Lower Whitewater Falls


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Lower Whitewater Falls cascades a spectacular 200 feet down a rock face in the Jocassee Gorges area. The Whitewater River, starting with the larger Whitewater Falls upstream just across the border into NC, falls 1,500 feet over 3.5 miles. There are several more falls downstream of the Lower falls, but most are quite inaccessible. The two-mile trail to the falls overlook begins at Duke Power's Bad Creek Pumped Storage Project north of Lake Jocassee. From the Foothills Trail parking lot, ascend 1. mile to a high, flat hill with views of Jocassee and then descend .5 mile to the Whitewater River. After crossing the bridge over the river, you will join the Foothills Trail and ascend for .5 mile before turning right onto the .9 mile falls spur trail. This spur will ascend some more, join a relatively flat gravel road for a time and give you time to rest before descending steeply for .4 mile to the falls overlook. During the hunting season months of October, November, December and April, this road (Musterground Road) is open to vehicle traffic and can be accessed to the right of the Foothills Trail parking lot. Passenger vehicles can easily drive as far as where the spur trail intersects the road. Thus, the hike can be cut by 2/3 during these months. The falls are surrounded by evergreen and deciduous trees and make for an excellent fall color scene. On an odd note, I have been told that during the winter you can see the remains of a plane crash to the left of the falls. If you don't want to hike to the overlook, a distant partial view can be had from the Bad Creek Visitor's Overlook further down the road in the Bad Creek project. Look for the signs directing you to the visitor's overlook.

Directions: From Walhalla, SC, drive SC 11 east past Tamassee, SC to Salem, SC at the intersection of SC 11 and SC 130. Look for signs directing you to Whitewater Falls. From that intersection, turn left and drive 10 miles up SC 130 to the Duke Power Bad Creek Project. Turn right, drive up to the gate and wait for it to open. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the gate should open automatically to let folks in. (Hikers can get out at anytime, but folks can only get in during daylight hours.) Drive another two miles down to the Foothills Trail trailhead parking lot. From Sapphire, NC, drive NC 281 past the Upper Whitewater Falls overlook area to the stateline where NC 281 become SC 130. Follow SC 130 another mile or so to the Duke Power Bad Creek Project on the left. You can also reach SC 130 from SC 107 via SC 413 near the SC-NC state line. Again, look for signs directing you to Whitewater Falls. Portajohns and pay phones are at the trailhead, but bring plenty of water or a water filtration system as none is available there.

All photos Allen Easler.