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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  • We were here Thanksgiving week. Really enjoyed the hike to the top of the Falls. Took us about 1 and 1/2 hours. Some places were a challenge to cross. Had to cross a stream by walking over flat rocks ...  more »
  • From I-40.McDowell County, Exit 73, Take Catawba Falls Road to the end. There you will find a parking lot, porta pottie, and a walkable trail to the Catawba Falls. This is doable in about 90 minutes o...  more »
  • What a beautiful hike through the woods! From the parking lot, this is a two hour round trip hike slightly uphill going to falls and downhill coming back. Wide trail with a couple of stream crossings ...  more »

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