Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rock Creek Gorge

The uppermost falls we found on Laurel Branch

Rock Creek Gorge Hiking and Exploring

Dana & Kenny Koogler 
Hike distance = 4 1/2 miles round trip
Saturday March 9, 2013

Photos are here:

   Kenny and I moved to Tennessee eleven years ago.  Prior to that we had vacationed in the Smokies several times a year for about four years.  Once we moved down here we started branching out and hiking in other areas. One of the guidebooks I owned and used was the Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Tennessee Mountains .   First time we went down to camp and hike in the Ocoee River area I spoke to a ranger about something I read in that guidebook.  It stated in the guide that the Rock Creek gorge contained eleven falls! I knew Benton Falls was one of them. I knew there was Rock Creek Falls and beyond that I did not know. The ranger said she did not know and thought that was probably wrong.  Over the years I have learned of more of them. After this trip we've seen nine of the eleven!

      We planned to make the trek when the water flow would be just right.  We did not want a complete raging torrent to make the trip even more difficult to the point of impossible.  We wanted there to be enough water though to make the falls beautiful and worth seeing.   We had planned on going above Rock Creek Falls and heading upstream.
We found that Chestnut Mountain Falls presented too much of an obstacle to continue.
It is a high waterfall hemmed in by rocky cliffs on both sides. We were able to visit the falls on the side stream, but will have to plan another trip and come down from above to access the rest.


Waterfall #1

Waterfall #2

Waterfall #3--Rock Creek Falls

Waterfall #4--Chestnut Mountain Falls

Waterfall # 5 Thornburg Mountain Falls

Waterfall #6 Upper Thornburg Falls

Waterfall #7 Big Bluff Falls

Waterfall #8 Upper Big Bluff Falls

These are the ones we saw today.

Further up the gorge and seen on several other trips is Benton Falls which is about 65 ft high.

Benton Falls makes 9 Falls in Rock Creek Gorge.

Below is a black and white photo taken by Albert "Dutch" Roth back in the 1930's of
what is called Rock House Twin Falls. It is supposed to be the next one up from Chestnut Mountain Falls.

Rock House Twin Falls existence is proven on photographs.  A description of it was also given and I have seen a black and white photo of the rock house near it.  That brings the number of waterfalls in the gorge to 10.. one of which we have not seen.

That leaves one more to account for to come to the total of eleven!
I have taken a look at the topograhy of the gorge and I see possibilities for two or three more waterfalls in that gorge and that is about it.  The guidebook went on to describe one falls that fell over 175 ft of rock!  The location of any remaining falls is in the very heart of this gorge and that no doubt explains why the last photo taken of them was made in 1930.   I expect if we do manage to find these falls and photograph and videotape them it will be two times.... first and last!

I always like a challenge and won't give up.

Thornburg Falls has a natural bridge that part of the waterfall flows under!
This was an extremely cool trip. We enjoyed it immensely.  Challenging and rewarding all in one.

Short video of Thornburg Bridge and Falls


  1. Loved the waterfall video Dana. Still alot of water rushing over those rocks.

    1. Thanks Mamabug. We've had lots of rain and some snow this Winter. I'm two trip reports behind. Let's just say after yesterday nobody knows any better than me how much water is in those creeks! haha!


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