February 11, 2018
Elk River Falls is nestled in the northern portion of Avery County, just before crossing the border to Tennessee and the Appalachian Trail. The trail is relatively easy, only ¼ mile down a gentle path to the falls and much of that has built in stairs.
This trip is worth your time, but with such a natural beauty that is easily accessible comes a plethora of problems, namely, trash. En route to the falls, the trailers and homes are littered with debris. Metallic objects discarded on the side of the road, trucks scattered in various stages of disrepair, dogs chained to poles, all in the four (4) miles down to the trailhead. Once on the trail, beer cans are scattered as frequently as the ferns on the forest floor. Once at the top of the falls, news clippings are laminated and stapled to a tree, warning would be hooligans that the falls are deadly. In fact according to the Watauga Democrat several have been injured or killed in the past few years. “The last fatality to occur at the falls took place on July 16, 2016, when local resident, 39-year-old Jacques Downing, jumped from the top of the falls and didn’t resurface. It took dive teams from Charlotte and Washington County, Tenn., two days to recover his body from the hazardous waters beneath the waterfall.”
It’s a shame that this beautiful site has been overused and misused by the throngs of visitors.