641 – Bird Falls

Accessibility – Moderate

Height – 50′

Distance – 5.0 (out and back)

Beauty – 6

Photo rating – 5

Solitude – 5

GPS Info: LAT 35.34338 LONG -83.56951

First visit: 08-08-2019

Most recent visit: 05-16-2020

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Bird Falls is a 60 foot high waterfall on Bird Creek. The waterfall and creek dump into Fontana Lake about 2.5 miles below the Nantahala Outdoor Center and 2.5 miles upstream of the Almond Boat Landing. There are several ways you can glimpse the falls but only one way you can actually see it.

You can glimpse it for a few seconds from the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad if you have a ticket and know when to look, You can also bushwhack the river left bank of Fontana Lake in the winter when the water levels are low. You can glimpse it in the trees across the lake. In the summer you can not see a thing from the opposite side of the bank and the water is too high to navigate the bank. I guess you could walk the railroad tracks but this is illegal and unless its winter, you won’t see anything. The only option to see the falls without trespassing is via kayak.

Trailhead directions: From I-40 take exit 27 onto US74W Great Smoky Mountains Expressway. Follow US74W for 15 miles and turn right onto NC28 North. After a third ofa mile make a right onto Almond Boat Park Road and follow it until it ends at the parking area for Almond Boat Launch. There is a $5 daily use fee to park here.

The paddle/hike: From the boat ramp you can see two bridges. An old railway bridge is to the right and US28 is to the left. Head toward US28 and pass under the bridge heading toward the NOC. There is almost no current and on my visit the water was glassy and easy to paddle in the morning. On the way back there was a lot of power boats making waves so you would want to do this one early.

After the bridge the lake will bend left, taking the bridge out of view and shortly past this is will bend right. There is a lot of flotsam and jetsom in the lake which turned out to be a good thing since it forced the power boats to keep their distance to avoid the branches and logs. After another bend to the left there is a relatively straight section. When this ends with an almost 90 degree turn to the right, you have reached the cove where you will find Bird Falls. The creek enters Fontata Lake on your left if you’re heading upstream towards the NOC. There is a small cove. Paddle into the cove and beach your kayak on the rocks beach.

Going by the topo map, the land right at the falls is National Forest but most of the land between the falls and NC28 is private property, hence the boat trip. You can see the falls from the rocky beach but to gey up close you will have to scramble up the hillside to get a better view. I went into this with very low expectations and came away extremely pleased. It was not a hard paddle and the payoff was great. The entire trip, including getting unloaded and taking pictures took less than three hours. More than enough time that we were able to head over to Townhouse Falls.




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