Wednesday, September 2, 2015

2015-08-30 Another Little Cove Creek Discovery

Another Little Cove Creek Discovery
Green River Gamelands
Polk County, NC
Sunday, August 30th, 2015
with Andy and Brenda

Finding Cavern Falls!

Cavern Falls on the North Tributary of Little Cove Creek

Several years ago, Andy and I found a trio of waterfalls on Little Cove Creek and it's tributaries.  On our initial visit, we explored upstream from Bradley Cooper Falls (the South Fork of Little Cove Creek).  We did not find anything more than a few nice cascades and a bloody elbow which left a permanent memory of that hike in the form of a scar!

For this visit, our goal was to explore the North Tributary above Marilou Bradley Falls.  In addition to Andy, Boone, and Kona; Brenda would also be joining us on this adventure.

Kona and Boone in Cove Creek

We started our hike from just past the Tube Rental Shack on Green River Cove Road.  Turn just before the Tube Rental Shack, drive past the shack a few hundred yards to the 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 area will be full of gun toting hunters!

Because this is a popular hunting area, I generally only hike this area on Sundays!

 Brenda, Andy, and the dogs hiking into the Green River Gamelands

The first mile of the hike is a very easy stroll along the access road. If it wasn't for the gate, you could actually drive a vehicle through here.   There was a plethora of summer wildflowers along this stretch of trail!

Brenda checking out some nice blooms

Wildflowers along the trail

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.  Turning left will take you to the Little Cove Creek area which is where we were heading.

 Green River Gamelands

A short distance later the road comes to a ford of Cove Creek.  Plan on getting your feet wet here!  Since the water levels were lower than normal, I was able to successfully rock hop across and stay 100% dry.  However, Brenda and Andy both managed to slip and fall into the creek while following suit.  Brenda's fall was particularly graceful and a regret not having my camera ready to capture it on film!

 Brenda and Andy crossing Cove Creek

After the crossing of Cove Creek, the trail enters a corn field.  From here there are several routes you can take.  I would recommend staying to the right and hiking along the edge of the cornfield.

When you get to the end of the cornfield head into the woods keeping the hillside to your right.  The forest is fairly open making for some easy bushwhacking at this point.  Eventually Little Cove Creek will appear on your left.  To avoid trespassing onto private property stay on the right (south) side of the creek as you head upstream.

Once you get within view of Milton Bradley Falls, you are past the private property and can proceed on either side of the creek (or in the creek) to the base of Milton Bradley Falls.

Milton Bradley Falls

 Milton Bradley Falls

Getting to Milton Bradley Falls is easy enough that just about anyone should be able to handle it.  Proceeding upstream from here, things get much more difficult.  In my four trips here, I have not found an easy way!

On this trip, we went up the the bank on the north side of the creek and bushwhacked up about 150 feet in elevation.  Then we proceeded upstream maintaining a relatively constant elevation, eventually working our way back down to the creek well above Milton Bradley Falls.

From here we bushwhacked, creek walked, and rock hopped to the base of Bradley Cooper Falls.

Bradley Cooper Falls

 Me at Bradley Cooper Falls

Just before the base of Bradley Cooper Falls, a tributary joins the main creek.  A short distance up this tributary is the beautiful Marilou Bradley Falls.

 Marilou Bradley Falls

 Andy, Brenda, and Me at Marilou Bradley Falls

Until today, this was as far as we have been up this tributary.  Today's goal was to continue upstream.  We did this by climbing up the right side of the waterfall.  This was not an overly difficult climb, but it is pretty scary as the penalty for failure would be extreme!   I should also point out that higher water levels would make this climb exponentially more difficult!  And don't even think about it during icy conditions like my last visit!

Marilou Bradley Falls back in February 2015.

Needless to say, we encountered no ice on today's adventure and the annual late summer drought had dropped the water flow to a level that made it relatively safe to continue upstream.

Almost immediately we came across this next multi-tiered cascading waterfall which Andy named Bruce Bradley Cascades.

Bruce Bradley Cascades

 Andy at the top of Bruce Bradley Cascades photographing Brenda down below

We pretty much stayed in the creek or on the rocks immediately alongside the creek.  There were only one or two occasions where we had to bushwhack to get around some obstacles.  I should also point out that this creek is full of Stinging Nettles, so you might want to consider long pants!

Andy seems to have a bunch of friends named Bradley, so the next significant drop we came across he named Vicki Bradley Cascades!

Vicki Bradley Cascades

We continued upstream and hit the Waterfall Jackpot.  All three of us unanimously declared this one our favorite of the bunch!  We decided to go away from the Bradleys and called this one Cavern Falls!  One of the coolest waterfalls I have ever been to.

 Cavern Falls

The coolest part of this one is that the creek splits in half at the top of the falls.  About half the flow forms the more visible portion of the waterfall, while the other half plunges inside a cave!

 Andy inside the cave at Cavern Falls

Brenda inside the cave at Cavern Falls

Looking up inside the cave at Cavern Falls

  Brenda and Andy at Cavern Falls

This one far exceeded our hopes and expectations!

Although I like to say we discovered these waterfalls, we are obviously not the first humans to find these.  We are just the first ones to document their existence to the rest of the waterfall loving world.  Previous humans have left a rope leading up the left side of the waterfall.  This enabled me to explore further upstream.

Me climbing up Cavern Falls (photo by Brenda)

Upstream there is one more cool little section where the entire creek is squeezed between a one foot wide gap in the rock

 Little Cove Creek Squeeze!
Yes, I realize this photo sucks.  I am only posting it for documentation purposes

The creek really levels out beyond this point and eventually enters into private property.  I seriously doubt that there is anything worthwhile further upstream!

We pretty much returned back the way we came, making much better time on the hike out.  I would estimate the total distance to be about 7.0 miles (3.5 miles each way)

Here is the GPS track of our hike (click to enlarge).
 GPS Track of our hike

This was an awesome day of waterfall wandering!

My complete set of photos is posted here:

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