Happy Birthday to me!! A few days prior birthday funds had allowed me to make a purchase I had long ago wanted to make...that of a new kayak...and I knew just where I wanted to take it on its maiden voyage. Just south of Cullowhee, North Carolina is a pretty little reservoir named Bear Creek Lake. Tucked into the hills of Nantahala National Forest the lake is one of a chain of three such lakes that run north to south between Cullowhee and Cashiers. What makes Bear Creek Lake most notable, at least to me, is that from its shores one can access two of the higher and arguably more beautiful waterfalls in the state...Sol's Creek Falls and Flat Creek Falls.
Having a boat of some sort is most important for reaching Sol's Creek Falls. Located near the southern reaches of the lake, Sol's Creek can only be reached by water. Thus, I had no way of visiting them until now. I had been told over and over again I was missing out. More than anything Sol's Creek was the reason for making Bear Creek Lake the place to get my feet wet, so-to-speak, with paddling in the southern mountains. The other waterfall, Flat Creek, has earned cult status among waterfall enthusiasts in recent years but that stems mostly from the long, difficult, and confusing trek visiting them involves by land. Getting to them by water, however, offered the possibility of an easier approach...at least if paddling six miles sounds easier to you than walking that distance. To reach Flat Creek Falls I would pull up along the shore of the lake and then bushwhack and creek walk my way up the falls namesake stream until I picked up a short path to its base. I'm not going to come right out and say this lake approach was an easier option than the land route to visit the falls but it certainly offered more variety!
So the plan was this...I'd put in at the Bear Creek Access Point off Highway 281 near the north end of the lake. From there I'd paddle my way south for about 2.5 miles to the small cove beneath Sol's Creek Falls. I'd make the half mile round-trip hike to the falls then return to the boat. Crossing the lake and heading a short distance further south I'd pull in where Flat Creek reaches the lake. On land once again I'd make the 2.5 mile bushwhack/creek walk/hike to the base of Flat Creek Falls. After that I'd head back to the kayak once again and set about paddling the 3-miles back up the lake passing by a third waterfall, Big Branch, before returning to my original launch site. Pretty straight forward, no? Well, it went pretty well and I definitely caught the bug for kayaking in the mountains!
So, come along with me as I take by new kayak out on its maiden voyage. There's a bit of everything in this album, it was quite a day. Join me won't you for a day of paddling, hiking, and waterfalling...most of all, ENJOY!!!
Mileage: 9.1 miles (3.0 mi. hiked, 6.1 mi. paddled)
Trailhead Temp: 65'F
Min. Elevation: 2,550'
Max. Elevation: 2,820'