The history of Catawba Falls can not be told without first mentioning Colonel Daniel W. Adams. Colonel Adams was a conservationist who lived in Old Fort from 1914 until his death in 1957. Prior to his army enlistment in 1917 he was employed by the U.S. Forest Service, which he joined in 1909. In 1911 he invented and constructed the first forest fire tower in the world, which was erected in the Arkansas Ouacita National Forest. In 1912 and 1913 he was engaged in purchasing land for the U.S. Government as part of Pisgah National Forest and Shenandoah National Park. Milestones in the busy and civic life of Colonel Adams included spearheading the establishment of a water system for Old Fort and building of a power plant at Catawba Falls. He also opened feldspar and mica mines in Mitchell County and helped establish the Daniel Boone National Forest. His efforts in the conservation program were a major contribution in the establishment of National Parks and Forest in the south eastern United States. On August 31 1989 Daniel W. Adams sells the land containing the Catawba Falls to the Trust for Public Land Inc.
Stories from 1888. Having had our hair cropped, we set out next morning, following the fountain pipe, for Catawba Falls, which we reached this time without difficulty. On every side the forest was thick with the white and pink ivy, which was now in full blossom, mingled with the white laurel and the superb azalea – white, scarlet and brilliant orange. In going to the falls we followed, the last mile of the way, the course of a stream, entirely without a path, down a very wild and steep yet extremely beautiful gorge. We had almost despaired of ever finding the falls, when suddenly we found ourselves at their foot. They are in two divisions. The lower is a succession of cascades, the whole aggregating nearly two hundred feet. Very beautiful they are, but the upper falls, with their single plunge, are still more so. The climb to the latter was like trying to walk up a wall. Fort two hundred yards or more, we had to hold on to trees and bushes every step lest we fall and know no more. North Carolina University magazine. University of North Carolina “A Mountain Tramp: From Black Mountain to Highlands.” 1888
November 22, 1989 Old Fort News Bulletin
The Old Fort Chamber of Commerce has a meeting at Four Oaks Fish Camp to discuss plans on maintaining a public access trail to the falls. Mayor elect Robert Wilson had concerns over the gate put up at the bridge. Mary “Binkie” Adams explained that the gate was to protect their saw milling equipment and that the Adams family has never charged the public for access to the falls. Pat Cook, planning director for the Forest Service from Asheville and James Outz from the McDowell County Forest Service were in attendance; Cook stated there will be no commercial timber harvesting or motorized traffic in the Falls area. It will remain open for hiking and camping.
On April 3 1995 the McDowell County board of commissioners voted to abandoned the small section of road after the bridge, this resulted in 12 years of restricted access to the falls.
Adams' Catawba Dam Number 1, 1923. The waterline which exited thru a hole where the water is flowing was made of boards bound with iron hoops. The water was carried thru this waterline to the building shown here which generated the power. Shown here are the present condition and the original pictures.