It's all about the creek…and the mountains

Falls – Dry Falls

Falls – Dry Falls – Waterfalls… One of the most popular things to do here in our little corner of the mountains is to visit some of the many spectacular nearby waterfalls that can be found in our region. 

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Dry Falls – Have you ever had the adventure of walking behind a big waterfall?  Have you ever had your voice drowned out by the roar of millions of gallons of water rushing by an arm’s length away from you?  Head on over to Dry Falls just outside of Highlands and experience it for yourself. At 75 feet tall, Dry Falls belies its name—it’s a huge cascade that runs year-round that flows over an overhanging bluff as the Cullasaja River drops elevation in the Cullasaja Gorge. The Cullasaja River through the Nantahala National Forest and Dry Falls is part of a series of waterfalls on an 8.7-mile (14 km) stretch of the river that eventually ends with Cullasaja Falls. When the water flow is low, you can walk behind the falls without getting wet, hence the name. But in wet rainy periods, the falls is at its most spectacular – if you go, be sure to bring a slicker or waterproof jacket as you’re sure to get a little wet in the mist and splashing of the falls.

Dry Falls in Winter
During the coldest months, spectacular ice formation blanket Dry Falls
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Luxurious Green Foliage Covers the Falls
Visit on a hot summer day and get a welcome misty shower of cool water as the falls plunges over the gorge.
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Cave-like Rock Formations
Walk under the main falls and see the amazing cave-like rock formations seeping with the waters of the falls.
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Fall Colors at Dry Falls
A visit to Dry Falls in mid-to-late October and early November provides a truly spectacular photo opportunity to see Mother Nature dressed in her best colors.
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In the narrow and deep Cullasaja Gorge, the Cullasaja River rushes and drops in a series of cascades and waterfalls to the Tennessee River near Franklin. A two-lane highway called Mountain Waters Scenic Byway, the combined route of U.S. 64 and NC 28, runs through the Cullasaja Gorge, which is mostly protected as part of the Nantahala National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service has designated this to be a National Scenic Byway because of the river, and its numerous waterfalls. The highway clings to the north bank of the Cullasaja River. Though the road is narrow and the curves are frequent and sharp, it can be a fun and beautiful drive. There are many places to pull off, get out and enjoy the views of the river.

Dry Falls is easy to get to, heading east on Highway 64 towards Highlands, NC.  The parking area is right off the road (with bathrooms) with parking for several dozen cars, but note that at the height of summer and on weekends parking may be tight. To get to the falls, follow the path and then go down the series of steps to the walk-behind of the falls. Be sure to walk behind the falls and over to the end of the path for yet another fantastic view and photo opportunity of these magnificent falls.

After the falls, continue east on Highway 64/Mountain Waters Scenic Byway for several miles and you’ll get to the mountain town of Highlands, NC. Highlands is a great place to stop for lunch and get in a little shopping before continuing your waterfall adventure.  Be sure to check out a couple of other waterfalls in the area: Bridal Veil Falls (video below), Glen Falls and Secret Falls.

The Tusquittee Valley

Tusquittee Valley

First, let’s learn where the name “Tusquittee” came from…

“Where the Water Dogs Laughed”

salamander

According to folklore, a Cherokee hunter crossing over Tusquittee Bald in a very dry season, heard voices, and creeping silently toward the place from which the sound proceeded, peeped over a rock and saw two water-dogs walking together on their hind legs along the trail and talking as they went. Their pond had dried up and they were on the way over to Nantahala river. As he listened one said to the other, “Where’s the water? I’m so thirsty that my apron (gills) hangs down,” and then both water-dogs laughed.

But what exactly is a “Water Dog”?  The cool forests and plentiful rivers, streams and creeks of our little corner of the mountains of Appalachia make it the perfect home to more salamander species than any other part of the world. Appalachia may be known for many things: its music, its industry, its culture, but what about its salamanders? It turns out, of the 550 known salamander species in the world, 77 can be found in this mountainous area, more than any other one region in the world. Many of them can only be found there. Here at Casa on the Creek, you can walk just steps from your cabin and begin your search for these elusive creatures right in Tusquittee Creek as well as the smaller branch that runs through the property.

And now, what’s so special about the Tusquittee Valley,
or as we like to say, “our little corner of the mountains…”

Here’s what The Blue Ridge Highlander has to say:
The Tusquittee Valley located north of the town Hayesville is likely the most beautiful of the three.  Enclosed by high mountain ranges and dissected through its center by the Tusquittee Creek, Tusquittee Valley is by far something quite unique.  Most certainly this mountain valley is a prize-winning photo opportunity at every turn.  A mostly residential community this quiet serene mountain valley is revered by both its residents and regional mountain neighbors as well as visitors the Clay County. Our subdivision, called Tusquittee Landing, incorporates a 2700 foot grass airstrip. Most people assume the “Landing” refers to the airplanes landing. However, it actually is a carryover from the days where the mules dragged logs down from the forest to a landing on Goldmine Creek. The logs were then moved down the creek to Tusquittee Creek and eventually to the sawmill.

Tusquittee Valley
Tusquittee Valley
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Brasstown Bald

Brasstown Bald

“Every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep climbing.”


You made it to the top– welcome to Brasstown Bald! 

Georgia’s highest mountain, Brasstown Bald rises 4,784 feet above sea level and its peak looms half a mile above the surrounding valleys.  If you’re going to be making a visit to our little corner of the mountains in October, put Brasstown Bald on your bucket list as it is the first place to see fall color. On clear days, the spectacular 360-degree view from the top of the mountain allows you to see four states, including Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. The observation deck offers a breathtaking view of the mountains’ scenic vistas and on clear days in late September and October, it’s even possible to see the skyline of Atlanta. In addition to spectacular views, a visit to Brasstown Bald offers cool mountain temperatures, beautiful scenery, hiking trails, gift shop and a terrific visitor center with a number of interactive exhibits and a movie about the site.

Brasstown Bald sign
Brasstown Bald visitor center
Brasstown Bald visitor center

The exhibits in the Brasstown Bald Visitor Center take you through the human and natural history of the Southern Appalachian region and the north Georgia mountains. Learn about the Cherokee Indians and early settlers and the impact they had on the land upon which they lived and earned their livelihoods.  A life-like robot of Ranger Arthur Woody, the first forester in the Blue Ridge Mountains, talks about the role the Forest Service played in the reforestation of the mountains in the early 1900s.

Brasstown Bald
Brasstown Bald

Climb up to cool down!  Brasstown Bald experiences weather conditions different from the rest of our region and after working up a sweat hiking the trail up to the top (or stay cool and take the shuttle), fog, mist, and storms can quickly and unexpectedly move in and obscure the view. But it’s these unique weather conditions that help to contribute to the variety of plants and wildlife found on the slopes of the mountain.  If you’d like the check on conditions at the top of Brasstown Bald before you head out, then check out the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest website where two webcams record the current weather and visibility at the Brasstown Bald Visitor Center. The elevation of Brasstown Bald also means that temperatures average 5-10 °F cooler than the surrounding areas (temperatures have never exceeded 84°F) and makes the bald a great place to visit during hot summer days.

Depending upon the season, a visit to the Bald will offer a beautiful display of rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and flame azaleas in bloom (May to June), or the intense shades of green that the surrounding national forest wears during summer, or the spectacular show of fall color as it spreads across the Blue Ridge Mountains (mid to late October).

Brasstown Bald Visitor Center is located on the summit of the Bald and is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm.  A steep, paved ½ mile trail leads from the parking lot to the visitor information center on the Bald. For those who don’t want to walk, a concessionaire operates a shuttle bus from the parking areas to the Visitor Center for a fee. A U.S. Forest Service parking fee is also required. The Bald is generally open from April through December, however the gate at the bottom of Highway 180 Spur up to the Bald will close if conditions are unsafe for travel.

All Aboard Scenic Railroad

railroad locomotive

All Aboard!  The Great Smoky Mountains Scenic Railway is not just for train buffs!  Be sure to put this one-of-a-kind train ride on your bucket list for your mountain vacation. Families of all ages will enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime adventure on this restored old-fashioned railroad. The Great Smoky Mountains Scenic Railroad offers scenic train excursions through the mountains along Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, across beautiful valleys, cruising through deep gorges and chugging through tunnels carved right out of the mountains.  Board the train at the depot in downtown Bryson City and enjoy a variety of trips and even special-event trains like the Peanuts Great Pumpkin Patch Express in the Fall and the Polar Express, certain to create lasting holiday memories for children and grown-ups alike. 

“Through the dark night chasing the morning light,
That headlight streaming white through the night” 
― Richard L. Ratliff

The magical story of the Polar Express comes to life as you depart Bryson City for an imaginary journey to the North Pole on The Polar Express. A beautiful display of holiday lights and decorations welcome you to the Christmas season here in the mountains. Imagine listening to the story of the magical Polar Express, sipping on steaming hot chocolate while the mountains rush by just feet away. When the train arrives at the North Pole, Santa Claus and his reindeer will be waiting to greet kids of all ages. Sing along to the carols and take in the magic of the moment.

If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains in the Fall, take a ride on the Great Pumpkin Patch Express (select dates in October). Put on your costume and enjoy hayrides, storytelling, face-painting and trick-or-treating. Plus you’ll get to meet Snoopy, Charlie Brown & Lucy and even select your own pumpkin.


Are you a movie buff?  Read on…

The famous train wreck scene in the 1993 blockbuster movie The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones was filmed right here in Dillsboro along the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The wreckage set can still be viewed on eastbound Tuckasegee River Excursions departing from Bryson City. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad was also used in the filming of 1996 comedy My Fellow Americans starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner when they stumble on to a charter train full of UNC-Chapel Hill fans headed for the NCAA Final Four. And train scenes in the 1999 film Forces of Nature starring Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock were also filmed on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. And for the train buffs—the railroad’s “2-8-0” steam locomotive #1702 (formerly of the U.S. Army) was featured in the 1966 film, “This Property is Condemned,” starring Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, and Charles Bronson. 

railroad locomotive
scenic railroad close-up

“Through the dark night chasing the morning light,
That headlight streaming white through the night” 
― Richard L. Ratliff

Tail Of The Dragon

Man on motorcyle

Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap – Are You Brave Enough?

Tail of the Dragon is the ultimate in mountain driving experiences.  Starting at Deals Gap, the road follows the mountain pass along the NC-Tenn border.  Not for the faint of heart, the road boasts 311 curves in just 11 short miles with no intersecting roads – not even a driveway –  to slow you down.  Bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest, it offers chills and thrills in a drop-dead beautiful mountain setting.  Riding the “Dragon” is at the top of the bucket list for motorcycle and sports car fans across the country.  With plenty of curves with names like Wheelie Hell, Brake or Bust Bend and Gravity Cavity, the Tail of the Dragon is guaranteed to be the ride of your life.  Are YOU brave enough?

“You don’t stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding.”
― Anonymous


“Only a biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window.”
― Anonymous