July/August 2017Hunting Waterfalls in Oconee CountyBy Shannon Farlow, Featuring photography by Kristy Massey

This adventurous guide to the scenic waterfalls of Oconee County meanders along a trail of jurassic proportions, revealing some of our state's most breathtaking gems.

To enjoy exploring the waterfalls of Oconee County,
be sure to wear a comfortable pair of sneakers or hiking shoes that will provide solid traction. Although we actually didn't need it at most of the falls we visited, it's probably a good idea to pack some insect repellent. You will also want to pack sunscreen, drinking water and snacks. And don't forget your swimsuit if the weather's warm and you want to go for a dip.

My wife and I recently spent a weekend exploring the hills of Sumter National Forest in search of Oconee County's finest falls. Using Walhalla as our base, we ventured down twisting back roads and washed-out dirt roads, often far from cellphone service. Over the course of two days, we managed to bag six waterfalls and scores of photos - and we had a blast doing it. Here's what you need to know if you'd like to visit these same waterfalls - the majority of which can be reached by a short hike on public trails.

Of the six Oconee County waterfalls we visited, Brasstown Falls was one of my favorites. This 120-foot waterfall on Brasstown Creek is made up of three unique sections - essentially three waterfalls - each with its own personality.

Brasstown Falls

Brasstown Cascades
From the parking area, past campsites frequented by Boy Scout troops and other youth groups, a nearly effortless quarter-mile hike will bring you to the upper section of the falls called Brasstown Cascades. This approximately fifty-foot cascade can be easily viewed from the hiking trail. While most anyone can access this portion of the falls, if you plan to venture any further, you'll need appropriate shoes and a healthy sense of adventure.

Brasstown Veil
Past Brasstown Cascades, the path starts to get narrow. At times, the trail shrinks to only a few inches wide in spots. Be prepared to hang onto tree roots and scramble over some boulders. While we encountered several people of all ages attempting to tackle this trail, I don't recommend it for very young children or adults with physical limitations. One misstep off the narrow path and your trip to discover waterfalls could end up in the emergency room.

After clearing the Cascades, Brasstown Creek levels out for several yards before tumbling over a twenty-foot ledge named Brasstown Veil. This middle section of the falls offers several opportunities for photographs that will make your Facebook friends jealous. Just take your time navigating this section of the trail and beware of rocks that are slippery from the spray.

Brasstown Sluice
The last section of the waterfall, Brasstown Sluice, is a fifteen-foot chute that drops into a large, shallow pool. To reach the base of Brasstown Sluice, you'll need to continue navigating the steep and narrow trail. If you happen to visit on a hot day, the pool will be a welcome reward for your hiking efforts.

Little Brasstown Falls
On a feeder creek just upstream from Brasstown Falls, you can discover a fourth waterfall called Little Brasstown. You'll have to cross Brasstown Creek to see this twenty-foot-high waterfall.

Getting There
Starting in Westminster, travel west on U.S. 76 for approximately 12 miles. Turn left and drive 4.2 miles on Brasstown Road, which becomes gravel. Then turn right onto FS 751 and drive 0.5 miles to reach the parking area and trailhead.

Hours of Operation
Open 24/7, 365 days a year.

Approximate GPS Coordinates
34.7181, -83.3038

Pigpen Falls & Licklog Falls

If you had to pick an Oconee County waterfall to visit simply based on the name, you'd probably never see Pigpen or Licklog falls, but then you'd be missing out on two family-friendly gems hidden in Sumter National Forest. From the trailhead at the parking area, the hike to these waterfalls is a relatively easy one thanks to a clear, visible path with little elevation change.

At approximately twenty-five feet tall, Pigpen was the smallest waterfall we visited, but its short stature doesn't diminish its attraction. The waters of Licklog Creek flow in two divided veils over Pigpen's stacked rock before collecting in a sandy-bottom swimming hole that's ideal for kids. And if you enjoy camping, you can pitch a tent at a primitive campsite within earshot of the waterfall.

Licklog Falls is a short hike down the trail from Pigpen. You'll reach the thirty-foot-tall upper tier first. If the foliage is still clinging to the trees, you may have trouble seeing the waterfall. To get a better view, we left the hiking trail and followed a steep path down to the base of the fifty-foot-tall second tier. There the creek flows into the much wider Chattooga River.

Getting There
Drive northwest on S.C. 28 from Walhalla for 8.4 miles. Bear right onto S.C. 107 and drive 3.1 miles. Past the entrance to Oconee State Park, turn left onto Village Creek Road and continue for 1.7 miles. Turn right onto Nicholson Ford Road and drive for approximately 2.5 miles until you reach the small parking area. From the parking area, hike west on the Foothills Trail for 0.5 miles before turning left onto the Chattooga Trail. Continue hiking 0.2 miles to Pigpen Falls.

To reach the upper level of Licklog Falls, continue 0.2 miles along the Chattooga Trail. The waterfall will be on your right. Licklog's lower level is approximately 50 yards further downstream.

The drive to Pigpen Falls and Licklog Falls was actually more challenging than the hike that followed. The gravel-topped Nicholson Ford Road was plagued with teeth-rattling ruts and in two spots actually disappeared under shallow creeks.

Hours of Operation
Open 24/7, 365 days a year.

Sumter National Forest
FS 775
Mountain Rest, SC 29664

Approximate GPS Coordinates
Pigpen: 34.9286, -83.1293
Licklog: 34.9293, -83.1304

Station Cove Falls (Station Creek Falls)

Located about a mile from the remnants of Oconee County's oldest European settlement, Station Cove Falls looks like something straight out of a Tolkien novel. The stepped sixty-foot waterfall is hidden within a secluded cove forest along Station Creek. Dense foliage dampens the usual telltale sound of falling water and keeps this waterfall concealed from view until you are only a few yards from its base. There the forest opens up to reveal the resplendence of the falls.

The tiny parking area on Oconee Station Road was filled with a half dozen cars when we arrived, but it was late afternoon and the other visitors were leaving. After hiking for thirty minutes down the wide, 0.5-mile trail, we had the waterfall to ourselves. According to Native American lore, ancient spirits live within waterfalls. Standing in front of Station Cove Falls with no one else around, I could believe them.

Getting There
Starting in Walhalla, take S.C. 11 north for 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Oconee Station Road (S-37-95) and keep driving for 2.4 miles. You will pass the Oconee Station State Historic Site before reaching the trailhead parking area on the left.

Hours of Operation
Open 24/7, 365 days a year.

Sumter National Forest
Mountain Rest, SC 29664

Approximate GPS Coordinates
34.8495, -83.0854

Ramsey Creek Falls (Chau Ram Falls)

If crawling over boulders doesn't sound like fun, check out Ramsey Creek Falls. Located in Chau Ram County Park, the waterfall features a forty-foot divided cascade that can be enjoyed from a picnic table or shelter next to the park's recreation building. Ramsey Creek Falls is a good choice for families with very small kids or anyone who's not up for a longer hike.

After handing over the two-dollar entrance fee to a park ranger, we walked the hundred or so yards from the parking lot down the hill to the falls. There the waters of Ramsey Creek flowed lazily over the cascade down into the Chauga River.

In addition to the falls, there are approximately four miles of hiking trails that are popular with visitors. Along one of the trails, you can view the Chauga River from atop a 175-foot-long suspension bridge built just for pedestrians. If you enjoy camping, there are 26 RV campsites with water and electricity. Shower facilities and tent camping facilities are also available.

Getting There
Drive west on U.S. 76 W/U.S. 123 S from Westminster. At the fork, bear right onto Long Creek Hwy/U.S. 76 W. Drive 2.5 miles and turn left onto Chau Ram Park Road. The entrance to the park is at the end of the road.

Hours of Operation
From March until November 16, open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to dusk. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Entrance per car: $2 Camping per day: $15 for residents $20 nonresidents

1220 Chau Ram Park Road Westminster, SC 29693

Approximate GPS Coordinates
34.682, -83.1462

Issaqueena Falls

Any trip to see Oconee County's waterfalls should probably begin with the popular and accessible Issaqueena Falls. Located on Stumphouse Mountain, Issaqueena was named after a Native American girl who, according to legend, jumped over the falls to escape her Cherokee pursuers.

A short drive up S.C. 28 from the town of Walhalla, Issaqueena features an inspiring granite cascade that's more than one hundred feet tall. You can view the falls from an easy-to-reach wooden overlook or, if you don't mind crawling down a steep footpath, snap some Instagram-worthy photos from the bottom. We decided to try for the base, which required hanging onto tree roots and limbs, crawling across a fallen tree and dodging occasional poison oak. Looking straight up the face of this ancient waterfall, it was immediately clear why so many visitors make the effort.

While you are in the area, check out Stumphouse Tunnel. Carved by hand with pick axes and dynamite, the main tunnel at Stumphouse Mountain measures seventeen feet wide and twenty-five feet tall. Visitors can explore the first fifty or so yards of the tunnel before reaching a permanent gate.

Had John C. Calhoun succeeded, Stumphouse Tunnel would have been the world's longest underground railroad tunnel. Instead, a lack of funds and the Civil War prevented his ambitious dream from ever being realized. Bring a flashlight to explore the tunnel, but watch your step - condensation causes constant dripping and standing water along the path.

Getting There
From the town limits of Walhalla, take S.C. 28 northwest for approximately 4.5 miles to Stumphouse Tunnel Park. Turn right onto Stumphouse Tunnel Road and drive 0.4 miles to the entrance of a gravel parking lot on the right. From the parking lot, Issaqueena Falls is a short walk down the well-maintained path.

Stumphouse Tunnel is just 0.2 miles further up Stumphouse Tunnel Road. Limited parking is available near the entrance of the tunnel.

Hours of Operation
Daily 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed on Christmas Day and for inclement weather. There is a $2.00 entrance fee to Stumphouse Tunnel Park.

Stumphouse Tunnel Road
Walhalla, SC 29691

Approximate GPS Coordinates
34.806925, -83.121474

Visit www.dnr.sc.gov and www.scatr.com to plan your adventure.


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