North Carolina Waterfalls by Kevin Adams

Third Edition

The first two editions of North Carolina Waterfalls sold a combined 65,000 copies. Now, waterfall photographer Kevin Adams is back stronger than ever. This new edition includes 300 full waterfall profiles, in addition to 700 descriptions of others nearby. It adds 400 waterfalls not covered in the 2nd edition, and full color photos now enliven each profile.

“I was rebitten by the waterfall bug,” Adams writes. “And I can say with certainty there’s no turning back. The two years I worked on this project were grueling, but they reminded me just how much North Carolina’s waterfalls are in my bloodstream.”

Readers will appreciate Adams’ comprehensive coverage, his concise driving and hiking directions, his helpful photography tips, and his emphasis on stewardship of natural resources. North Carolina Waterfalls remains the definitive guide for its subject and a must-have for nature loving natives and visitors.

Disclosure: I was contacted by the publisher of North Carolina Waterfalls, John F. Blair of Winston-Salem, with an offer to receive the book. It was provided at no cost to me. My only responsibility was an agreement to complete this review. I was not pressured in any way to make a positive endorsement.


An Introduction


In the very first paragraph of North Carolina Waterfalls, right inside the cover, Kevin Adams asks us to, “Read all the information in the opening chapters before visiting any waterfalls.” It is very solid advice, on a number of fronts. Waterfalls are beautiful, but they can also be dangerous if not approached with respect. Just in the summer of 2016 there have been nearly a half dozen waterfall fatalities already. Every year, it seems, there are at least a handful. It became so dire in recent weeks that the National Forest Service felt the need to issue this safety warning:

The best way to enjoy a waterfall is from a safe distance. Heed posted warning signs indicating danger and stay on established trails. Never climb on or around waterfalls and never play in the water above a waterfall. Rocks can be slippery and it’s easy to lose your balance especially with bare feet. Currents near waterfalls can be extremely swift even in areas further upstream.

Never jump off waterfalls or dive into plunge pools at the base of waterfalls. Rocks and logs can be hidden beneath the surface of the water. Often waterfall pools have swirling water or currents that can drag and keep you underwater.

Even if you have seen other people enjoy playing around waterfalls, be aware that they have been lucky to escape unharmed. Waterfalls are constantly changing with varying water flows and erosion of the rocks around them. The current from one place to the next may be faster than you anticipate and the arrangement of rocks or other debris such as logs in the plunge pool is ever changing.

Waterfalls are exciting and rivers are a great place to cool off on a hot day, but both pose risks to unprepared visitors. We hope this information helps to make you aware of the hazards so you can enjoy a safe and fun visit to your National Forests and Parks.

And safety is also a theme that is front and center in those opening chapters of Adams’ book… but that isn’t all. Kevin also goes into great detail about environmental considerations. He acknowledges that guidebooks bring with them a risk a risk of overcrowding and its associated destruction:

Some people think outdoor guidebooks cause harm by bringing people into the wilderness, and that those people will destroy the very reason the wilderness is appealing in the first place… But the answer to overcrowding in the wilderness is not to keep people out. The answer is to create more wilderness.

And another answer is to teach people how to behave around natural beauty. You would think it goes without saying that graffiti mars the look of a picturesque scene, and not just for today, but perhaps for generations to come. Still there are boneheads out there who insist on “making their mark.” But it is so much more than purposeful destruction. Inexperienced visitors simply don’t know that tromping around the edges of waterfalls can cause soil erosion and destruction of plant habitat. Adams reasons:

My goal with this book is to equip readers with detailed and accurate information so they can enjoy waterfalls and wilderness while taking care to preserve them for those who follow… Some are so environmentally sensitive that I thought it best to let them be. And some, to be honest, affected me in such a way that it just didn’t feel right to expose them to the world.

So Adams isn’t out simply to up his hit count, so to speak, he is genuinely concerned about preservation and conservation:

Probably the most damaging thing you can do at a waterfall is climb on the banks and dislodge the soil… That’s because a unique natural community called the “spray cliff” exists at many falls.


Kevin Adams' North Carolina Waterfalls book cover.


Besides being the author of eight books, Kevin Adams is also an accomplished photographer. That should be quite apparent from his lovely image above of Estatoe Falls from the cover of this book. And he’s willing to share his trade secrets. Also included in the first few chapters of North Carolina Waterfalls are tips and guidelines for photographing waterfalls.

In some cases it’s a matter of common sense equipment like polarizing filters or a tripod. Sometimes the best tips simply involve weather or season. Don’t be afraid to get out in the rain, and get out to your favorite spots at different times of the year. You will almost always be rewarded. Adams also discusses location and angles. He calls it the “Seven Point Rule of Composition:”

For any subject there are seven potential vantage pointswhat I call the “Seven Point Rule of Composition.” You can shoot from the front or back, from the left or right, from above or below, or from the inside out.


What Did I Think?


The organization and categorization of North Carolina Waterfalls is superb. Once I dove into the meat of the descriptions, that is what immediately struck me. The waterfalls in this book are presented in 42 hubs, most of them towns or prominent geographical features. Within these hubs, full listings are described by Name, Beauty Rating, Accessibility, Watercourse, Watershed, Elevation, Type and Height, Landowner, and USGS Map.

If that wasn’t enough, Adams also describes what to expect before you go: Hike Difficulty, Hike Distance, Photo Rating, Compass, Canopy, and Waterfall and Trailhead GPS coordinates. Topping it all off he provides Directions to the Trailhead, a Hike Description, and a general overview of what to expect. Simply put… a wealth of information. This organization has been really well thought out.

With hiking gear, testing is easy. Use the product and see if it works. So how could I test a book? Well, one way is to use the directions and descriptions and check for accuracy. So I picked two waterfalls at random in the book that were fairly close proximity to where I live, and followed the directions. In both cases: spot on. I arrived at each with no wrong turns or quandaries, and the cascades were just as described. I can’t promise that every one of the 700 mentioned in this book are as accurate, but my small sample size gave me a feeling of trust for when I use the guide in the future.

Even if you don’t buy this book for hiking, the photography is worthy of placement on your coffee table. Adams knows what he’s doing, and he doesn’t just arrive at a waterfall, snap off a couple shots and then race on to the next one. He may stay for hours to insure that everything is just right. From lighting and composition, to seasonal considerations, the photographs in North Carolina Waterfalls are a joy to behold.

North Carolina Waterfalls is the ultimate guidebook for both hard core waterfallers and those beginners who just want to explore.


About the Author


Kevin Adams is the author of eight books, including Backroads of North Carolina, Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina’s Best Wildflower Hikes: The Mountains, North Carolina Then & Now, Our North Carolina, Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia, Wildflowers of the Southern Appalachians, and of course this one. He has been a guest host of the PBS program Wild Photo Adventures. He teaches nature photography seminars and leads popular waterfall photography tours. He lives in Western North Carolina.

To coincide with the release of this third edition of North Carolina Waterfalls, Adams also added a section to his website that enhances the usefulness of the guidebook. There you can get News and Updates that give the guidebook even more current relevance.

North Carolina Waterfalls sells for US$29.95 and is published by John F. Blair, Publisher. You can order copies directly from them, or from Amazon.

Disclosure: I was contacted by the publisher of North Carolina Waterfalls, John F. Blair of Winston-Salem, with an offer to receive the book. It was provided at no cost to me. My only responsibility was an agreement to complete this review. I was not pressured in any way to make a positive endorsement.


This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.


The following are paid links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


  1. Zachary Robbins

    Just curious, what 2 waterfalls did you pick?

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