Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2012-02-05 Little Cove Creek

Waterfall Wandering Bushwhacking Adventure
Little Cove Creek
Green River Game Lands
Polk County, NC
Sunday, February 5th, 2012

The Bloody Elbow!

We are always learning about new waterfalls from the waterfall gurus of Bernie, Kevin Adams, and Waterfall Rich. However, every once in a while it is nice to be able to beat them to the punch! I believe that this was one of those days!

Andy, Johnny and I decided to that there was definitely potential for some undocumented waterfalls along several of the tributary creeks and streams in the Green River Game Lands near Saluda, NC.

All indications led us to believe that Sunday would be the perfect day for this type of exploration:
  • Sunday is the only day of the week when hunting is not allowed in the Game Lands.
  • We had a good bit of rain on Saturday to fill up all the smaller creeks and streams.
  • Open winter foliage makes for much easier bushwhacking.
  • Poison Ivy is not out yet
  • Unseasonably warm weather would allow us to get in the creeks if necessary
  • Forecast for cloudy skies would make for excellent waterfall photography.

Unfortunately, due to injury, Johnny had to cancel out at the last minute which left just Andy, Boone, and I.

We decided to see what Little Cove Creek had to offer. Nearby Cove Creek contains the spectacular Big Bradley Falls, and Little Bradley Falls. Since Little Cove Creek follows the same elevation drop it just made sense that it would contain waterfalls as well.

We started our hike from just past the Tube Rental Shack on Green River Cove Road. This is the same spot where in the past we have started the hike to Big Bradley Falls from downstream. Turn just before the Tube Rental Shack, drive past the shack a few hundred yards to a small parking area just before a gate. On Sundays, the parking area will likely be empty like it was for us today. However, on just about any other day the parking area will be packed and the Game Lands will be full of gun toting hunters!

Andy and Boone by one of the old cabins

The first mile of the hike is very easy along the access road. If it wasn't for the gate, you could actually drive a vehicle through here. The road comes to a fork at a pair of old cabins just before arriving at Cove Creek. Heading towards the right would take you upstream towards the base of Big Bradley Falls.

However, today we would turn left and explore some new territory! Eventually we realized we would have to get our feet wet as the road fords across Cove Creek. During times of low water flow, you could probably rock hop across, but today there was no avoiding getting wet! Andy and I both removed our shoes, socks, and zip-off pant legs before entering into the much warmer than expected knee deep water.

Andy crossing Cove Creek

Past the creek crossing, the road continues through some cornfields. The state of North Carolina plants these acres of corn to lure deer and other wildlife into the Game Lands where the hunters can pick them off, keeping the area deer population in check.

Boone frolicking by the corn fields

We eventually left the road and meandered along the edge of the corn fields towards Little Cove Creek.

At this point we were still on public land and as long as we stayed on the South side of Little Cove Creek we would not have to worry about trespassing across a small section of private property. However, it appeared that the terrain would be much easier on the North Side of the Creek.

Since we didn't see any private property signs or no trespassing signs, we rock hopped across the creek and picked up an old access road. This "road" is definitely not maintained anymore, but is still easy enough to follow as it parallels Little Cove Creek heading upstream.

Eventually the road petered out at around the spot where we re-entered the public game lands. We started some easy bushwhacking alongside the creek and eventually arrived at the base of a 40-foot waterfall! Andy decided to name this one "Milton Bradley Falls".

 "Milton Bradley Falls"  (Lower Waterfall on Little Cove Creek)

This one was pretty nice except for the large about of deadfall at the base. Also, the light was absolutely horrible for photography! 

I am not sure what happed to the cloudy skies the weather guys promised us! All we had was bright sunlight with the sun located in the worst possible location; directly above the waterfall, shining directly into our lens. Since we knew we would have to pass by this same spot on the hike out, we decided to save any photography for later when hopefully the sun would be in a better position.

All my shots from the initial visit went strait in to the deleted files. The above photo was actually taken later in the day when the lighting was much improved.  Unfortunately the improved lighting did not help the deadfall situation.

We continued upstream through some very steep terrain with absolutely no semblance of a trail to follow. It definitely wasn't the most difficult bushwhack I have ever done, but it was far from easy! We took the approach of heading towards higher ground, where the forest was a little more open before eventually making our way back down to the creek. 

We found our second significant waterfall on Little Cove Creek just upstream from where a smaller tributary joins the slightly larger Little Cove Creek.

Andy at the Upper Waterfall on Little Cove Creek

There was also another small cascade on the tributary steam. With a wide angle lens, you could capture both the small cascade on the tributary and the larger waterfall on Little Cove Creek in the same shot.

Cascade on the tributary stream

Next up, we decided to continue our exploration upstream. We were surprised to see a rope positioned to make the climb up to the top of the waterfall much easier. It appeared that we were now on an actual trail with a series of ropes showing the safest way of travel.

But before following the ropes and continuing upstream on Little Cove Creek, we decided to see if we could head up the tributary. We were almost immediately rewarded with our third significant waterfall of the day, a beautiful 30-footer!

Waterfall on the North Tributary of Little Cove Creek (aka Marilou Bradley Falls)

We took our main lunch break of the day here and we spent a good bit of time photographing this one. It reminded us a little bit of Courthouse Falls, except without the crowds of people!

Waterfall on the North Tributary of Little Cove Creek (aka Marilou Bradley Falls)

We suspect that there is at least one more significant drop on this tributary, but we really didn't see a safe way to continue upstream, so we backtracked to the main creek and followed the series of ropes up Little Cove Creek.

We ran across many additional smaller cascades, but no more significant drops. Eventually the terrain leveled out and the "trail of ropes" entered into private property. We took this as a sign to head on back.

Cascades upstream on Little Cove Creek

Me by some cascades on Little cove creek

Not long after we started turning back, I slipped on some slick rocks and did my best impression of Charlie Brown trying to kick a field goal with Lucy as the holder! My feet literally went flying and I landed flat on my back, whacking my elbow on some jagged rocks in the process.

There was a good bit of blood gushing down my arm, so I decided to stop and address the situation. I cleaned out the wound as best I could, globbed on some triple-antibiotic ointment, slapped a bandage on, and then wrapped my elbow in an ace bandage to keep pressure on the wound and hold the bandage in place.

The lighting was much better for photography by now, so despite my injury we stopped for a while at the earlier waterfalls to take advantage of the better photo opportunity.

Me by the Upper Waterfall on Little Cove Creek
Notice my bandaged elbow!

Lower Waterfall on Little Cove Creek (aka Milton Bradley Falls)

It was definitely an awesome day of Waterfall Wandering! And the football game that came on after I got home turned out to be the perfect ending to a great day! I'll most likely have a scar to remember it by for quite some time!

This is a hand drawn route of our hike.  It is not based on any actual GPS data, just my best guess as to the route we took.  The (3) circles are the approximate location of the (3) significant waterfalls we found.


HemlockMan said...

Wow! Those are impressive falls!

fungi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rutty Tuyor said...

Even if it was quite sunny that day, you took a perfect picture of the falls. In fact, the snapshots from the upper and lower view of the waterfalls are all splendid. And oh, I'm wondering how Andy came up with the name "Milton Bradley falls"? Anyway, I bet your dog, also enjoyed the bushwhacking adventure. How was your elbow, by the way? I hope it is okay now.

fungi said...


I came up with the name "Milton Bradley Falls" because Big Bradley Falls and Little Bradley Falls are on Cove Creek, which is in the next valley over. I thought it would be funny to name all of these waterfalls after Bradleys, too.


Jack said...

Rutty, My elbow is fine! However, I am pretty sure it will leave a permanent scar to remember this hike (and the day the Giants won the Superbowl!)