Visit Goforth Creek . . . While You Can

Posted by on May 24, 2012 with 0 Comments

Goforth Creek, is a pristine mountain stream in the Cherokee National Forest with several beautiful and photogenic waterfalls, has just been named one of the South’s Top 10 Endangered Places by the SELC.

The risk? Corridor K. 

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), the largest environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the Southeast, today released its fifth annual list of the top 10 places in the South that face immediate, potentially irreparable, threats in 2013. Included on the list is Goforth Creek Canyon, Tennessee: A scenic spot on the Ocoee Scenic Byway will be permanently damaged if the state builds a new and unnecessary highway through the Cherokee National Forest along a route known as Corridor K.

Read coverage of WaysSouth’s involvement in the Chattanoogan.

Read more on the SELC website.

Read the SELC full media release.

Take a hike on Goforth Creek!

Goforth Creek is highly regarded by the trout fishermen as well as by kayakers. The creek flows south from the ridge top in the vicinity of the Kimsey Mountain Highway into the Ocoee River, and can be accessed directly from Hwy 64/74.

Along with about a dozen similar streams, it provides the recovering Ocoee River with fresh water and living fish. In the spring, when the water is high, kayakers can put in at the head of the creek, not far from the Kimsey Highway, and ride it all the way down to the Ocoee. It looks like a crazy thing to do, but if you are up to it, it looks like a wonderful ride. (There is a very cool video of that on the WaysSouth Facebook page.)

Bruce Walters, WaysSouth Board Member, took the accompanying photographs. He says it is one of his favorite family hikes: “We always spend most of our time near the water of Goforth or in it . . . that’s the beauty of this particular trail, it’s Goforth itself with all the small and some very large cascades. It’s always a favorite stop for us because it’s directly on Hwy 64 and is an easy hike, but it is so beautiful and has very loud water sounding cascades.”

“In the interior of the gorge, only Goforth Creek allows recreational access to hiking, trout fishing, camping, wading, picnicking, wildlife watching, and broad vistas of the river gorge.”

— Sam Evans, SELC

About a mile up the trail, there is an open area, with several good places to camp. This was an old home site. At this point, you can cross the creek, and continue up the trail to toward the Kimsey Mountain Highway. If you cross the creek and turn back downstream, you can look for a trail that goes up to some nice views of the river in winter.

“A short walk on the broad creek side trail escapes the bustle and noise of the highway. Soon, the only sounds are cascading water and the commerce of the forest, joined by the voices of picnicking families, warming themselves on sunny rocks after a chilly rafting adventure or splashing among the boulders, overturning creek bed rocks to spot crayfish.”

— Sam Evans, SELC

Unfortunately, Goforth Creek is endangered, along with the dozen or so other creeks in this area, by the proposed new road known as Corridor K, which will be built almost entirely in the Cherokee National Forest. According to estimates by the Tennessee DOT it will save exactly two minutes of travel time over making spot improvements to the existing road. (The most important improvement – widening the “trucker’s curve” – was done after this estimate was made, so the actual time saving may be less.) Construction of this highway will deface these pristine, scenic creeks forever, and destroy many acres of irreplaceable national forest.

Read the entire text of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s letter to the U.S. Forest Service About Goforth Creek and the risk posed by Corridor K. (.pdf download)

From North Carolina: Go to Ducktown, Tennessee and travel west on Hwy 64/74, toward Ocoee, Cleveland, and Chattanooga. Toward the middle of the gorge, after Ocoee Powerhouse #3 but before you reach Ocoee Powerhouse #2, look for the sign for Goforth Creek on the right. (If you get to the Maddens Branch or Parksville Lake, you’ve gone too far.)

From Chattanooga, go north on I-75 to exit 20. Take the bypass around Cleveland and exit on Hwy 40/64/74 where the sign says Ocoee. Continue east on 64/74 until you enter the Ocoee Gorge. After you pass Ocoee Powerhouse #2 and the very tight “trucker’s curve,” look for the sign to Goforth Creek on the left. If you get to Ocoee #3 powerhouse, you have gone too far.

From Knoxville, go south on I-75 to exit 20. Take the bypass around Cleveland and exit on Hwy 40/64/74 where the sign says Ocoee. Continue east on 64/74 until you enter the Ocoee Gorge. After you pass Ocoee Powerhouse #2 and the very tight “trucker’s curve,” look for the sign to Goforth Creek on the left. If you get to Ocoee #3 powerhouse, you have gone too far.

From most Georgia locations: Go to Ducktown, Tennessee. Go west on Hwy 64/74, toward Ocoee, Cleveland, and Chattanooga. Toward the middle of the gorge, after Ocoee Powerhouse #3 but before you reach Ocoee Powerhouse #2, look for the sign for Goforth Creek on the right. (If you get to the Maddens Branch or Parksville Lake, you’ve gone too far.)

From Georgia locations convenient to Hwy 411, take 411 north to Ocoee, and turn east on 64/74. Continue east on 64/74 until you enter the Ocoee Gorge. After you pass Ocoee Powerhouse #2 and the very tight “trucker’s curve,” look for the sign to Goforth Creek on the left. If you get to Ocoee #3 powerhouse, you have gone too far.

There is a small parking area to the right of the creek, enough for about ten cars (please park intelligently). The trail is on the left side of the creek, and it is asphalt at first. There is a bigger falls than the one in the photograph, further up the creek, but you have to bushwhack off the trail to get to it.

“Near the top, the trail passes through a wildlife clearing where a patient, quiet hiker will see deer and black bears browsing. At the trail’s summit, hikers emerge high above the Ocoee River, where a broad vista overlooks the gorge and, farther south, the Big Frog Wilderness. It is a panorama where hikers can begin to appreciate the river’s ancient work or, in the evening, simply watch the sunset beyond Sylco Mountain.”

—Sam Evans, SELC

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