Waterfall Wednesday on Bear Creek Lake
Bear Creek Lake is the largest (and the second constructed) of four reservoirs known as the East Fork Lakes in Jackson County, North Carolina located near highway NC 181, the other three are Cedar Cliff Lake, Wolf Creek Lake, and Tanasee Creek Lake. Cedar Cliff Lake is upstream from Bear Creek Lake, and both are along the Tuckasegee River. Wolf Creek Lake and Tanasee Creek Lake both feed creeks that empty into the Tuckasegee River. All four reservoirs were built in the East Fork area of the Tuckasegee River in the early 1950s by Nantahala Power Company, then a subsidiary of Alcoa, to produce electricity. In the late 1980s, Alcoa sold Nantahala Power Company to Duke Energy.
The two hour plus trip to Bear Creek Lake involved travelling many twisty roads, including a construction zone along US 64 including where the highway connects with NC 281. The last part of the trip took me down a dirt road to the Bear Creek Lake Access area. The access area was improved in 2013-2014 to add a restroom and a fishing pier, and pave the parking area.
I dropped my inflatable kayak and other gear off at the boat ramp and parked. A pair of geese and their three goslings kept me company, until a pickup truck carrying a sit on top kayak backed in and scared them off.
The other fellow paddled out ahead of me while I applied my sunscreen and put on my hat.
The first landmark I encountered is an island where people have camped overnight.
The easily followed trail heads uphill through the rhododendrons and vegetation closely following the creek.
About a mile or so upstream is Flat Creek Falls. The directions to the waterfall I had were to creekwack upstream until I made it to an obvious trail which would head right to the waterfall. Progress was very slow.
By this time, I had spent so much time heading to and from Flat Creek Falls the sun was getting low in the sky. Time to head back before I had to use my phone as a flashlight.
I made one more pass by the island...
Big Branch Falls is at the end of Big Branch Creek, and empties directly into the lake. It's probably a nice waterfall, but the vegetation and the time of day made it hard to see. I took a video from my kayak, but it came out too shaky to share.
I didn't notice too much boat and jet ski traffic, but more than I expected for a weekday. A few boaters were towing kids around in big innertubes. On the paddle back to the access area, I was mostly by myself except for a kayaker or two and some folks fishing.
My Flickr album from the Bear Creek Falls trip has all my photos from the paddle and hike, including photos of the trail I followed back from Flat Creek Falls. You can click through them below: