Welcome to the inaugural newsletter for Waterfall Keepers of North Carolina

New Year's is a time of reflection and, like many people, my brain is on overload as we start 2021. Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization or living in a pandemic would have been alien concepts to me in 2019, yet 2020 saw me doing both at the same time. What is not alien to me, however, is the concept of wanting to help the waterfall environment. And as I have been shown so wonderfully, that is a thought many others share as well.

On November 23, Waterfall Keepers started out of the gate like a racehorse, and we haven’t slowed down since. Each day brings new members, new waterfalls adopted, more people volunteering, and new opportunities for doing good work for the waterfalls and trails. We’re less than two months old, and we’re already making a big impact! 

I want to thank Holly Bass for working with me throughout 2020 to get this organization started. Her infectious enthusiasm and passion are just what the waterfalls need. And much thanks to our wonderful board of directors, Chuck Dayton, Lynda Doucette, Mark File, Rich Stevenson, Steve Temple, Brenda Wiley, and Ali Wimberly. As Holly would say, you guys Rock! 

But mostly, I want to thank each of you who have shown that despite the troubles of the world and all the partisan divides, it's still possible for people to come together and do good. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we’ve received. 

As we move forward into the New Year, we’ll need your continued support to accomplish our goals — in both volunteering and financial giving. I promise that every penny you give and every minute you spend will help waterfalls and help to make the waterfalling experience safe and environmentally sound. 

If you want to do something right this minute to help the waterfalls, the best thing you can do is become a member of Waterfall Keepers if you haven’t already. If you’re already a member, the best thing you can do is get a friend to join us. 

Many of you have reached out wanting to contribute beyond financial giving. Thank you so much! If you haven’t heard back from us yet, don’t worry, you will be hearing from us soon. We need you! 

I hope everyone has a fantastic 2021 filled with wonderful waterfall experiences!

See ya next month!
Kevin Adams
Executive Director
In Just a Mere 38 Days...

Thirty-eight days. That’s how long Waterfall Keepers was alive in 2020. But just look at everything we accomplished in those 38 days. Imagine what we’ll be able to report in the January 2022 newsletter!

  • 205 members 
  • 160 waterfalls adopted
  • 154 waterfall adopters
  • 346 gallons of trash removed, along with abandoned tents, mattresses, and car batteries
  • 266 volunteer hours spent at waterfalls
  • Science & Education Coordinator added to staff
  • Trails Coordinator added to staff
  • Trail crews being formed
  • Alliances formed with numerous government and nonprofit agencies
  • Consultant on a major trail construction project at a popular waterfall
  • Initiated plans on behalf of a government agency for establishing a new park that features several spectacular waterfalls that until now have not been accessible to the public
  • Added valuable historical items to our library
  • Started setting up graffiti removal crew
  • Began work on a safety and education brochure to be distributed across North Carolina
  • Junior Keepers program planning underway and scheduled for launch in spring
  • Projects to make access safe and environmentally sound for two waterfalls in the planning stage  
Welcome to the Science Stream

I’m Kira King, the Science & Education Coordinator for Waterfall Keepers. We have plenty of wonderful things in the works, and I’m excited to have this space to share information with you about our education programs, along with science facts and ways you can help. I have a background in stream ecology, environmental education, and entomology, with a master’s degree in zoology — all my favorite “ologies.” Through our education programs, I look forward to helping others examine how different forms of life and science work together in a waterfall environment to keep the perfect balance.

You probably know throwing trash into a waterfall is a bad idea, but do you know all the reasons why? You may have heard that stacking rocks can be damaging to the environment, but what do you know about the creatures it affects? I joined Waterfall Keepers to develop programs and initiatives that help people understand the science and the “why” behind what we do. Sure, we clean up graffiti around waterfalls. We do it not only because it takes away from the natural beauty, but it also can be harmful for the water quality and the animals that live in and drink that water.

Waterfalls contain and sustain so much life — from big animals like bears, foxes, and deer to tiny insect larvae living under the rocks in the water. Bigger animals drink the water and find food there. Smaller creatures benefit from the extra oxygen the movement of the waterfall creates so they can thrive in the water. There are also many unique plant species that can only survive near a waterfall. These are just a few of the ways waterfalls help to maintain a beautiful and sustainable planet!
One thing I’m most excited about is that I won’t be doing any of this work alone. There are already so many people involved with Waterfall Keepers, and you are making our jobs so much easier. At the end of each of these columns, I’ll give you some suggestions for how you can take action on what we’ve discussed. 

So today I’ll leave you with this: One of the simplest yet most effective things you can do is to share your knowledge with others. I hope you will share one thing you learn from each newsletter with someone else in your life. You could even forward the newsletter to some friends and see if they want to join you in protecting waterfalls. Knowledge breeds action, so the more folks know about waterfalls and their surrounding environment, the more willing they will be to pitch in and make it a good one! 

If you would like to contact me with any questions or comments about this column, our science and education programs, or how you can help, feel free to send me a message at kira.king@waterfallkeepersofnc.org.
Volunteer Spotlight: Aquinnah deBettencourt
Nine-year-old Aquinnah deBettencourt began visiting waterfalls right after she was born and started hiking on her own as soon as she was able to walk. So, it was only natural her mom would give her a Junior Keeper membership in Waterfall Keepers of NC. 

But Aquinnah wasn’t satisfied with just being a member. She wanted to adopt her favorite waterfall. Aquinnah calls it Grandpa Larry Falls because her grandfather took her there when she was little. 

She visits the waterfall often and likes to play in the pool. “I want to be a waterfall keeper because I love hiking to waterfalls and swimming underneath them in summer,” she tells us. But she understands that it’s not all about the fun. “I want to help pick up trash at waterfalls to keep them clean to make them a safe place for animals and plants.” She knows that’s what being a Keeper is all about.

Aquinnah doesn’t just want to pick up the trash left behind by inconsiderate visitors, she also wants to protect waterfalls in other ways. Grandpa Larry Falls isn’t publicized by the owner because of safety and environmental concerns. Aquinnah understands and respects this and won’t tell anyone where it is. She won’t even tell her best friend!

Thank you, Aquinnah, for being such a good friend for the waterfalls! 
Upcoming Events

As it has for everyone, COVID-19 has deeply affected our planning for 2021. There is so much we’d like to do, so many fun and educational events we’d like to offer, but until we can be sure it is safe for everyone, we must hunker down and wait. Fortunately, there are still some things we can do safely. Will you join us?

February 20th
Join us as we clean up along a section of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway in Pisgah National Forest. Our adopted stretch of highway begins and ends at a waterfall and passes by the access points for several more. We’ll provide everything you need and make sure everyone is socially distanced. 

March 20th
North Carolina Waterfall Sweep
Hundreds of people across the state will visit waterfalls and pick up trash on this day we're planning on making an annual event. We’ll also have special crews at sites that need extra love. You don’t have to do anything to be a part of this event other than visit a waterfall with your trash bucket. If you want to join one of our special crews, we would love to have you. We need people all over the state. We also need trucks and drivers to haul off the trash. Do you know a waterfall location that has a lot of trash that can’t be cleaned up easily by an individual? Let us know so we can add it to the list for the Waterfall Sweep.

For more info on these events, visit our website or email us at info@waterfallkeepersofnc.org.
Discover the Many Ways to Volunteer
We Need Your Help!

As Kevin said in his greeting, we've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we’ve received since we launched. But we will never have more help than we can use. North Carolina is blessed with thousands of beautiful waterfalls so there will always be more work to be accomplished.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Join a trail crew to clear trees and perform maintenance.
  • Join a graffiti removal crew.
  • Work on acquisitions for our library.
  • Help with fundraising.
  • Adopt a waterfall.
  • Participate in the Waterfall Sweep and/or Adopt-A-Highway cleanup.
  • Become a member.

Our biggest need right now is funding and material donations. Cash donations are wonderful, of course, but perhaps you are in a position to help in other ways. We need tools, safety gear, and cleanup supplies. And for our trail and trailhead projects, we need building materials, stone and gravel, and experienced heavy-machinery workers.