View Full Version : Extensive Damage at Jacks River Falls, Cohutta Wilderness Area

Dan Roper
07-08-2019, 13:57
Yesterday (7/7/19) I made my first visit to Jacks River Falls since the immense rain and straight-line wind storm in July 2018. I had heard there was damage but that it was sporadic (here and there) but nothing that prepared me for what it's actually like. Here's a report I made to a friend this morning:

I tagged along with my boys and their friends to Jacks River Falls yesterday, via Beach Bottom Trail. We found that the July 2018 storm damage was immense to the point of being startling.

The hike in on the trail shows really no damage at all until you reach Beech Creek. There are a scattering of trees down there –enough to be noticeable but not overwhelming.

After reaching the Jacks River Trail and turning downstream, there are many trees down where Beech Creek empties into the river, or just up Beech Creek, where all the groups used to camp. It looks like somebody
brought in bulldozers to uproot the trees.

But the most “shocking” damage is across the river. The toe of Hickory Ridge, from above the falls to down below, look like bombs set for air-bursts went off. Most of the mature trees on the mountainside above the falls are gone. A healthy number on the big ridge below the falls are gone. There are a scattering of living trees and many standing or leaning dead trees. Already it looks like a sea of small sourwood trees are set to become the dominant green component of that forest over the coming five to ten years, before bigger trees assert dominance.

I think it will be five to ten years before the dead trees are down and covered by the new growth. At that point everything should be green and lovely – though much different looking. It will probably be 50-60 years before the forest there looks anything like it did in the ‘90s and 2000s.

Many of the downed trees along the river are going to eventually end up washed into the rocks at the falls. One dead pine is already down in the little “hot tub” (as we called it) just above the first drop of the falls. The main swimming hole was obstruction free. We did a lot of jumping into that big pool. There were lots of trees down on the path leading up to the high ledge. My boys could make it up by scaling on rock wall, and they jumped a bunch of times. I couldn’t make it up.

Tipi Walter
07-08-2019, 17:20
Thanks for the update. I just returned from a 24 day backpacking trip in Cohutta and backpacked down the hideous Hickory Ridge trail which took me 3 hours longer than expected due to the godawful amount of blowdowns. But I made it.

I generally avoid at all costs Jacks River Falls on my trips as it's a tourist magnet and draws in 90% of all Cohutta visitors---usually dayhikers breezing in from Beech Bottom trailhead on Big Frog FS road 62. But I did backpack down Beech Bottom trail and camped along Beech Creek for one night.

The other trails I found terrible were Conasauga River from Betty Gap down to Little Rough Creek and Hickory Creek trail from the River up to East Cowpen.

Welcome to the Conasauga River trail.

Dan Roper
07-09-2019, 01:39
Man, Tipi, you did cover alot of territory!

Thanks for the tip on HIckory Ridge Trail. That one was in my immediate-future plans, and hiking upridge to boot. I'll re-think that.

I was surprised at how bad Conasauga River Trail was last year, from the point where the creek from Paint Bank Gap flows into the river all the way to the lower end (I had bushwhacked down from Paint Bank Gap).

In May, I did the upper part of Hickory Creek Trial plus a short section of Conasauga River Trail plus all of Tearbritches. All of those are a-okay.