Ever since I collected a vintage postcard of it, I’d been wanting to find Soco Falls. So we started out from Waynesville, zipped through Maggie Valley and up Soco Mountain, marvelling at the decrepit junk that lined the road.
Margaret Morley took this same route a hundred years ago when the scenery was still intact:
The road follows up through the peaceful valley, past the picturesque houses with the cornfields showing above the roofs, and the gardens full of flowers, past the high-wheeled mills, and across the charming fords banked in laurel where Jonathan Creek crosses and recrosses the road. You go on and up the mountain-side where the forest is stately, still, and ancient, and where underneath the trees, on all sides as far as one can see, a bed of dewy ferns covers the earth, the green fronds nested in shadows.
When we reached Soco Gap, I knew it wasn’t much farther, even if the surroundings didn’t quite match Morley’s description:
At the gap you see Soco Fall and hear it thunder down the lonely cliff. It is the wild beginning of Soco Creek that dashes down the other side of the mountain. … Yet nothing can dim your pleasure in the splendid freshness and mystery of the shadowy gorge where the water shouts in a thousand voices, for you are in the Indian Country where nature seems a little wilder and more secret.
So where is Soco Falls? I decided to stop and ask for directions at Starvin’ Marvin’s ("Last Beer and Wine Before Rez!", "Buy From Me or We Both Lose") .
"Could you tell us how to get to Soco Falls?"
Starvin’ Marvin looked aghast, "You don’t want to go THERE! It’s just down the hill on the left, but when they built the new road they dumped rocks over the bank. It’s really steep. There’s broken glass everywhere and RATTLESNAKES! I’d stay out of there if I were you."
With a full tank of gas and some helpful advice, I started down the hill toward Cherokee and looked for a wide spot between the road and the guardrail. Just enough room to pull over and park. Gazing down beyond the guardrail, the scene was about like Starvin’ Marvin described it. Except I couldn’t see the rattlesnakes.
The sun was going down and I surveyed what Margaret Morley had seen:
The writhing limbs and deep-green foliage of monster rhododendrons crowd the banks. Above them tower dark hemlocks. It is twilight in the gorge, although the sun shines brightly on the tree-tops.
Through the foliage, I caught a tantalizing glimpse of the falls. Beautiful! Had we gotten here an hour earlier, the boulders and broken glass and venomous snakes would have been no hindrance. But darkness was quickly closing in.
The viewing of Soco Falls would simply have to wait.
A premier photographer of Carolina waterfalls, Rich Stevenson visited Soco Falls in October 2005 while traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway:
When I got to the exit for Maggie Valley and Cherokee, I said to heck with the leaf peepin' and decided to pay another visit to Soco Falls. The falls are actually quite beautiful - 2 waterfalls side by side flowing into one creek. The tallest of the 2 is about 35' high. Unfortunately, humans built a road next the waterfalls and very stupid humans decided it was a good idea to throw trash over the bank down towards these beautiful waterfalls.
Stevenson descended the bank and was rewarded with a view of the falls and a close encounter with stinging nettles.
Some day I’ll go back and get a better look at Soco Falls. It’s a shame that this treasure has suffered such neglect and abuse.
But when you’ve got a glitzy showpiece of a casino in town, waterfalls don’t count for much.