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Hikers can visit highest waterfall east of Rockies for first time since wildfires

Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies, reopened on Friday in Nantahala National Forest after wildfires closed public access last year.
Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies, reopened on Friday in Nantahala National Forest after wildfires closed public access last year. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service

Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies, reopened on Friday in the Nantahala National Forest in Western North Carolina after wildfires closed public access last year.

The Whitewater Fire began Nov. 6. The fire burned only 23 acres but destroyed the stairs and access facility to the observation deck, District Ranger Mike Wilkins said in a Forest Service alert at the time. Due to the steep terrain, the site was unsafe and dangerous to the public, he said. The cause of the fire was unknown, he said.

Whitewater Falls plunges 411 feet, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Wilkins said the waterfall annually draws at least 75,000 visitors.

A contractor was paid $85,000 to rebuild the areas, the AP reported. Contractors and Forest Service staff will continue working on sections of the trail and trail bridge over Whitewater River, according to the news service.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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