We all love creeks and rivers.  Their clear, cool and cascading nature mesmerize us and create beautiful settings to commune and cleanse ourselves. The fresh, flowing energies bring us alive – and, combined with the warmth of spring, encourage us to hold nothing back and take a plunge into the cold water.  Heed Nature’s Call and jump into an ancient tradition that speaks of health and vitality, while having a bunch of fun.

Take a journey deeper into the Appalachian Mountains, where springfed streams dance over rock and pour into the swimming holes that will host our river rebirth. Today’s adventure is in a pocket of the Pisgah National Forest, where the wild and scenic river known as Wilson Creek forms from a group of tributaries that each make quite a tribute to North Carolina’s waterfall collection.  Our hike is to Harper’s Creek Falls, a humongous double drop of rock and water that creates a natural cathedral, a perfect setting for our casual baptism.  If you’re thinking about a cold water dip, you might as well treat yourself to a waterfall while you’re at it.  The raw beauty and energized air create the perfect environment for receiving nature’s blessings.  And because of water’s carving power, the best swimming holes are often at waterfalls.

Will Franchot - Hydrotherapy article photos-1

The benefits are more than just adventure – hydrotherapy (the use of water for healing) is one of the oldest medicinal arts.  Faced with the shock of cold water, most people flee immediately to the nearest shore – but staying in a second longer, or deciding to jump back in, aids the body in a powerful cleansing sequence that leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

When we expose the skin to cold water, we initiate a quick response in which our blood rushes into our organs to protect us from the frigid experience.  The rush of blood from the extremities to the core has a detoxifying effect on all of the body’s major systems.  Much like high water in the tributaries of Wilson’s Creek, a rush of blood washes away waste.  If you get into really cold water it will burn, it will hurt, but by remaining with the experience for as long as you can sensibly bear, it will clean your body from the inside out.

Will Franchot - Hydrotherapy article photos-2

Some yoga traditions recommend “get in, get out, and repeat three times” as a way to begin to build the strength to endure the experience.  For a further detoxifying effect, it is suggested to briefly self massage after the plunge as a way to encourage blood back to the surface.  Make sure you have a towel and someplace to relax for a minute after doing this, as you will have just moved a lot of energy. Breathe and simply notice how the body feels.

Our world increasingly offers us “easy way out” pharmaceutical solutions for maintaining and restoring our health.  The truth is, nothing can replace the simplicity of creating our personal healthful lifestyle.  Cold water hydrotherapy is just one of those activities.  Most of us shower often, and it’s as easy as mixing some cold water in with the hot.  But for the authentic experience, served up straight from Mother Nature on a Pisgah National Forest plate, head to the woods and take the plunge.  It’s worth it.

Will Franchot - Hydrotherapy
Photos by Emmett McGregor

Directions to Harpers Creek Falls from near-by Morganton NC.

Take Highway 181 North from Morganton. Turn right on Brown Mountain Beach Road.

  • Take this about 5 miles, looking for SR 1328 (Wilson Creek Rd. ) on the Left.
  • Follow this gravel road about 7.5 miles to the parking lot pull off on the left for Harper Creek Trail # 260. The trail starts up hill and continues to walk alongside the river.
  • Several trails bisect Harpers Creek Trail, but stick to the main path – especially once it hits the big creek and you will be led to Harpers Creek Falls.
  • Be careful climbing down to the falls, and enjoy!

Click here for Google Map Directions to Harper’s Creek Falls from Asheville, NC, USA

(Park on the Left for Harpers Creek Trail # 260)

Click here for Trail Directions from NorthCarolinaWaterfalls.info