Waterfall Keepers of NC

Waterfall Healing

Life is full of challenges. There may not be one simple remedy to cure our problems, but there are ways to find some peace among the struggles. Waterfalls can provide some of this healing power. We know those who have overcome substance abuse, body image issues, anxiety, and depression in large part because of visiting waterfalls.

We wish to harness the power of falling water and help bring healing to those in need. And we want everyone to experience the sense of peace and tranquility that waterfalls provide.

There is “magic” in that water!

Oh nature! Of all your beauteous wonders, for me the trophy goes to your waterfalls. Many are your works delighting us selectively with our sight, our hearing, feeling, aroma, and taste.

Few there are that orchestrate then together like the waterfall, that can talk us out of our torpor, and send out a clarion call to just be there and take it all in.

“The Waterfall” by Steve Adams

A Healing Story

Claire hadn’t planned to see a waterfall. Terribly depressed after breaking up with her boyfriend of three years, her friend had dragged her out of the house to do—anything. But instead of the pub she was expecting, she found herself at the base of a waterfall, totally mesmerized.

They spent over an hour at the waterfall, talking about the cruelties of life and what they could do about it. It wasn’t the first time Claire had talked with her friend like this, but somehow this time felt different.

The next week, her friend took her to another waterfall, this time on a longer hike. They talked while hiking and talked at the waterfall. Again, it was somehow different for Claire than the talks over beers they had before.

After visiting a few more waterfalls with her friend, Claire started hiking to them by herself. At first, she would only go to waterfalls she had already seen, but after a while, she started hiking to new falls. And now when she would talk with her friend, her ex-boyfriend’s name rarely came up.

What happened? Did Claire just need more time to move on with her life, or did the waterfalls play a role? And if the waterfalls did help, how can all of us harness that power to make positive change in our own lives? How is this even possible?

 

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”

Loren Eiseley

The Magic of Falling Water

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What is it about waterfalls that draws us to them? Trees, animals, scenic landscapes, and all sorts of other things in nature appeal to us, but few things affect us the way waterfalls do.

It can’t just be their beauty. A lot of things are beautiful, and if that were it, wouldn’t we experience the same sensations when we look at pictures of waterfalls? So, there must be a real physiological response from being at the waterfall. And it’s a different kind of response from what we get by looking at trees or landscapes.

An often-stated answer is that the negative ions produced by some waterfalls are believed to increase serotonin, the hormone that generates feelings of well-being. While some claim this as fact, there is no scientific evidence to support it.

And it is possible that they [chimpanzees] have what I can only describe as a sense of awe at the wonder of nature. For example, they perform impressive and rhythmic displays at the base of magnificent waterfalls deep in the forest and then sit, watching as the water falls down and down and then flows past them and away.”

Jane Goodall

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An increase in serotonin may be partly responsible for our mood at waterfalls, but we think any increase comes from other stimuli.

Think about how you feel when you see a waterfall up ahead on the trail, or you see a roadside waterfall from your car. It affects you in a certain way. Now, how does it affect you when you get close enough to hear it? It’s a different sensation, right? What about when you reach the base and feel the spray? More sensations, right?

We believe the answer to why waterfalls affect us as they do partly lies in how waterfalls engage all our senses at once. Standing at the base of a waterfall, we feel the spray against our skin. We hear the calming or roaring sound of the falling water. We smell and taste the moisture in the air. And, of course, we see the sublime beauty.

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Our sense of hearing and sight have a particular role to play, and not just because waterfalls are beautiful to look at and that we like the sound. Heraclitus said one cannot step into the same river twice. The same metaphor can be applied to waterfalls, for one never sees or hears the same fall. The water moves and changes, and the light reflects differently off each drop. The sound changes with each variation in water movement. And while our sense of sight and hearing are working overtime, our senses of taste, touch, and smell are heightened.

Crashing waves on the beach, thunderstorms, falling snow, rain, and fire are among the few things in nature that affect our senses similar to the way waterfalls do, and each of these can have the same mood-enhancing effect on people.

And then there’s the “shock” hypothesis. Among the ways waterfalls are different from many other natural sights is that they are usually not continuously affecting our senses, and then when they do, it is often abrupt. It becomes a shock to our senses, which takes us a bit out of our typical passive journey through existence.

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And then there’s the “shock” hypothesis. Among the ways waterfalls are different from many other natural sights is that they are usually not continuously affecting our senses, and then when they do, it is often abrupt. It becomes a shock to our senses, which takes us a bit out of our typical passive journey through existence.

Consider a drive along a scenic road such as the Blue Ridge Parkway. Some overlooks provide more appealing views than others, but the entire time we are driving we are immersed in a landscape of mountains and trees and distant views. And we experience this even before we reach the Parkway. So, pulling into an overlook is less likely to offer a shock to our system. It is expected. It has already been imbedded into our minds.

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A waterfall, on the other hand, is its own entity. It takes up a place in the environment all its own, and when we visit it, we experience it as something different. It’s jarring and exciting.

We believe those sensations, combined with having all our senses stimulated, are what makes waterfalls so enthralling.

Waterfalls. Nature’s best drug. Free, no prescription needed, no harmful side effects. Who wouldn’t want to take that medicine?

Harnessing the Magic

All of this sounds terrific, right? But how exactly do we make it work for us?

The short answer is to visit a waterfall. Believe it or not, that’s all it took for some people. For whatever reason, perhaps nudged by a friend or making a stop on the way to something else, they visited a waterfall. Maybe they loved it, or maybe they just tolerated it, but at least it piqued their interest enough to visit another waterfall. And then another. At some point, they were hooked.

This is how it worked for someone we’ll call Dawn, who was struggling with alcohol addiction and other habits that were negatively impacting her health. The first waterfalls were really tough for her, but she liked them enough to keep at it. She had started working on a waterfall challenge, which was just a checklist of waterfalls. The difficulties she experienced at the outset gradually diminished, and by the time she was halfway through, she was in much better shape and drinking less. When she finished the challenge, she had lost nearly 100 pounds and had stopped drinking.

We are not suggesting that all you have to do is hike to a waterfall and your problems will be solved. That’s not how it works. The waterfalls didn’t stop Dawn from drinking. Dawn did. But hiking to waterfalls gave her something she needed to make that extra step that she hadn’t been able to make before.

Everyone needs something. The wonderful thing about waterfalls is that they provide more “somethings” than virtually any other experience in nature.

For some, just the act of visiting a waterfall is enough to make a difference, but for most people, there needs to be a stronger connection with the experience. In Waterfall Connections, we’ve presented ideas for experiencing waterfalls beyond the normal visual.

Dawn (see Harnessing the Magic) decided to start a waterfall challenge on her own, and she already had a fondness for waterfalls before she started. That won’t be the case for everyone. If someone doesn’t already love waterfalls, they’re unlikely to read this in the first place, and they’re even more unlikely to follow it to the point of applying it in their lives. They need a push.

Do you know someone who needs a lift? Perhaps you’ve tried to help them in other ways. Why not give Waterfall Healing a try?

We’ll leave it up to you as to how to get them to the waterfall, but here are some suggestions for making the experience as beneficial as possible for them. Remember, the idea is to get them to continue visiting waterfalls until it becomes something they choose on their own.

  • Choose a suitable waterfall. Make sure the first falls they visit is one they can get to easily and safely. It should also be a very scenic falls.

  • Make the first visit as rewarding as possible. Bring food and drink, plan the driving route to see other sights along the way, stop at their favorite restaurant or pub after the visit.

  • Research the waterfall prior to visiting. Learn as much as you can about the cultural and natural history of the waterfall so you can act as an interpreter. Even if they aren’t overly impressed with the waterfall, they may enjoy learning about it.

  • Don’t preach. Let them figure out for themselves that hiking and getting out in nature is good for them.

  • Thank them. Tell them how much you appreciate them going with you. Make them feel like they are helping you, perhaps because you enjoy hiking with others, or you wouldn’t feel safe hiking to the waterfall alone. Give them a purpose that isn’t tied to their own struggle.

Helping a
Loved One

Waterfall Connections

Just the act of being outdoors and hiking to waterfalls is good for the body and soul. But if you just walk up, snap a picture, and walk away, you’re missing out on many of the benefits of this natural elixir. It would be like attending a concert while wearing earplugs. Take the time to immerse yourself in the experience. Try to forget everything else going on in your life and concentrate on the waterfall and its surroundings.

Healing Stories

Shane

I am a person in long term recovery (alcohol). Throughout my 18 years of sobriety, waterfalls have been a constant renewing source of my physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. Currently, I work in a men’s residential substance abuse treatment center. I am blessed to be able to take ten clients a week into the forest to connect to themselves through the healing properties of waterfalls.

It is my drive and passion to introduce more men to the spiritual awakening available to them in their journey of recovery and creating the best version of themselves.

Shane (Alcoholism and spiritual growth)

Dana-1

I am excited to know that Waterfall Keepers is starting the Waterfall Healing program. Back in 1997, I was deeply depressed. It began because of a variety of things, among which was the use of a dangerous medication, Accutane, for adult-onset acne. It was not known then how damaging this substance was to the nervous system.

One of the things that helped me was that my sweet husband took me to the Great Smoky Mountains for the first time. He knew instinctively that I needed nature and grounding. He took me on a hike to Grotto Falls. I fell in love with waterfalls right then and there. And why shouldn't I? The negative ions that surround them help restore the emotional and spiritual balance. They were created by the Lord and his divine Holy Spirit. It took a long time to get over, but the healing began there.

The love of waterfalls stayed with me and each subsequent trip to one helped me. The relationships with fellow hikers and humans who love waterfalls is also restorative. I could not have known then that it was preparing me for an even more difficult battle coming in the future.

Dana (Depression, addiction, healing waterfalls) 1/2

Dana-2

Our son became addicted to pain pills around age 18. It progressed onto harder drugs until it nearly killed him. I had to fight my own codependency and at the same time travail in prayer for my child's life. I had to come to acceptance with the fact that I had to be okay regardless of what his outcome was. I got there with the help of many hikes to waterfalls, connections to fellow humans who were supportive and gave fantastic advice and strength, and God's grace and healing power. It reaches us in many ways, one of which is by finding peace and healing in the presence of waterfalls. God is great every single day. Whatever your Higher Power is, receive healing from it and take comfort.

Dana (Depression, addiction, healing waterfalls) 2/2

Katie

I have lived in western North Carolina for almost 25 years and have always enjoyed hiking and waterfalling as a hobby. But in 2020-2021, my interest in waterfalls became a NEED, and my therapy. I am a critical care RN who was fighting (and unfortunately, the fight continues) COVID on the frontlines. Compounding my stress, I experienced my only sibling’s battle and ultimate demise when he fought a sudden diagnosis of colon cancer and died at age 52, only seven months after being diagnosed.

I am at a transformational time in my life as my children are leaving the nest (one has moved to Salt Lake City) and my parents are becoming more fragile, especially with the loss of their only son this year. In November, I received a birthday present of Kevin Adams’ waterfall book and map. I started working on the 100 Waterfall Challenge on my days off. I am currently at 73 on my count. When I visit a waterfall, it’s a chance to truly experience and soothe my emotions. Certain waterfalls have a magical feel when I visit them, whether it’s discovering a “secret” one, a huge reward after a difficult hike, a gentle flow, or a thunderous flow. This journey has become my therapy and my church, and I am grateful for the challenge, and, of course, for the beautiful area I call home.

Katie (Therapy for work stress and loss of sibling)

Anonymous

After a long and tedious, soul-destructive 35 years of both drug and alcohol addiction, I had reached a "bottom" that only another addict can identify with. I was in desperate need of a 100% life-altering change, and it appeared as if from an angel: I started to realize help was immediately available once I became willing to accept my situation and made the commitment to pursue the necessary path. The two most important life-changing events in my life were Alcoholics Anonymous, the recovery model that supplied the support and the tools for sobriety, and second, the peace and serenity from nature.

Never before had I taken even one minute of my life to realize the healing power of the natural world, till one day I went with friends to our local mountains, where we sat by a stream below a powerful waterfall, and at that moment, I felt the peace never before realized. For the first time ever, I heard the birds singing in the trees, the calming breeze from the falls, and brightly colored flowers nearby.

I know the combination of both AA and the natural world are the events that have graciously given me 32 years of sobriety, for which I am ever so grateful. My story isn't for everyone, but if anyone is spiritually bankrupt, living in the deep hell of addiction, try the healing power of God's natural world as a solution.

Anonymous (Drug and alcohol addiction)

Christy-1

I have four kids ranging in ages from 12 to 16 (two boys and twin girls.) As one can imagine, our home can be a little chaotic to say the least. My husband and I discovered very early on that our kids got along much better when we kept them engaged in structured activities.

However, we discovered that one of my sons had severe autism. He displayed many difficulties interacting in what society deems appropriate in public settings, especially crowded public settings. My husband and I had to get creative in finding ways to keep the kids’ lives structured, yet still capture that special essence of childhood.

Hanging Rock became one of our favorite places as a family. Coordination and endurance are two big challenges that my son faces with his autism, so getting him outside not only became important mentally, but also physically. However, he did not enjoy all the work required to get to the top of Hanging Rock and wanted to resist each trip there, so again my husband and I had to get creative.

Christy (Waterfall experiences for autistic child and keeping the family together) 1/3

Christy-2

We decided to take the kids to different parts of Hanging Rock and once he discovered that he could play in the various waterfalls, he became a huge fan of Hanging Rock again. He got very excited about waterfalls around that time, so we then begin visiting many waterfalls all over NC. The waterfalls are a place he can play and be a kid and yet still have his own personal space around him. He can interact with others at his own comfort level depending on the kind of day he is having, or he can simply move on if he’s feeling overstimulated. The waterfalls are one of the very few places that nothing is expected of him socially other than simply being polite.

We decided to adopt a waterfall as a family to teach the kids many lessons, including responsibility, commitment, the ability to make a difference by being an example to others and most importantly to me as a mother was the need to slow down and realize that family time together is crucial for everyone, but especially for son as he does not have the numerous friends and social network that my other children do. We adopted our waterfall Hebron Falls a couple of months ago and the kids were all very excited. We spent many hours researching and discussing it together.

Christy (Waterfall experiences for autistic child and keeping the family together) 2/3

Christy-3

We got to go visit our waterfall a couple of weekends ago and we had a wonderful day exploring the area together and discussing all the ways we could help to keep the area beautiful. The kids were all very proud and took many pictures. The following week during his online classes, my son told his teachers all about how he and his family were “taking care” of a waterfall. One of his teachers asked him to try to learn to write the name of our waterfall over his summer break, so he’s using Hebron (Hebron Colony Falls) as a writing guide to practice his handwriting.

So, when I’m asked what are the benefits of being a member of Waterfall Keepers of NC I’m torn as to exactly where to begin with my answers as the benefits range from those super cute Waterfall Keepers of NC stickers to my son feeling involved enough to use this experience as a tool to motivate him to hopefully learn to read and write. But, if I had to choose a favorite benefit it would be the benefit that is interwoven into every other benefit, which is that my family has a unified goal that gets us all researching, discussing, planning and going outside and engaging with each other again outside of all the stressors of normal day to day life.

Christy (Waterfall experiences for autistic child and keeping the family together) 3/3

Amanda-1

I grew up loving the mountains. My parents used to take me up to the Gatlinburg, TN, area for vacations as a child but we never hiked. Truthfully, I never knew about most of the hiking trails in the Gatlinburg area until about 10 years ago. Any waterfalls I knew of were just ones we passed when driving around the mountains. Today, I know a lot more about hiking and waterfalls and this knowledge has changed my life.

In 2014, I went to California and visited Yosemite National Park, which sparked my interest in hiking. I started reading a lot of books on hiking and started traveling to other national parks. A coworker hiked and I always loved hearing his stories and about his adventures. I had no idea where these places were or that they even existed. I remember trying to Google some of the waterfalls he saw and couldn’t find anything.

In August 2018, I went to Sapphire, NC, to see someone speak that I admire. This was my first time to that area. During that weekend, I stayed at my first Airbnb, checked out Dupont, and hiked to the top of Looking Glass Rock. My coworker that hikes met up and we got to hike together for the first time. During our hike, he mentioned this waterfall challenge and I discussed how I needed to spend more time exploring North Carolina. At the time, I had no idea how I was going to make it possible to hike more. However, I knew I was being drawn to the mountains for a reason. Living four hours from the mountains made it seem almost impossible to get up there to hike.

Amanda (Over drinking and gaining self-confidence) 1/6

Amanda-2

Around this time, I spent my weekends keeping up with exercising, friends, and drinking. I knew exercise was good for my overall health. I had taken up running a year prior to the trip to Sapphire and it introduced me to some big influences in my life. It’s helped me build endurance and confidence. It’s also pushed me outside of my comfort zone.

In March 2019, this same coworker, who turned into a great friend and hiking buddy, invited me on a hike for some waterfalls he needed for the Kevin Adams Waterfall Challenge. Hiking that day was challenging and made me realize there are so many places I don’t know about. When I got home, I had to order the Kevin Adams Waterfalls book to learn more about these waterfalls.

During this same time, I started having some honest talks with myself on what makes me happy and how my drinking behaviors were unhealthy. I wasn’t sure what to do but I knew I needed to make some changes. I decided to temporarily stop drinking vodka to see if that would help.

Amanda (Over drinking and gaining self-confidence) 2/6

Amanda-3

A month later, I was invited on a group hike by my friend. I had no idea what to expect but I told myself I needed to venture out of my comfort zone. I only knew my friend, but that day I ended up meeting many others who loved to hike. They were all knowledgeable and helpful. They made me feel welcome and most of all, they were out to just enjoy nature and these waterfalls. That group hike was just another way of broadening my horizons, trying new things, and meeting others with similar interests. The whole day pushed me out of my comfort zone and started opening my eyes to the benefits of hiking.

After that group hike, I started making more trips to the mountains with my waterfall book. I used the challenge and the book as a guide to what waterfalls I could go see. I started out with the easy ones so my mom and I could hike together. It took some planning on where these waterfalls were and how to execute seeing them. Thankfully, planning for me is fun. I love planning and using that skill for things like organizing what you need to take for a weekend getaway, what you need for a hike, and what roads you need to access the trailhead. These things made me appreciate my planning skills. It reminded me how well I could put things together. It also reminded me at times, when things didn’t go the way I wanted, I could find another way and it all would work out in the end. That year I purchased my first tent and my mom got to experience tent camping for the first time. That experience of learning what you need to sleep in a tent overnight was just another learning experience.

Amanda (Over drinking and gaining self-confidence) 3/6

Amanda-4

In October 2019, my friend finished the Kevin Adams 500 Waterfall Challenge and always told me that I should do the list. I truthfully thought for a long time I was not capable of completing the challenge. I doubted myself and my capabilities. I had many fears and was holding myself back. Plus, I don’t like relying on others but the experiences I’d had hiking to waterfalls showed me how you can rely on others and they will show up to help. I couldn’t have done any of what I have accomplished so far had it not been for others. I started believing in myself and saw I was capable of much more than I thought.

As 2019 came to an end, I continued to refrain from drinking vodka. I’d told myself it was temporary but as time went on, I really began to see how unhealthy it was and how it was preventing me from so many things. The beginning of 2020, I gave up beer and started the year out sober. Again, I didn’t expect to stay completely sober, however, here we are almost a year and half later and I still have not had a drink.

During the past year and a half, I have been hiking more than ever and finally committed to finishing the waterfall challenge I was using as a guide. I never intended to do the challenge. However, what started out as just helping a friend out has blossomed into a much bigger experience.

Amanda (Over drinking and gaining self-confidence) 4/6

Amanda-5

I have picked up so many valuable life lessons. The time spent hiking gave me time to really think about life and how I needed to make some changes in life and myself. It has given me confidence and faith in myself. It has also given me faith in others. Hiking to these waterfalls is such a group effort at times. Starting with the planning stages, coordinating where, and then the hike itself. Sometimes just sitting on a rock contemplating how you can’t go on with a hike and then realizing if you just backtrack a little bit, you find another way that works.

Hiking to these waterfalls at times has not been easy but neither is life. Life has thrown me obstacles and hardships. I have learned to adapt and overcome. Sometimes the adaptation was slow and sometimes faster; much like hiking to a waterfall. I have strengthened these tools that I use on the trail and I use them in life. The problem-solving techniques have been useful on every hike. Working with others to problem solve is very rewarding and teaches me how to tackle problems alongside another. You find you can and push yourself through those hard times. And your fellow hiker will encourage you onward.

Amanda (Over drinking and gaining self-confidence) 5/6

Amanda-6

In all these hikes, I’m learning what might work for one person may not work for another. That is a great tool for accepting another person and respecting their choices. I may cross the creek in one spot and my friend may cross in another. It has taught me we find our own ways. What I may do works for me but we still end up at the same waterfall. The bond with others and each hike has given me tools to use in other relationships and going forward in life.

Everything I have experienced with hiking to these waterfalls has been life changing. Just as life is a journey, hiking to these waterfalls has been a journey that has led me to so many discoveries in myself, others, and nature. This is just the start and there’s so much more awaiting on this journey.

Amanda (Over drinking and gaining self-confidence) 6/6

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Our Mission

“To promote and advance the cultural, economic, ecological, and historical significance of North Carolina waterfalls; to serve as an educator and advocate; and to preserve waterfalls and facilitate their enjoyment in perpetuity.”

Mailing Address

283 Inman Branch Road
Waynesville, NC 28786

Physical Address

The spray zone of a North Carolina Waterfall

[email protected]

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