Flat Lick Falls

Several years had passed since my journey to Jackson County, Kentucky, to capture images of its two most captivating waterfalls: Flat Lick Falls and McCammon Branch Falls.

Flat Lick Falls, a 33-foot-high plunge waterfall along Laurel Fork Creek, has undergone changes since my initial visit in 2015. Initially, the park featured a rudimentary in-and-out trail accessible via a winding paved and gravel road. The area transformed into a modest county-maintained recreation space in the intervening years, boasting five miles of trails, a tent and RV campground, and seasonal restroom facilities.

The trail leading to Flat Lick Falls spans half a mile, providing an out-and-back route culminating at the base. The first 400 yards are paved, leading to a wheelchair-accessible lookout platform. Subsequently, the trail becomes more rugged, involving a modest descent into the valley and a stream crossing.

Photographing this waterfall is straightforward. While the majestic hemlocks that once provided shade along the creek have diminished due to the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, the area remains well-shaded and surrounded by rhododendrons.

Adjacent to this location lies the Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area, harboring a hidden gem: the 62-foot-high McCammon Branch Falls, situated along a branch of McCammon Creek. Enclosed by loose sandstone and shale, this waterfall often eludes sight due to its general inaccessibility. The trailhead lacks formal markings, and the steep descent necessitates mild climbing and scrambling over loose boulders.

Photographing McCammon Branch Falls presents challenges. The water is frequently turbid, a result of soil erosion from runoff of exposed soils, and the presence of some dead pine trees adds to the difficulty. Nevertheless, it remains a personal favorite due to the inherent challenges, ensuring a solitary experience unlikely to be replicated elsewhere.

McCammon Branch Falls

Looking back on my visit to Jackson County after a span of several years, I see notable enhancements have been made to two prominent recreational sites. Flat Lick Falls underwent a transformation from a basic trail and secluded environment to a more refined county-maintained recreation area. This upgrade includes improved accessibility, featuring paved sections leading to wheelchair-accessible lookout platforms. In contrast, McCammon Branch Falls retains its aura of inaccessibility and challenges. Despite these obstacles, the appeal of McCammon Branch Falls persists, ensuring a distinctive and solitary experience amidst the rugged beauty of the Appalachian landscape.

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