Wednesday, March 5, 2014

2014-03-02 The Waterfalls on Little Cove Creek

The Waterfalls on Little Cove Creek

Green River Game lands

Polk County, NC

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Me at Bradley Cooper Falls on Little Cove Creek

One of the things we like to do is seek out, find, and visit new waterfalls.  Most of the time we base these visits off of information received from other waterfall enthusiasts.  However, occasionally we find some new waterfalls all on our own!

A little over two years ago, Andy and I agreed that Little Cove Creek in Polk County, NC looked like it had some waterfall potential.  So we planned an exploratory hike to check it out.  We were successful in finding (3) significant waterfalls and were quite proud of our discovery. 

This past weekend, we decided to make a return visit to show off our discovery to some of our other "Team Waterfall" hiking buddies.  Brenda and Johnny were up for joining Andy and I on this hike.  Also joining us would be Andy's Canine Companions; Boone and Kona!



Most of this hike is on North Carolina Game Lands where hunting is allowed and highly encouraged.  Therefore it is best to hike this area on Sunday, the one day of the week when hunting is illegal in the State of North Carolina.

I was concerned about limited parking so we decided to meet at the Columbus, NC Food Lion and combine vehicles there for the short drive to the trailhead. 

It turns out that since our last visit, they have significantly expanded the parking area off of Green River Cove Road where we would start our hike.  It would have been no problem to fit all (4) of our vehicles (with plenty of room to spare).

The first mile or so is an easy stroll along a wide track dirt/gravel road.  You could actually drive this section if it was not for the fact that the road is gated.  Eventually we came to a couple of old cabins and farm buildings.  To get to the much more well know Big Bradley Falls, you would turn right here.  However, we turned left to head to Little Cove Creek.

 Old Cabin along the Trail

But first, we would have to cross Cove Creek.  On both our original visit and this visit, water levels were a bit higher than normal and we found no way across without going through knee deep water.  During times of low flow, and/or if you are very comfortable making long jumps across slippery rocks and logs, you may be able to keep your feet dry.  However, I would definitely plan on getting wet!

 Andy and Kona Cross Cove Creek

Past the Cove Creek Crossing, we continued on through a series of corn fields which I believe are planted to attract the deer and make things real easy for the hunters!  At about the two mile mark of the hike, we reached Little Cove Creek.

Heading upstream on the right (South) side of Little Cove Creek would have kept us entirely on public property.  However, it is a much easier approach if you cross over to a section of private property on the Left (North) side of the creek.  The land is not posted, but we knew we were trespassing.  We justified our actions by doing a little bit of trash picking up along the way leaving the land in better shape than before we arrived.

Obvious remains of an old dirt road make heading upstream on this side of the creek rather easy.  The road peters out as we entered back into the public game lands.  However it is still easy going to get to the first waterfall on Little Cove Creek.

As far as we know, none of these waterfalls have official names, so Andy decided to name them during our last visit.  This first one he called Milton Bradley Falls.

 Side view of Milton Bradley Falls on Little Cove Creek 

Photo conditions were lousy as the sun was shining directly into our lens making photography very difficult, especially for a straight on shot.  So we didn't spend a whole lot of time knowing that we would be passing by again on the hike out.  Hopefully by then, the lighting would be better.

Now for the most difficult part of the hike!  Continuing upstream!

On our initial visit, Andy and I tried to stay close to the creek.  That turned out to be a very difficult bushwhack.  Heading up the steep bank a bit leads to a much easier way to get upstream.  Note:  Much Easier does not mean Easy!  This is still a tough bushwhack.

We eventually made our way back down to the creek just downstream are from the next two waterfalls at a series of nice cascades.

 Nice Cascades on Little Cove Creek

The next two waterfalls are located immediately upstream from where Little Cove Creek splits off into two tributaries.  Each tributary featuring a really nice waterfall!

This made for a great place for a lunch break.  There are plenty of nice rocks to hang out on and two waterfalls to photograph.

 Brenda and Johnny enjoying a nice Lunch Break

Andy named the Waterfall on the Right (South) Tributary Bradley Cooper Falls.  I think this name had something to do with Andy having a Hangover during our initial visit.

 Bradley Cooper Falls

 Bradley Cooper Falls (side view of upper drop)

 Bradley Cooper Falls

He named the Waterfall on the Left (North) Tributary Marilou Bradley Falls, after a good friend!  Only time will tell if these names stick.
Marilou Bradley Falls

 Me at Marilou Bradley Falls

 Marilou Bradley Falls

 We spent a little over an hour enjoying our lunch break and photographing these two waterfalls before Andy started pulling out his maps!

On our initial visit we explored upstream from Bradley Cooper Falls (the south tributary).  We found some nice cascades but no additional significant waterfalls.  This time Andy had his sights set on exploring upstream from Marilou Bradley Falls (the north tributary).  Looking at the cliffs above, this would be very difficult!  Brenda, Johnny, and I didn't think this was a good idea and managed to talk Andy out of it.

2015-08-30 Update:  A year and a half later with lower water flow we were able to safely climb up the right side of Marilou Bradley Falls and continue upstream.  WOW! is what I have to say (see my post from our 2015-08-30 hike)

So we returned back the way we came

 We did make another stop at Milton Bradley Falls since the lighting was much better! 

 Milton Bradley Falls

Me at Milton Bradley Falls
 Milton Bradley Falls

It was about 3:00pm by the time we arrived back at the cabins.  Andy was still up for more exploring, while Brenda and Johnny were ready to call it a day.  I was actually leaning more towards calling it a day, but since I rode with Andy and he had my truck keys held hostage in his glove compartment, I decided to go along with him and head up Cove Creek.

Our plan was to explore Casey Branch, a tributary to Cove Creek that joins just downstream from Big Bradley Falls.  While we were not expecting to find another Big Bradley, we were expecting to find something significant.

The good news was that the "trail" to the base of Big Bradley Falls is much more established than it was a few years back and we made it to Casey Branch much quicker than I was expecting.

The bad news is that crossing Cove Creek proved rather difficult.  The rocky creek bed was as slick as black ice.  If the water levels were any higher, I would not have felt safe crossing.  Fortunately we made it across without any issues.

 Andy and Kona Crossing Cove Creek

More good news is that we found a trail that parallels Casey Branch all the way from Cove Creek to the Boy Scout Camp (Camp Bob Hardin).  The bad news is that this trail really sucked!  However, we followed it almost all the way to the camp without seeing anything significant along Casey Branch.

We did venture down to the creek at a spot that we thought had the most potential and found a few little cascades.  But nothing I would call a major waterfall. 

 Cascades on Casey Branch

 Cascades on Casey Branch

Since the trail stayed well above the creek the whole time, it is very possible that we might have missed something.  However, I believe Casey Branch is mostly just a long slide with a few nice cascades. 

Oh well, a few failures every now and then is what makes the successful discoveries that much sweeter!

And it was still a great day to be outside with my "Team Waterfall" friends!

 Team Waterfall Buddies!
L to R:  Brenda, Johnny, Andy

The complete set of photos is posted here: