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Gawkers relish rain-soaked waterfalls in Smokies

With record-setting rainfall wreaking havoc on East Tennessee, some have found a silver lining in rushing waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Reporter's Note: Special thanks to Tim Grogan, Douglas Michael Smith, Dale Wilson, Rebekah Havrilla, Amy Shealy Clark, Jason Burton, and others for courteously providing images and videos of waterfalls throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

(GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS - Feb. 27, 2019) February's multi-week deluge continues to cause numerous flooding problems throughout East Tennessee.  The rare rainfall also created a spectacle of power and beauty in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

Throughout the week, people have shared videos online of raging waterfalls in the Smokies.  The torrent continued to roll down the mountains Wednesday under sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 60s.

The water and love was flowing for newlyweds David and Holly Gatto of Pennsylvania.  The couple soaked in the scenery at Cataract Falls near park headquarters, but their honeymoon was nearly a washout. 

Credit: WBIR
Cataract Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"Yeah, we almost didn't come and I said we're going. We're going," smiled Holly Gatto.

David Gatto added, "We saw all the stuff on the news with houses underwater, swift-water rescues, and fatalities. We called Sunday and the cabin we're renting said things were fine, so we made the trip. Now we're at Cataract Falls, the first waterfall we're checking out down here, and it is beautiful."

The cascades throughout the national park have attracted hikers to make the trek on muddy trails to popular spots like Hen Wallow Falls, Grotto Falls, Ramsey Cascades, Rainbow Falls, and Abrams Falls.  On the North Carolina side of the park, the steep spigots at Mingo Falls and the many falls along Deep Creek also lured gawkers. 

Credit: WBIR
The Sinks waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains a few days after more than a week of heavy rains hammered the mountains.

Rangers ask hikers to avoid any water-crossings on trails to waterfalls.

"The water is very high and very dangerous.  When you come to a stream crossing, just like the roadways, don't go through it. Turn around, don't drown," said Jamie Sanders, GSMNP spokesperson.  

There are plenty of places to peer at falling water without hiking much at all.

"There are some awesome places to see waterfalls right along the roadway. At The Sinks, that's a really nice waterfall area right there on the road with a parking area and viewing platform.  Not far from there, you have the pull-off to see Meigs Falls along Little River Road.  Laurel Falls is a hike, but it is always nice and there are no water-crossings," said Sanders.

Credit: WBIR
Meigs Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains.

For the Gattos, Cataract Falls was a perfect choice with only a short hike on level ground to reach the falls.

"It's an easy waterfall to check out. You only have to walk a tenth of a mile to come down here. Enjoy the sound of moving water and tranquility," said David Gatto.

"It's very peaceful and relaxing, just to see God's beauty and everything he created," said Holly Gatto.

Credit: WBIR
Newlyweds David and Holly Gatto at Cataract Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Great Smoky Mountains website has a page dedicated to waterfalls in the national park with maps to each location.

LINK:  Waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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