Sunday, January 14, 2007

Elk River Falls





Elk River Falls (aka Elk Falls and Big Falls) is awesome and amazingly accessible. It is undoubtedly the easiest falls to visit in the area. Today the water had a striking blue-green tint. The other times I've visited the water was murky.

Photography: Photographing this 50 foot waterfall is always a challenge because it's very much exposed to the sun, which tends to cause "hot spots" and overexposure problems. It's best to come on a cloudy morning.

Nearby Falls: From Elk River Falls, you can hike to beautiful Jones Falls. Much further downstream is Twisting Falls (also known as Compression Falls). Click here to watch a wild video of some guys kayaking over Elk River Falls and Twisting/Compression Falls. Not something anyone who loves living should try.

Directions: Take 19e to Elk Park, NC (just over the border from Roan Mountain, TN), turn north onto Old Mill Road, and after 1/4 mi. turn north again onto Elk River Road. Take this for approx. 4 miles until the road dead ends at the falls. It's a short 1/4 mi. hike to the base of the falls.

Update, 6/26/07: Just read the sad news of a 16-year-old Elizabethton, TN boy who drowned after jumping from the top of the falls and being pulled under by the currents. It's a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to his family. If you visit this waterfall, please take a moment to remember Chad Hicks and encourage others to respect and appreciate the power of the churning produced by a waterfall of this size. Read my Warnings, Safety Tips and Disclaimers.

Update, 8/19/07: Saw this sad warning hanging on the window at Jack's Grocery outside of Roan Mountain -- thought I'd pass it along.

Update 5/30/10: Another tragic death at Elk River Falls, a 40 year old man drown after either diving or falling 50 feet into the water. The sad details, here and here. Please urge others not to risk their lives by jumping from this waterfall.

18 comments:

  1. Me and my family just visited the falls, It was a wonderful sight.Men were jumping off of the falls, it was very scary to see. Then we were told of the young boy who drowned there. It surprised me that people were still jumping.

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  2. Love these falls & spent an early morning photographing them about 10 years ago.

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  3. I grew up about half a mile up the road from the falls. I love and respect the falls. I have had the misfourtune of pulling several jumpers out and have had to watch several families be told there was nothing to be done for there family member was gone. That being said, people always have and always will jump off the falls. to say someone did not know the danger is ridiculus. If you are there any of the locals will tell you repeatedly where to jump if you must and where the currents are. I am terribly saddened by the death of this young child, but he as well as all other jumpers new that danger of our falls.

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  4. HEY ANONYMOUS MY SON DID NOT JUMP HE WAS IN THE WATER LESS THAN 5 MIN. HE BECAME INTANGLED IN FISH LINE WHICH PULLED HIM UNDER THEY DID NOT FIND HIS BODY FOR THREE DAYS BECAUSE OF THE CURRENTS

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  5. Another death at these falls. Recovered the body today after 24 hours of searching. This is horrible. Praying for his family.

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  6. A man JUST drowned at the falls yesterday! He did jump from the fall. They recovered his body today. DO NOT risk your life for a simple thrill! The current below the fall is strong and very scary.

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  7. There is some argument about if the man fell or jumped. Either way...it is believed his intention was to jump. The sad part is that his wife and 7 year old daughter watched him die. His irresponsible behavior has left behind a widow and fatherless child. 40 divers risked their own lives to recover his body. Swiftwater diving is extremely dangerous and takes much training, experience, strength and dedication. Most of the Rescue, Fire and EMS personnel that responded to this incident were volunteers. That means they work for free. They train for free. They do it all on their own time, because they want to. Because they care about what they do, not about a paycheck. Personally, as part of the Rescue effort that pulled this man from the water on Sunday, I'm mad. I'm mad that we risked our lives to recover a body. You just can't fix dead. Why did we do it. We drove for hours, and carried heavy equipment up and down a mountain, and dove into cold rough water so that a little girl and a wife could have something to bury. So that if she wanted to, his wife could slap him, or shake him and yell and scream and cry at him for his stupid selfishness. So that a little girl could say goodbye and tuck a favorite toy or a note in beside him before the lid was closed. That is why 40 divers got in the water and that is 40 others did other tasks on shore. So next time red lights and sirens come up behind you, or block your way and slow you down...remember that we are helping someones loved one. It could be yours.

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  8. Thank you very much for this moving and important reminder -- I hope many will take it to heart -- and thank you for your professionalism, your dedication and your service.

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  9. To jump from a fall like this is foolish, ignorant, and childish. If one considers this as a cheap thrill, they certainly should consider the result and effect of their death on their families. These rescue squads risk their lives to either save yours or bring your body home. A rescue volunteer has a family as well and if their life is lost trying to save yours -you will feel that guilt the rest of your life.

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  10. i was there today with my friends for the sole purpose to jump the falls.. simply because i had seen all the videos on youtube of people jumping the falls.. while i was at the top of the falls a local cop and a search n rescue guy walked over and i started talking to them and they informed me how many people had died out there.. and how it was in no way safe to jump. im glad they showed up because i was most certainly goin to jump..

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  11. I lived in them parts and still have fond memories of that swimming hole. Yes, I have jumped off many times but only after watching the locals as to where and how.

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  12. We have owned property up the road from the falls for over 60 years and have sadly watched many emergency vehicles race by. My own daughter rescued a girl who started to jump and then hesitated. She then fell and hit a rock at the bottom. She ended up paralyzed. I am scared every time I see someone jump. It is not worth the thrill.

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  13. Went to the falls today. Staying for the first time in hot springs NC for a few days. It was a great jump, a few boys came up asking if I was a local due to fact I walked straight up then launched over the edge. Anyway great spot. Also I am sorry for everyone who has lost a loved one at this or any location. But with all things there are risks, more people die in automobile related accidents than any of these outdoor activities every year yet we a lot go out everyday and take off in them...... "To die doing what one loves, no matter the age or time is not a tragedy but a life well spent." J.M

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  14. I'd say jumping off knowing the risk and dying was a life well wasted in my opinion. There are plenty other swimming holes to jump into around where people haven't died.

    Also more people die in automobile accidents than "these outdoor activities" because there are several magnitudes more people driving than jumping from waterfalls.

    I hate those ignorant statistic comparisons.

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    1. very well said -- We visited this spot this weekend with our son and his family. He has swum in the pool there many times and says the current is something to deal with even in low water times. There is risk in anything we do, I could be seriously injured climbing a tree or walking down the steps; but there is no need to take unnecessary risks unless you care nothing for the people who love you. I agree with my daughter-in-law's idea to post a plaque on the falls listing the names of those who have died jumping there from either hitting the rocks or drowning in the boiling under toe current. That might give pause to the foolish before they leap into dangerous folly. Perhaps adding a plaque with the above statement from the rescue diver would add to the thinking process; you are not just endangering your own life, but the lives of others. Add too a statement of a survivor who watched their friend die just so the would be jumper would think of their mom, child, friend or spouse before they commit themselves to stupidity.

      I have heard that in evacuation areas before major hurricanes some officials pass out magic markers to the fools who decide to "ride out the storm" and instruct them specifically to write their name on their arms for easier identification of the body so their loved ones can have closure. They also warn them that once the storm begins, rescue operations will not be conducted due to the dangerous conditions. At that point most people rethink their bravado.

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  15. I love going to the falls, BUT, when people are jumping off the top, or climbing along the far side on the those ridiculous ropes, we leave. Watching someone get killed or severely injured due to such an obvious danger, is sickening.

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  16. We saw a few girls go up the left side with the ropes. One slipped at the edge and nearly fell to the rocks below. Another boy slipped over the ledge while still holding onto the rope. Luckily he was strong enough to pull himself up over the ledge or he was falling straight on the rocks below. His mother was sitting on the rock below and was crying after seeing this. She is lucky as he made it down ok but it could have been bad.

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  17. I went there last weekend--It was beautiful and no one was jumping, but there were tons of people!

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