On Top of Reedy Cove Falls
Reedy Cove, or Twin Falls as it is also known, in the heart of South Carolina's Lake Hartwell Country tourism region, is a scenic spot with two trails to fit any hiker's schedule or fitness level.
by David Lucas
The double waterfall that drops down maybe 75 or so feet through the lovely mountain gorge where Reedy Cove Creek rushes down to eventually join with Eastatoe Creek in the Jocassee Gorges is pretty well-known and very often visited. In fact, you’ll find it listed as one of the “Top 5 Must See Waterfalls in South Carolina” on the website of the Lake Hartwell Country tourism region [crownofthecarolinas.org], which, by the way, is a great site to visit if you are contemplating a fall trip to the region that encompasses the northwestern tip of South Carolina – Pickens, Oconee & Anderson counties.
Some folks call it Reedy Cove Falls, some call it Twin Falls. Whatever you call it, if you haven’t seen this lovely spot, you really should. Not only does the view from the base of the falls make landscape photographers swoon (see pic above), especially when a tinge of fall color begins to brighten the beeches, maples and other hardwood trees on the surrounding slope, it’s also very accessible for folks of all ages and fitness levels. There’s a short (approximately quarter-mile), relatively flat hiking trail with a covered viewing platform at the end, a perfect spot for capturing a long-exposure shot that’s sure to be the envy of all your friends on Facebook. It’s even been the subject of a South Carolina Wildlife magazine cover (“Falling Waters” in the July-August 1990 issue)
All of which is great. But there’s another way to see the falls; a route that will take you not to the base, but to a lovely spot upstream where you can look down over the edge of the cascade to the viewing platform below. On a recent trip to the falls, I chose the other way.
I’ll be honest, you’re not going to get as pretty a photograph of the falls as the shutterbugs who set up on the viewing platform below. If that’s your goal, by all means, head up the Cleo Chapman Highway a few miles from the turnoff on Highway 178 and make a right on Waterfalls Road to find the parking area for the short trail to the viewing platform. But if a somewhat more adventurous and a little tougher (cardiovascularly speaking) hike through the forest and up to the top of the falls sounds more like your bag, then the alternative “Twin Falls” Trail on the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ Franklin Graveley WMA might be just the ticket. Along this trail, you’ll cover some interesting terrain, get a nice cardio workout, see some classic “cove forest” plant community flora, and even get some insight into a bit of lesser known local history.
That all sounded like fun to me, so in early September I headed to the Upstate to meet my “cousin,” Greg Lucas. One of the several hats that Greg wears for the SCDNR is that of the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges, where he has been known to lead a hike or three. Greg and I met up for lunch at the Holly Springs store, which, I have to report, entailed a serious error in hiking prep on my part. Now Cousin Greg is fit as a fiddle and an experienced hiker with thousands of trail miles under his belt. He opted for a simple cheeseburger – no sides – for lunch. Wise choice. I, on the other hand, chose poorly. Which is to say, after looking around the room to see what the other folks were having, I opted for the double cheeseburger (which probably would have been OK) AND a loaded hotdog, which, in retrospect, was not OK. Now you, gentle reader, can probably see where this is headed, but in my own defense, I’ll point out two things:
1) The ladies behind the counter at Holly Springs REALLY know their way around a grill, and I’ll never admit regret in availing myself of a first-class chilli & slaw dog on a road trip when one is available and reporting my findings back to you. Inquiring bellies want to know.
2) The hiking website I looked at in prepping for this trip clearly said this was a “moderate” hike of just over a mile. No problem, even on a full stomach, I figured. It’s just that, being not that bright, I neglected to take into account that it would be uphill pretty much the entire way. Should have look a little more closely at the map.
So yeah, it was a warm day, and I’m not gonna lie, by the time we got to the top I was in the throes of a pretty ugly weiner sweat. So….pro tip: DO get the hotdog at Holly Springs Grocery as a side for your double cheeseburger, both are awesome. But DON’T scarf them both down just before you hit the trail – nuff said.
You’ll find the little pull off parking lot for the trailhead off the side of Cleo Chapman Road, just about a half-mile past the intersection with Highway 178 where the (locally) famous “Bob’s Place” bar used to stand (forever immortalized as “Scatterbrains” in the George Singleton novel Work Shirts for Madmen). Sadly, “Scatterbrains” burned down a while ago, but you still can’t miss it – just be careful of oncoming traffic when making the left onto Cleo Chapman Road. The “Twin Falls” trail is well marked and starts just past the vehicle gate. It was built in 2008 and follows roughly the path of an old Appalachian Lumber company narrow gauge logging rail line. In fact, at various points along the trail, you can still see portions of the old steel rails sticking out of the ground and portion of where the old railbed cuts through the hills. A series of violent storms and floods washed out the trestles and much of the track in the 1920s, and it was never rebuilt. Eventually, Appalachian was bought out and became a subsidiary of the Singer Sewing Machine company. Trees logged from the mountainside (then transported by truck rather to the main rail line) were used to build the cabinets of sewing machines shipped during the early part of the 20th century.
Photo Gallery Below -- Click on the image to scroll through
1. Buckeye and shell; 2. A canopy of beech leaves; 3. Recent storm damage put some trees across the trail -- it is still passable & will be cleared soon; 4. What local call a "Laurel Hell" -- a thicket of Rosebay, rhododendron maximum; 5. A glimpse of the falls from the trailside; 6. Wild muscadines growing alongside the trail; 7. The streambed above the falls is littered with steel rails, once a part of a narrow gauge track used for logging the mountain; 8. View from the top; 9. The point where the creek splits off to make two streams -- some stories suggest the streambed was altered by hand to produce the visually stunning "twin falls" effect; 10. Cardinal flower is a common sight alongside rocky streams in the Appalachians; 11. The flood that bent this steel beam must have had considerable force; 12. "Cousin" Greg Lucas looks upstream; 13. A powerful cascade of water across a granite streambed makes a woderfully cool place to stop and rest before heading back down the hill; 14. Pools like these look like they might be worth investigating with a trout rod; 15. Back to the beginning. SCDNR photos by David Lucas
Wooden stair steps help hikers navigate the steepest parts of the trail. Overhead, hardwood trees and a few pines create a shady canopy. The creek tumbles down the gorge – mainly on your left – as the switchbacks wind you up and up the steep hillside to the summit. The marked trail ends just above the point where the top of the falls can be seen, but trout anglers and other adventurous types have created paths alongside the creek that go further up the mountain.
I’m telling you, it’s a fantastic short hike, and the view from the top will give you a different perspective on that iconic shot of the iconic “Twin Falls.” But save the hotdogs for a celebratory lunch at the top.