Upper Bearwallow Falls
Bearwallow Creek drops about 1700 feet in elevation during it's 5 mile meander through Gorges State Park before it empties into the Toxaway River. There are numerous falls and cascades along the way and it's one the region's most beautiful streams. Upper Bearwallow Falls lies just inside the north side of the park. The creek drops 200-300' in elevation in this area and the waterfall is in sections, flowing over exposed bedrock. The section of the waterfall in the above photo is up creek from the section of the waterfall that you would see from the overlook on the Bearwallow Falls Trail. Unfortunately there isn't an official trail yet to this view. The next picture is looking down creek from where I was standing for the 1st shot.
Actually, the drop off is not as steep as it first looks, but a slip from here would probably be the last thing you ever did - alive. The next shot is looking down from the previous shot.
There is a safe, but steep trail down the east side of the creek beside the waterfall and that's how we were able to get down to these views. Down the trail from here and back out on the rocks gave us this next view of the waterfall.
The next section of the waterfall is the part you can see from the overlook - and it's the better view. From where we were, I could only look up the waterfall for this perspective -
Below Upper Bearwallow Falls is a section of creek about a mile long that I haven't explored yet. The topo map doesn't show much drop in elevation, but I would think there would be a few small cascades along the way. The creek then crosses one of the old logging roads above the 4 waterfalls that used to be referred to as just Paw Paw Falls. They are definitely 4 individual waterfalls and the park has given each one a name. From top to bottom they are Indian Camp, Split Rock, Chute, and Paw Paw Falls. The good news is that there is a trail in the works to see all 4 waterfalls! Parking will be in the same lot as the Rainbow Falls Trail. From this lot, walk back out of the lot and continue down the paved road. Pass the right turn for Chestnut Mountain Rd. In a very short distance will be another gated road to the right - take it. I believe this will be an area for family tent and group camping in the future. This closed road passes by Raymond Fisher Place which was the area being used for primitive camping before Phase 1 was completed. The road continues for maybe 3/4 mile to a mile before crossing Beawallow Creek at the point I mentioned above. The road is really steep just before the creek and if you have decided to come down for a look and this creeps you out, you have no business going any farther. There is no trail down the creek to the waterfalls and it's steep and dangerous and the Boogie Man lives down here.
The first waterfall - Indian Camp Falls - isn't very far down from the road as the crow flies. The waterfall is a sliding type, but the creek takes a sharp left at the base of the falls.
Just around the bend to the right is the top of Split Rock Falls. It's the least impressive of the waterfalls in my opinion, but still has some character. It's hard to tell from this next shot, but the waterfall is about 20' high.
Chute Falls is the 3rd waterfall in the series. We were able to get out on the rocks at the top of the waterfall fairly safely, but getting down to the base was no easy chore.
The last waterfall in the series is still called Paw Paw Falls and you may have seen pictures of it in park literature.
I had marked a spot with my GPS on the old road just past Julie Chappell Place. The plan was to bushwhack up kind of southwest from the base of Paw Paw Falls back to this point on the road as opposed to heading back up the way we came. I also had a copy of the map in the Bill Thomas guide book which proved to be very helpful again as it has on other explorations in the park. The plan worked like a charm and proved to be a shorter way back up. Too far south would have missed the road completely, so be warned if you decide to try this. From Paw Paw Falls, Bearwallow Creek flattens out and flows for about 1/2 mile before meeting Jake's Branch. It then continues for another 1/4 mile before meeting Indian Camp Branch, then falling over Indian Camp Branch Falls. This area is in the heart of Gorges State Park and there is no easy way in. To read how to get to this area and to Lower Bearwallow Falls from Augerhole Rd, please click this link.
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