Catawba Falls, Old Fort

Catawba Falls is a series of waterfalls on the headwaters of the Catawba River, in McDowell County, near Old Fort, North Carolina.GeologyThe Catawba River flows over 2 major waterfalls in a short distance. The first drop, called Upper Catawba Falls, consists of an upper free-fall drop, while the second drop a short distance downstream, often called just Catawba Falls, is a higher series of free-falls and cascades.HistoryCatawba Falls is part of the Pisgah National Forest. For many years, while the falls were located on public land, visitor access to the falls was heavily restricted. The only access points to the falls were a trail that went through private property, and an access point off of Interstate 40. Use of either access point was illegal.In 2005 and 2007, the US Forest Service purchased 88acre of land at the end of Catawba River Road for a trailhead. In 2010, access to the falls was officially opened to the public. In 2012, a new parking area was built by the Forest Service. The Forest Service plans further improvements, including a foot bridge over a tricky crossing of the river along the trail and a new trail to the upper falls, bypassing a section considered steep and dangerous.
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Catawba Falls Reviews
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  • October 5, 2017
    The lower falls is stunning and an easy hike in and out, but if you're there, I highly recommend continuing to the right of the falls and trekking up to the Upper falls. It is a fun challenge, with ro...  more »
  • September 28, 2017
    Definitely a must stop if you’re into hiking. The truck up is a little over a mile and if you’re out of shape can be slightly challenging but not unmanageable. Once you get to the top there’s spots to...  more »
  • September 1, 2017
    Small parking lot w/a bathroom that you don't want to breathe in, just hold your breath and get out. :-) There are some spots with rocks and some uphill - be sure to wear tennis shoes. Nice view. Ther...  more »

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