Category Archives: Tuckasegee River

River Cane Chronicles IV: Important Invitation

The WATR River Cane Mapping & Education Project is gearing up for the summer, and WE NEED YOU and other volunteers.   The purposes of the project are

  • to educate ourselves and the public about the ecological and the cultural benefits of native river cane,
  • to snoop around creeks and rivers and locate river cane brakes that we can map, and
  • to work with the landowner to get permission so that artisans can sustainably harvest stalks on his/her property.

So click here to find out the details of the workshop — must RSVP by Friday, May 18,  for a free lunch.  NOW THAT’S AN INCENTIVE!!!

Jim Long strips a stalk of cane as WATR member Judy Knight watches


River Clean Up Teams

Join up with Duke Energy team to pick up trash along the Tuckasegee River in the section of the former lake behind (the now nonexistent) Dillsboro Dam. This clean up will be on Thursday April 19 from 1-4 P.M. Folks will meet at the new C J Harris Boat Launch- upstream from the Dillsboro Inn. The organizers have been assured that power generation will be zero and the water levels should be very low. The clean up will be done by wading! Best to bring your own fishing waders and work gloves
Need directions? Click  here 

Hey! Please check out our action teams here.

Confluences — Part 1

Coal barge at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers

'Lighthouse' at the point

I am standing on the southern-most point of Illinois looking out over the churning water that marks the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
Native Americans, whose villages and mounds dotted the banks of the rivers, came to the point to camp, fish and fight, say the archeologists.
Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery camped here for a few days before heading up the Mississippi to St. Louis and the Missouri River and west. One of the men caught a 180-pound catfish here.
Fort Defiance was built at the point during the Civil War. It was a strategic supply and training base for union soldiers and was commanded by Gen. Ulysses Grant.
I think about why I’m here.
We in WATR know the course of our Tuckasegee’s waters – into the Little Tennessee, into the Tennessee, into the Ohio, into the Mississippi, into the Gulf of Mexico. Many of our neighbors forget that our river’s water travels northward before turning south to skirt Ohio and Illinois.
I have decided to visit each of these points of confluence and see what there is to see. It’s as good a reason for travel as any, and I can look for other opportunities for adventure along the way. I don’t think many people do this, however. There are no signs that point to this confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi. But there are signs to Fort Defiance State Park, and those I followed.
I came across an information kiosk, got out and read it and looked down an unmarked road that turned into a grove of trees. Could this be the way? I looked around and saw a human figure watching me from a hundred or so yards away. It made me a little uneasy. Was I not supposed to be here? I drove  down the little road anyway, came to a sandy parking lot and saw a two-story observation tower  (aha!) and got out to walk.
Now I’m at the point, an arc that when bisected divides the Ohio River shore from the Mississippi shore. Looking up the Ohio, I can see a parked barge and the bridge from Illinois to Kentucky. Up the Mississippi, I see another barge close to the bank  and two men working on it. Out in the intersection of the rivers a long coal barge has turned left from the Mississippi and into the Ohio, and then it stops. Has it taken a wrong turn? Or maybe it has run up against a feisty little current  of our Tuckasegee water.
Beyond the barge, the Mississippi flows on. At any confluence, streams clash. In this case, even though it seems wider here, the Ohio loses out in name and gives up its water to the Mighty Mississippi.
After an hour or so, I head back to the car and drive back up through the trees. That man is still looking my way! So I drive over there, and see that it’s a statue with binoculars in hand and leaning as if he is gazing downriver. It’s on no pedestal – built on a ground-level pad – and there’s no name carved into the concrete. But I know that face. It’s Grant.
Must have known I was a Lee.

— By Bill Lee

Next: The Tennessee and the Ohio.

State of the Tuckasegee River Workshop

Watershed experts and citizens gathered to share data and their experiences concerning the health of the Tuckasegee River on Wednesday, August 24, at a one-day workshop.
WATR held this informal sharing of information as a stepping stone toward  periodic assessment of the Tuckasegee River system at the watershed scale.
According to Roger Clapp, WATR Executive Director, “This event could lead to a regular report updating the community about changes, positive and negative, in this vital resource.”
The workshop consisted of a series of short panel presentations and discussions covering water quality, sediment, biological testing, and experiences acquired by local agencies that affect the river.  Agencies included the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and county soil erosion inspection departments.
Some of the panelists included Anne Marie Traylor, of the Environmental Quality Institute and Ed Williams of the NC Division of Water Quality, Asheville, and Mike Lavoie, and Patrick Breedlove of the Cherokee Office of Environment and Natural Resources.  The Oconaluftee River which drains the Cherokee Qualla Boundary is the largest tributary to the Tuckasegee River.
David Kinner of the Geosciences Department, Western Carolina University, outlined research projects aimed at quantifying relevant water processes.  Ken Brown, chairman of the Tuckaseigee Chapter Alliance, discussed community actions, and Michelle Price of the Macon-Jackson Conservation Alliance moderated the erosion control section.  Gerald Green, head of Jackson County Planning Department, presented issues relevant to the river.
The workshop was held at the Whittier Community Center off of Rt 74, Exit 74, and across the river from the post office.

My favorite place on the river

What is your favorite spot on the Tuckasegee?
Mine is Warden’s Falls in Panthertown. My late wife Pam and I use to like to go out on the rocks at the falls and lay in the sun for awhile.
I remember a particularly warm day in February a few years back when we lay on the rocks, sunned and listen to the rushing water that passed by just a few feet from us. I think we both dozed. It was kind of surreal.
Warden’s Falls is just downstream from where the Tuckasegee River begins –

Route from Tuckasegee origin, lower left, to Warden's Falls

where Greenland Creek and Panthertown Creek join. If you’ve ever been to Panthertown, Greenland Creek is the one that flows over Schoolhouse Falls. Panthertown Creek follows the valley floor trail, and there are interesting sandbars along the way.
Warden’s Falls is the first of a series of falls that gets the river on its way. Downstream, in fairly rapid succession, are Jawbone Falls, Riding Ford Falls and Elbow Falls. A little further down is Red Butt Falls, a good place to waterslide, according to Burt Kornegay, whose map of Panthertown is the best way to find these out-of-the-way places.
A hike along the Panthertown Valley Trail, which parallels Panthertown Creek, will get you to the river’s beginning.  Then to get to Warden’s Falls, you go up the Power Line Road Trail to where it takes a sharp bend to the left. A foot path to the right takes you under the power line and steeply downhill through woods to the river and the rocks.
A portion of the route – from river’s origin to the falls – is seen in the accompanying map. This is provided through the courtesy of Burt, whose map is for sale in Sylva at City Lights book store and Black Rock outfitters and in Bryson City at the bicycle shop. It can also be found at the Highlands Hiker in Cashiers and Highlands. Or you can order it directly from Burt at
The latest edition of the map was published in 2009, and overlays a USGS topographical map. Park boundaries; many, many Forest Service trails, and less maintained footpaths are outlined on the map, as well as the waterfalls and other points of interest.
So, what is your favorite place on the river. This blog is open to all. Let’s hear from you.

_ Bill Lee

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A Trip to the Falls with Two Names

Photo from “Occoneechee,” published in 1916
The falls as it looks today

     It’s a beautiful April morning, and I’m hiking into an area below Glenville dam to see a waterfall on the West Fork of the Tuckasegee River that not many people take the time to see.
     The path – an old road – is lined with wildflowers: bluets, violets, white violets, star chickweed, squirrell corn and hundreds of trillium, white and purple, that carpet the floor of the woods along the trail.
     The waterfall I’m visiting is called Tuckaseigee Falls in one instance and High Falls in another. The first reference is in a caption to a picture (above) of the falls in the book, Occoneechee, The Maid of the Mystic Lake , by Frank Jarrett, founder of the Jarrett House in Dillsboro.
     The caption for the Tuckaseigee Falls picture locates it as “above Dillsboro, N.C.”
     Well, it is indeed above Dillsboro but by quite a few miles.
      Jarrett’s book was first published in 1916, and the photograph shows the waterfall at full flow, which is how it looked until the Glenville dam was built in 1941.
     The second reference, High Falls, was contained in a book, The Scenic Resources of the Tennessee Valley. It called the falls one of the three or four most impressive cataracts in the Tennessee Valley. But it was published in 1938, also before the construction of the dam.
     Regardless of what it’s called, the falls  — even with a reduced flow – is worth the hike, which is about 4.5 miles round trip. Before you get to your goal, you are treated to another spectacular falls, Rough Run. There is no dam blocking this water as it falls a hundred feet, at least, into the Tuckasegee River.
     Finally at the Tuckaseigee Falls, I start shooting photos so that I can compare them to the shot in Jarrett’s book. The shape of the falls is readily recognizeable from the old photo, even though the flow seems only about a third of its original.
     I run into a group of Cashiers area folks who have been on a wildflower hike and are eating lunch at the falls. Their leader, Carl Blozan, tells me he has seen the falls at full flow when he and his wife Kathie hiked in shortly after Hurricane Ivan hit in September, 2005.
     The rocks below the falls are a great place to eat lunch. It’s a fairly safe area, except for some slick rocks. So watch your footing. It’s an especially bad idea to climb the heights to get a better view of the falls.
     My duties finished, I take leave of the other hikers and walk the two-plus miles back to my truck.
     This is a fairly easy hike, not-so-strenuous ups and downs. To find the trail head, go south on NC 107 from the Sylva-Cullowhee area. Just before you reach Glenville, take the  Shoal Creek Road to the right . Park when you see a gated road to the right. Then start hiking the gated road. Early on, there is one fork, take the left one which goes uphill, the other goes down.
     The road will turn in to more of a path, but is easy to follow. After you’ve admired Rough Run, the path to the falls is easy to follow. To get below the falls, you will have do some scrambling over rocks. But it’s not hard.
— Bill Lee