The most-visited National Forest site in South Carolina will be closed for almost a year.
November wildfires destroyed staircases leading to the Whitewater Falls in the Nantahala National Forest and the North Carolina Forest Services says it will take almost a year to rebuild.
“We have engineers here on the forest that evaluate the site and the structure and they determined how much it might cost to rebuild it,” said Cathy Dowd spokeswoman for the Forest Service, “Their estimate is about $250,000”
The Whitewater fire started on November 6 and only lasted a couple of days before firefighters were able to contain the burn. The cause of the fire is still under investigation and there are no identifiable leads to its origin.
The forest will remain closed until they can secure funding and rebuild the site. Dowd says her department and the Federal Highways Administration-Eastern Federal Lands partnered to get funding for the rebuilding project.
Getting funding for Whitewater Falls quickly might be easier said than done. Parts of the Nantahala Forest are still waiting for official to inspect damages from Hurricane Matthew. Dowd estimates that the budget process could take around six months.
In the meantime the Forest Service issued a closure notice for the falls which makes it illegal to visit the site. Dowd said the service had no choice but to close the falls for the year because they believe “try to access those falls and they are going to injure or even kill themselves.”
The Whitewater Falls in South Carolina highlight steep drops from over from 400 feet, which the National Forest website claims is the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.
Over 75,000 people visit the Whitewater falls annually making it one of the states most visited natural landscapes.