Monday, April 16, 2012

Compression Falls

Twisted and Compression Falls lie deep in a gorge just outside the town of Butler,TN off Poga Road. The drive to the falls is pleasant and scenic as it winds around Watauga Lake, but the hike is anything but pleasant. Although the hike is short at just over 3/4th of a mile it is a near vertical descent to the river below the falls. Once you arrive at the river, you have to negotiate a rocky path up stream until you meet a cliff that is wet at all times from the mist of the falls and slick with moss. I hike..a lot, and it's as difficult of footing as I've encountered. However, there's no feeling quite like finally getting a full view of Compression Falls and feeling the powerful mist in your face.
Amber and I at Compression Falls
college kids taking the plunge
This is what it looks like before you jump.

Steve, Amber, Pauline, and I visited on a Sunday so there were other people present, and a few brave souls were jumping off the falls into the frigid waters. I would love to have their nerve, but several people have been severely injured here and a few have lost their lives. Although beautiful, Twisted Falls is one of the most dangerous locations I've visited. Speaking of Twisted Falls, many people mistake Compression Falls as Twisted Falls. The falls are rumored to be named under the grizzliest of circumstances, Compression for a person who suffered a compression fracture of their back when their canoe went over the falls, and Twisted for the countless ankle injuries incurred trying to reach that falls. Compression is an impressive double falls and the first you arrive at. If you cross the creek in front of the falls, it's slick and swift water, you can climb steeply up the opposite bank and get on top of the falls. There is one of the deepest pools above the falls and a nice 20ft falls above that, to continue on you have to swim over to a rope hanging in the water and scale a 25ft rock wall. Once you make it up the creek on either side of the stream is surrounded by rock cliffs, and the river narrows and there are powerful whitewater rapids. Eventually the trail vanishes and the only way forward is to suspend yourself over the raging waters and hang from the side of the rocks by a rope installed by the forest service and crab walk until you can get around the rock cliff. In the distance, Twisted Falls is visible, it is narrow and powerful it would like similar to the letter "Z" from above. The water is deafening but it's a special feeling to be one of the few people that venture that far upstream. The pictures I'm using for this blog of Twisted were from a previous visit and with the help of others, to this date it is one of the only photos I've seen of the falls.
Twisted Falls and the dangerous waters below
close as you can get without falling in at Twisted
above the beginning of Twisted Falls as it enters the narrow chute

The gorge where the two falls are located is beautiful and deadly. Each time I visit I am in awe of the power of water. The years of rushing water have carved the gorge to the modern wonder we see today. Sometimes I would like to see this area further developed from a trail standpoint but even in it's current condition, Compression Falls recieves many visitors, and with development would come more trash and carelessness of the masses. I rank this falls as the nicest in the Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee area, if you feel the need to break a sweat, take in a beautiful falls,  and perhaps take a dip, then Compression Falls is your cup of tea. Until next time...happy trails.
This is a normal look for him
Watauga Lake from Butler Bridge


  1. Just started following your blog. Love all your hiking trips so far. I live in Gray,TN and just started hiking last fall and LOVE it! Thank you for sharing your hiking journey's.

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement. I'm thankful other people share my passion, and it's awesome were from the same town. I'm sure we will eventually cross paths on the trails! Happy hiking!