Elk River Falls

Elk Park, North Carolina

Located near Beech Mountain, Banner Elk and the small town of Elk Park is the impressive Elk River Falls (formerly called Big Falls) in Pisgah National Forest (Appalachian Ranger District). This 50-ft. North Carolina mountain waterfall cascades over a rock cliff and into a picturesque oval pool. The trail to the top of the falls is an easy five-minute walk. You can safely stand on flat rock area and watch the waterfall plummet over the cliff. A short but steep trail takes below the falls.

This beach and swimming area well below the waterfall can be a little crowded on hot summer weekends, but it's often very quiet. It's free to enjoy!

Safety Alert: Almost every year, someone dies here while diving or trying to swim in the swift currents. Remember, do NOT get into the water above the waterfall since currents can take you over the waterfall. Do not dive from the rock cliff - that has been deadly by getting entrapped by unseen boulders and other objects underwater. Also, don't attempt to swim under the falls or climb the rock face. The waterfall creates very strong currents in the very deep pool, pulling even strong swimmers under the water. The safe swimming area is below the bigger pool past some other boulders (photo above). See more Waterfall Safety Tips.

WATER QUALITY
  • Meets water quality standards
  • Current Status
  • This status is based on the latest sample, taken on May 17th, 2019. MountainTrue Watauga Riverkeeper updates the status of this beach as soon as test results become available. These results were posted to Swim Guide on at
For water quality icon legend, click:   
MONITORING FREQUENCY

Elk River Falls is sampled weekly from May 1st to September 30th

SOURCE INFORMATION

The Watauga Riverkeeper, housed at the MountainTrue, monitors the Watauga River Watershed for E. coli, a bacteria found in the waste (feces) of most warm-blooded animals, including humans. High levels of E. coli can pose a health risk for people swimming in the water.

Participating volunteers take weekly water samples, and sites are listed as failing to meet water quality standards if they exceed the EPA's recommended safe level for E. coli of 235 E. coli colonies per 100 ml of water. Volunteers take samples early each week, and results are posted on Thursday or Friday. This sample data provides a general guide to the health of the waterway and should only be used for informational purposes. This data does not guarantee the sampled area is safe for swimming at all times. Overall, E. coli levels in the Watauga River are low, and the river is typically safe for swimming. However, E. coli levels can change at any time and frequently increase after rain events. As a general rule, if the water is clear, then E. coli levels are likely to be low. Please contact the Watauga Riverkeeper at andy@mountaintrue.org if you have questions. Please also contact us if you would like to volunteer to take water samples.

WATER QUALITY GRAPH

Elk River Falls

Elk Park, North Carolina

WATER QUALITY
  • Meets water quality standards
  • Current Status
  • This status is based on the latest sample, taken on May 17th, 2019. MountainTrue Watauga Riverkeeper updates the status of this beach as soon as test results become available. These results were posted to Swim Guide on at
For water quality icon legend, click:   

Located near Beech Mountain, Banner Elk and the small town of Elk Park is the impressive Elk River Falls (formerly called Big Falls) in Pisgah National Forest (Appalachian Ranger District). This 50-ft. North Carolina mountain waterfall cascades over a rock cliff and into a picturesque oval pool. The trail to the top of the falls is an easy five-minute walk. You can safely stand on flat rock area and watch the waterfall plummet over the cliff. A short but steep trail takes below the falls.

This beach and swimming area well below the waterfall can be a little crowded on hot summer weekends, but it's often very quiet. It's free to enjoy!

Safety Alert: Almost every year, someone dies here while diving or trying to swim in the swift currents. Remember, do NOT get into the water above the waterfall since currents can take you over the waterfall. Do not dive from the rock cliff - that has been deadly by getting entrapped by unseen boulders and other objects underwater. Also, don't attempt to swim under the falls or climb the rock face. The waterfall creates very strong currents in the very deep pool, pulling even strong swimmers under the water. The safe swimming area is below the bigger pool past some other boulders (photo above). See more Waterfall Safety Tips.

MONITORING FREQUENCY

Elk River Falls is sampled weekly from May 1st to September 30th

SOURCE INFORMATION

The Watauga Riverkeeper, housed at the MountainTrue, monitors the Watauga River Watershed for E. coli, a bacteria found in the waste (feces) of most warm-blooded animals, including humans. High levels of E. coli can pose a health risk for people swimming in the water.

Participating volunteers take weekly water samples, and sites are listed as failing to meet water quality standards if they exceed the EPA's recommended safe level for E. coli of 235 E. coli colonies per 100 ml of water. Volunteers take samples early each week, and results are posted on Thursday or Friday. This sample data provides a general guide to the health of the waterway and should only be used for informational purposes. This data does not guarantee the sampled area is safe for swimming at all times. Overall, E. coli levels in the Watauga River are low, and the river is typically safe for swimming. However, E. coli levels can change at any time and frequently increase after rain events. As a general rule, if the water is clear, then E. coli levels are likely to be low. Please contact the Watauga Riverkeeper at andy@mountaintrue.org if you have questions. Please also contact us if you would like to volunteer to take water samples.

WATER QUALITY GRAPH



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