Tuesday, June 21, 2016

June 10, 2016 - Courthouse Rd (FR140) finally reopens! Red Rock and Kiesee Falls

Courthouse Rd is a 3 mile long forest road that has trail heads for several waterfalls. The most popular is Courthouse Falls, but the 2 Kiesee Falls, Chestnut Falls, and the waterfalls on upper Courthouse Creek area accessed from that road also. It has been closed since August 2015 for a bridge repair and was supposed to reopen in early spring, but was delayed. Yesterday, the forest service posted on their web site that the road was to reopen at 10am on the 10th, so Emily, Todd and I made plans to meet at the gate around 9:30 and wait. Our plan was to hike Courthouse Creek up to Red Rock Falls, then come back down the road and do Kiesee and Upper Kiesee Falls.

The gate was opened before 10 and we were the first vehicle in. Red Rock Falls was the first destination, so we headed to the end of the road and parked there. I have more info about the waterfall on my site here. We were hoping for a cloudy day so the pictures would be better, but it didn't look like that was happening. It really didn't matter since it was a beautiful day to be out and it was good to be back in this beautiful area once again. On the way up Courthouse Creek, we stopped at a couple of smaller waterfalls that were still mostly in the shade.

The first one is about 10' high and the second maybe 6-8'. By the time we got to Red Rock Falls, the sun was mostly on the waterfall and getting good shots became difficult. Quite a bit of post processing helped out a bit.

Red Rock Falls
We hung around here for quite a while hoping a cloud would pass and even out the lighting, but none did and it was time to move on. Instead of heading to the other waterfall up creek, we opted to take our time going back before doing Kiesee Falls.

There are several small waterfalls and cascades along Courthouse Creek, but to see them up close you have to leave the trail and walk up the creek. It's a lot of fun and is a combination of walking in the creek, rock hopping, and bushwhacking. We've found quite a few waterfalls by doing this up creeks that have no trails beside them. A lot of Courthouse Creek flows over exposed bedrock that is brightly colored when wet as shown in the above pictures of Red Rock Falls, and there are also several pothole areas. Below are more photos that show off some of the creek's beauty.

a very happy Emily in one of the amazing potholes

We stopped at what's called Upper Courthouse Falls, but I didn't bother with pictures of it. The last shot above is a small waterfall right above Upper Courthouse and it seemed more photo-worthy.

We were back to the vehicle by around 2, then headed back down Courthouse Rd for about a mile to the parking area for Kiesee Falls. When I first attempted to find this waterfall back in 2001, the general thinking among waterfallers was there was only one waterfall here. We later learned that there is also an upper waterfall and my friend Bernie Boyer helped bring a trail to that waterfall out of the darkness. You can read all about how to get to the 2 waterfalls on my site here. The directions I had on the site before this were sketchy at best and I was hoping a revisit would clear things up. We began with Kiesee Falls and it was just as difficult to get to as it was before. There's decent trail part of the way, then we had to leave the trail and follow the creek up to get to the falls. It's in kind of a mini box canyon and going up the creek is the only access. The going wasn't bad at first, but became more difficult the closer we got to the falls. The reward in the end was worth the difficulty. Kiesee Falls isn't that big, but the huge pothole between the drops is a geological wonder and the entire setting is really beautiful.

Kiesee Falls

Todd in the picture for scale
Upper Kiesee Falls is just above this one. If Todd were about 10' taller, he'd be able to see it from where he is in the above picture. The problem is that you can't scale the walls of this waterfall to get up there. In the areas just back from the falls, the soil layer on the steep slopes is very fragile and people can undo dozens of years of Mother Nature's work trying to scramble up them. So we backtracked to a good spot to get back up to the main trail that continued on to Upper Kiesee. There is now a very obvious side trail that leads down to the base of the waterfall, but there's a tricky drop at the end that is slippery when wet. It wasn't bad at all today. The upper waterfall is a little more open and there's an even bigger swimming hole. We hung around here about an hour, then headed back to the vehicle then back to civilization.

Upper Kiesee Falls

Emily wading out for a shot

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