Showing posts with label swimming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label swimming. Show all posts

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lower Falls of Snowbird Creek, Graham County, NC

As you probably know if you've read this blog before, one of my favorite places in Western North Carolina is Big Snowbird Creek in Graham County. I have written about my many trips to the Middle Falls, day hikes to Sassafras Creek and fly fishing the Delayed Harvest section. Today I will share some photos and tips for a successful trip to the Lower Falls (also labeled as the Big Falls on most maps) of Snowbird Creek.

The lowest cascades of the Lower falls.

Snowbird creek is located about 10 miles from Robbinsville in Graham County. I have previously given detailed directions and trail information here, when I wrote about the Middle Falls. There are three main sets of falls on Snowbird Creek, creatively named Lower (Big) falls, Middle Falls and Upper Falls. The Lower falls are actually a set of three or four cascades and slides that serve to separate the rainbow and brown trout populations from the native brook or speckled trout.

Nice little brown trout.

On this particular trip, myself and a set of friends camped at the mouth of Sassafras Creek where it joins Big Snowbird Creek. It was late May and we couldn't keep the fish off the end of our lines. My brother and I and another friend fished from the campsite at Sassafras to the Lower Falls - a distance of about a mile. The day before, my brother and I had fished Sassafras creek, which is a great little creek to itself, but that's a topic for another post.

Pretty little native rainbow.

Below the Lower Falls, you will catch decent sized native rainbows and browns, though you may also see the occasional speck (if you're lucky). However, the size of the falls prohibits the rainbows and browns from moving any farther up the creek.

You will catch the rare speck below the Lower Falls.

If you decide to hike straight to the falls, you can cross Sassafras creek and follow the trail along the left side of the creek for about a mile. The trail will rise in elevation above the creek to where accessing the main creek becomes almost impossible (you will even lose the sound of the creek at one point). This is an important thing to remember if you fish this portion of Big Snowbird as you will have to do some climbing and bushwhacking if you decide to leave the creek before the Lower Falls.
Rock-climbing skills can come in handy!

There is no signage for the falls themselves, but they are pretty straight forward to locate. Once you begin to hear the creek again, you will soon be able to see the falls and several fisherman's trails down to the falls. Be careful, as the banks are pretty steep! If you reach the foot log that crosses Big Snowbird, you have gone too far for the falls. (Side note - there are some amazing campsites on the other side of this foot log at Mouse Knob creek - also a topic for another post). 
Lunch on top of a rock would be great!

Like I noted before, the falls themselves are a series of cascades and slides and you can rock hop from one to the next. The tallest is the farthest up the creek and is ten to fifteen feet tall with a huge pool below. In my opinion, this is one of the best swimming holes in WNC. I have been swimming here since I was about 12 years old and taking a dip in the perpetually chilly creek is one of the highlights of each summer. If you're brave enough, the pool is even deep enough for a jump off the top!
Geronimo! It was cold, I'll guarantee that!
 As always, be safe and have fun in WNC!

Shimmy up the left side and you've got a nice pool to jump into.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Santeetlah Lake Fishing

I went fishing yesterday on Santeetlah Lake in Graham County with my Papaw (that's what we call our Grandfathers around here). We didn't catch anything and from talking to other folks out on the lake, nobody else was having any luck either. The general consensus was that the two nights of temperatures in the 30s has slowed down the fishing. Maybe they'll wake back up by the weekend. We were using crickets and redworms for bream, smallmouth or pike. However, we did run into some people who were having some luck catching smallmouth bass on plastic worms.

Santeetlah is a normally very productive lake in the middle of Graham County. From Robbinsville, there are several put ins, but if you take US 129 North out of town, you'll cross the lake twice and can follow the signs for the Cheoah Point put-in. This is a very popular lake with locals as well as visitors, as evidenced by the increasing number of lake houses...usually second or vacation homes. If you like camping, there are plenty of campsites available along the shore (first come, first served) or the campground at Cheoah point (reservations recommended, can be made here).

Maybe next time the fishing will be better...but always remember that a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Our Favorite Dayhikes Part I

Throughout the spring, we'll be featuring some of our favorite day hikes in and around Graham County. These will range from a couple miles - perfect for an afternoon - to upwards of ten miles.

The first hike that we'll cover is a great out-and-back that you could turn into a several night weekend trip. This hike skirts Calderwood Lake north of Robbinsville to where Slickrock Creek runs into the lake.

To reach the trailhead, go north about 11 miles on US 129 from Robbinsville, past Tapoco Lodge on the left. There will be a dirt road to the left less than a quarter-mile past the lodge (if you see Cheoah Dam on the right, you've gone too far). Park where you can at the Slickrock Creek trailhead (spaces may be limited in the summer; you can park across the bridge and walk back though). From here, follow the Slickrock Creek trail (FT 42) as it follows the shore of Calderwood reservoir. The trail gently rises away from the lake and soon you will be winding your way in and out of mountain coves as the trail rises slowly over the next two miles to an overlook several hundred feet above the Calderwood reservoir.

There are many options for this dayhike. My personal favorite is to take the dogs along Slickrock Creek trail to the point where Slickrock creek runs into Calderwood lake, about two miles one way. There are several campsites here that are perfect for a leisurly lunch while the pooches take a swim (I might join in the summer...Calderwood is known for its deep, cool waters). After a relaxing afternoon, we follow the same path back to the car.

Another dayhike option includes following Slickrock Creek trail as it fords the creek, past the scenic Lower Falls to where it intersects Ike Branch Trail (FT 45), a little less than 4 miles from the trailhead. Turning left onto Ike Branch trail will take you up to Yellowhammer Gap where you can stay on Ike Branch trail as it drops back to join Slickrock Creek trail where you can turn right and head back to your car. This loop is nearly 7 miles total length and fords the creek twice, so prepare to get wet.

The Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock Creek Wilderness area provides countless hiking opportunities and is one of the most popular for hiking and backpacking in the area. We will cover more of these and other local hikes in the next few months.

If you are interested in exploring this area, picking up a map at the local Forest Service office or at one of the local gas stations is a must. Another option is a guidebook; my favorite is Hiking Trails of the Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock Creek Wilderness.

A helpful map of the Slickrock Creek trailhead and area can also be viewed here.