If you’ve never chased lizards or crawdads along a creek bed on a warm spring afternoon, or waded in a creek on a hot summer day, or fished from a creek’s banks in the fall of the year, you’ve missed out on one of the best adventures of your childhood. The good news is you don’t have to live near a creek to enjoy its beauty. Visit the Great Smoky Mountains or the Nantahala National Forest of Western North Carolina for a spell and let your children wade barefoot into a creek and hunt crawdads until they’re pink-cheeked and smiling from ear to ear. Heck, pull your shoes and socks off and wade in there with them. Splash around and let the mountains echo with your laughter–leave a piece of yourself there for your next visit. Many of these creeks feed into the Nantahala River where you can enjoy a white water rafting tour with Carolina Outfitters while in town! Below are a few of the creeks but, by no means, near all of them.


Mooney Creek & Big Laurel Branch  

Mooney Creek in nantahala forestMooney Creek photo source: Matt Barnett CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED


Many creeks bubble up from beneath the surface of the earth, creating springs that create creeks and branches that flow into the Nantahala River. It all starts near the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. The two main tributaries that make up the Nantahala River are Mooney Creek and Big Laurel Branch near Standing Indian campground. The campground is the perfect place to stay if you enjoy camping. It has easy access to the trails along the creeks and branches that lead to a couple of waterfalls (Big Laurel & Mooney) as a bonus while you’re exploring and playing in the water. 


Wesser Creek

wesser creek trailhead Wesser Creek along the Wesser Creek Trailhead Photo by Margaret Marr


Another creek that feeds the Nantahala River is Wesser Creek, which is also the name of the quaint community that sits along its banks. A little country church, the Nantahala General Store, the Nantahala RV Resort & Campground, and plenty of vacation rentals makes Wesser Creek the perfect headquarters to spend time near the Nantahala River and the many activities associated with the area (rafting with Carolina Outfitters, hiking, camping, fishing etc). If you’re in good physical shape and ready for a long hike, head to the Wesser Creek trailhead and follow the trail to the Wesser Bald Fire Tower. Fair warning, though, this is an 8.6 mile difficult hike with a lot of uphill climbs. Start early or you won’t get back before dark.


Big Indian Creek

Big Indian Creek bog nantahala forestThe bog takes a marsh-like appearance in especially wet areas” by USFWS/Southeast is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Big Indian Creek flows north into the Nantahala River from where it rises southwest of Macon County. Big Indian Creek is part of the Nantahala River Bog Complex located in the Nantahala National Forest. These bogs are home to rare and threatened species of plants and animals, including the bog turtle. Efforts are being made to protect this portion of the Nantahala River basin. 


Kimsey Creek

Kimsey Creek Nantahala ForestPhoto by Brad Lansing


Kimsey Creek flows into the Nantahala River from Macon County, and provides camping and hiking along its banks. Kimsey Creek Campground accepts large groups of 10 or more with a maximum of 25. The campground can only be accessed through the Standing Indian Campground. If you like to fish, Kimsey Creek is a native trout stream where you can catch wild trout with a fishing license. It’s a great place to get in the creek and enjoy nature in any way you like from wading to catching fish.  Make sure you know the Forest Service rules on fishing before you head out to reel in some trout.


Silvermine Creek

Silvermine Creek near Nantahala National Forest

Silvermine Creek meanders through another small community near the Nantahala National Forest before it flows into the Nantahala River. It’s rumored that a lost silver mine is somewhere in those mountains, giving the creek its name. A search for any information on the lost silver mine came up almost empty handed, except for a short article on AccessGenealogy. The author ended up in the Lost Mine Campground and the owner told him about the first Englishman in the Nantahala Gorge who found Spanish miners living there. The Juan Pardo Expedition in 1566-67 supposedly found silver in the Nantahala Gorge. Pardo’s main venture was to find silver and gold for the King of Spain.


Johnson Branch, Morris Branch, Long Branch

a branch in Nantahala River

When someone speaks of a branch, most people would think of a tree or a branch of a bank franchise, but it is also a small stream of water. Though there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between creeks, streams, and branches, branches are smaller and can be as small as six inches wide. Johnson Branch, Morris Branch, Long Branch all feed into the Nantahala River and flow from high in the mountains and surrounding counties. Chances are if you’re out hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, or the Nantahala National Forest, you’ll cross one of these branches or walk beside one. 

cascading rapids in fall leaves

It’s not a coincidence that most of the creeks that feed the Nantahala River also provide campgrounds and access to hiking and fishing. Camping, hiking, and fishing along a creek or branch is the best place to rejuvenate your spirit and find a peaceful, restful place to spend some time away from it all. Creeks are our friends, as the old saying goes, if you’re lost in the woods, follow a creek out. Though, according to the US Forest Service, following a creek out should be your last resort. 


Carolina Outfitters want you to be safe no matter what activity you’re enjoying in our beautiful Nantahala National Forest and Great Smoky Mountain National Park!  Come with a plan, come prepared, and always heed the Forest Service’s rules and regulations. In addition, come white water raft with us (Book Now) after you discover the many creeks that feed into the Nantahala River!

Margaret Marr, is a local author of paranormal, mystery, and suspense laced with romance. She has written over 15 books available on Amazon. 


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