falls, so it would be difficult to pass it by. You will have to climb down the bank to the falls. It is STEEP. Nothing that isn’t manageable, but I would not suggest attempting this with young children. The bank is a bit grown up as well, so watch your step. (Snakes and yellow jackets are out and about. Just use caution. Don’t step somewhere that you cannot see what you’re stepping on or in.) Have fun and be safe! I would love to see your pics if you visit! ūüôā
  • **If you have time, be sure to check out the Ocoee Whitewater Center! There is a small gift shop as well as several hiking trails. The Rhododendron Trail is the shortest and easiest. It begins at the bridge below the Whitewater Center. It is 1.25 miles to the end (ends at the #3 powerhouse you drove passed on your way to the falls) for a round trip total of 2.5 miles. The Old Copper Road Trail travels up the Ocoee. It is a bit longer and ends about 3 miles up the river at the #2 powerhouse. Bear Paw Loop Trail is just across the bridge at the Whitewater Center and to your left. It travels up Chesnut Mountain and loops around and back (approx. 2.5 miles). I’ll eventually make a blog post for each of these trails and come back here and hyperlink them. If you have questions, let me know!**

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    Better late than never, right?

    So, as you can see, I never got the chance to post any pictures while we were in Arkansas. ¬†We were pretty much on-the-go 90% of the time, the other 10% we were sleeping. ¬†We traveled just under 2000 miles in 6 days. ¬†I suppose that was my first “official” road trip and it was amazing. ¬†We saw a lot of interesting things and beautiful places (7 states) and made some great memories.

    Rather than post 50 pictures and completely over take the post, I made a few collages to share. ¬†If you’re reading this… I hope you enjoy them! ūüôā

    Day 1:

    We started the journey by leaving Georgia (state 1) and heading north into Tennessee (state 2) and then west.  Destination: Eureka Falls, Arkansas  (It took us about 12 hours to drive there!)

    Day 2

    Arkansas (state 3)

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    Our first official day in Arkansas we hiked to Hawksbill Crag.  (Also known as Whitaker Point.)
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    Just a few quick pictures from the hike.  Arkansas was SO rocky.

    Hawksbill Crag is a must-see. ¬†If you’re physically able and ever find yourself in Arkansas (Kingston to be exact), do yourself a favor and hike to it. ¬†The hike was fairly short. ¬†Right at about 3 miles to the crag and back. ¬†The only steepness was a little bit of a climb at the end. ¬†Nothing difficult at all.

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    Triple Falls (formerly Twin Falls)

    After our hike to Hawksbill Crag, the SO and I decided to venture to another nearby view. ¬†It was only about a 45 minute drive from the crag to Triple Falls Trail (Jasper, AR) to see the gorgeous Triple Falls. ¬†The trail into the falls and back was a short .3 of a mile. ¬†The view was gorgeous, but the drive down the mountain was horrendous (Sorry J). ¬†There were signs posted with “rules” for the trail/waterfall. ¬†I noticed one mentioned no animals, but on the hiking website I found the trail on it stated dogs were welcome on leash. ¬†That was a bit aggravating but overall, the falls were amazing. ¬†I imagine it would be an epic place to swim!

    Day 3

    Missouri (state 4)

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    The next day we ventured into Missouri to visit Bransom & Springfield!

    Our first stop was Branson.  We wanted to visit the Bass Pro Shop there, so we did.  From there we ventured further into Branson Landing (shopping mall there in Branson.)  We went into a few stores but did not stay there long since we planned to travel a bit further into Springfield.

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    NRA Museum inside the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri
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    It doesn’t get much more American than this. ūüôā

    Okay, so the main purpose of us visiting Springfield was to see the Bass Pro Headquarters. ¬†We were lucky enough to see the NRA museum there as an added bonus! I took SO many pictures, I won’t bore you with all of them. ¬†If I manage to find the time, I might eventually make a post with all the pictures I took just from the museum. ¬†Make sure to check it out of you find yourself in Springfield like I did!

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    We had to hike back mostly in the dark.
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    Black Bass Lake hike
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    Groundhog we saw as we were turning on the dirt road toward Black Bass Lake.  He has clearly been eating well!

    We got back from Branson/Springfield about an hour before dark. ¬†Unbeknownst to me, apparently the sunsets sooner in Eureka Springs than my little town. ¬†I thought we had about 25-30 more minutes of day time than we actually did. ¬†Thankfully, I always carry a LED flashlight in my purse as well as a headlamp. ¬†(Can you tell I’ve been out on a trail after dark before and needed a light?) ¬†I suppose that sounds like odd items to have in a purse… ¬†I guess I just prefer to have back-up (lights, first-aid kit, battery back-up charger, etc.) than make up, lotion, and mirrors. ¬†I suppose if I was stranded in the middle of the woods, the former would come in more handy than the latter.

    Anyway, the hike around the edge of Black Bass Lake was fairly short (just under 2 miles) and mostly flat. ¬†There were numerous caves along the trail. ¬†As well as a few wildflowers. ¬†We ran into a few fisherman who seemed to have been having a good bit of luck fishing. ¬†They had several crappie and blue gill on their stringer. ¬†Was kinda jealous they were fishing and not myself. ¬†Funny story: ¬†The last 20 minutes on the way back with the flashlight/headlamp I kept seeing tiny glowing eyes ALL over the trail and around it. ¬†Turns out it was tiny spiders everywhere. ¬†It was a little creepy but cool. ¬†I suppose if you have arachnophobia it would not have been quite as “cool.” ¬†I enjoyed it though!

    Day 4

    Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge-Eureka Springs, AR/Siloam Springs, Oklahoma (state 5)

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    Considering the tiger is my FAVORITE ANIMAL in the ENTIRE WORLD, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was obviously on my list to visit.

    While the animals at Turpentine Creek were beautiful and well-cared for, I could not help but be sad for them. ¬†We did the tour around the entire refuge and heard stories about many of the big cats (and the grizzly, coatimundi, macaque, and black bear) and how/why they ended up there. ¬†Most of them were previously pets. ¬†PETS. ¬†As much as I love tigers and I think I’d like the idea of having one as a pet, I’m intelligent enough to know how BAD of an idea that would be. ¬†One of the bobcats was there because a man attempted to raise it with his one-year-old son. ¬†You can imagine how that went. ¬†The cat bit him and then it had to go (understandable) but why have a wild animal around your baby in the first place?! ¬†Another story we were told was that a man had a tiger for a pet for several years and then got sick (I forgot what from) and decided he could no longer take care of it. ¬†Rather than turn it over to a refuge, he drove several miles (over 50 miles) away and released it into the wilderness (No, I’m not kidding). ¬†Apparently, it was back at his house the next morning. ¬†We were also told the story of how a breeding pair of big cats was turned over to the refuge. ¬†Apparently a company had them and bred the MULTIPLE times so that they could use the kittens for photo ops. ¬†Once the kittens were no longer kittens they were sent away. ¬†She had multiple litters in 3-4 years. ¬†The first litter at under a year old. ¬†If you know anything about big cats, you know how insane/sad that is. ¬†When they took the mother in there and gave birth soon after. ¬†The really sad part? ¬†After a week or so she began to reject her kittens. ¬†Why would she do that? ¬†She must be a terrible mother, right? ¬†WRONG. ¬†She did not know anything else to do. ¬†All she had ever known was to birth kittens and then a short time later they were gone and she never saw them again. ¬†That seriously makes me want to bawl my eyes out. ¬†That poor momma and those poor babies. ¬†Screw shitty pet owners and people who do stuff like this! ¬†(End rant….sorry)

    Interested in donating to their cause?  Click HERE.

    Also, huge shot out to Tyson Chick envfor donati approximately 300,000 lbs of chicken, beef, turkey, fish, and pork annually!

    Natural Falls State Park (OK):

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    Dripping Springs Falls view from the top!
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    Dripping Springs Falls bottom view!

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    Natural Falls State Park was a short trip but it was worth the drive to Oklahoma! ¬†Dripping Springs Falls was epic. ¬†At 77 feet tall it is one of the two tallest waterfalls in the state (along with Turner Falls in the Arbuckle Mountains). ¬†It was also used in the production of Where the Red Fern Grows (1974). ¬†You’ve seen the movie, right? ¬†If not, go rent or stream it immediately. ¬†I watched this as a little kid and bawled my eyes out. ¬†Great movie nonetheless.

    Day 5

    We packed our bags and said goodbye to Eureka Springs.  We drove back east to Memphis (visited our third Bass Pro, the Pyramid) and then south to Tupelo.

    Destination: Tupelo, Mississippi (state 6)

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    Driving through Memphis and had to make a stop at the Pyramid!
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    Brice’s Cross Roads

    This was a quick stop on the way to Tupelo.   Brices Cross Roads is also known as the Battle of Tishomingo Creek and the Battle of Guntown.  The battle was fought on Friday, June 10, 1864 near Baldwyn, Mississippi.  At that point in time, it was part of the Confederate States of America.  Long story short, it was a victory for the Confederates.

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    Our last official visit was to the birthplace of Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll. ¬†The museum was well-laid out and an interesting visit for sure! ¬†Although we had not originally planned to visit there, I’m so glad we did!

    Destination: Home

    After leaving Tupelo we headed east toward Alabama (state 7) and then continued on back to Georgia.

    So, here it is… 4 am. ¬†I have to be up in 4 hours to make a trip out of town so the conclusion is going to be a bit short. ¬†Who knows, I made edit it later. ¬†(Not likely). ¬†Overall, our trip was better than I could have imagined. ¬†We are spur-of-the-moment kind of vacationers, which means we did not know we were for our vacation/road trip until the day before we left. ¬†(No, I’m not kidding!) ¬† I like spur-of-the-moment though. ¬†It keeps life interesting. ¬†If you’re still here, thanks for reading!

    Peace.