Linville Gorge Water Slide

Linville Gorge Water Slide

In my early days as Ranger Bob, during college and law school, my outdoor buddies and I took many backpacking trips to Linville Gorge. We often took the loop route from Kistler Memorial Highway down the Conley Cove trail, up the Linville Gorge Trail beside the Linville River to Sandy Flats (no longer on the map, located where the spring is marked by the river on the trail southeast of Wiseman's View), further up the river to the Babel Towers Trail and back down Kistler Memorial Highway to the Conley Cove Trail head.


One day while traversing the Linville River trail north of Sandy Flats, I happened to spy, far down the hill below the trail, a spot in the river that looked like a natural water slide. It was a long, straight groove in the rock that carried a sluice of river water. The slide ended in a small, two-foot waterfall into a big pool of water. Best of all, the slide was covered by moss!

It did not appear that anybody else had identified the slide as a play spot. There was no visible foot traffic trail from the Forest Service trail down to the river. My buddies and I bushwhacked our way down to the slide. We had a good time playing in the water.

The next summer, I think in mid-1976, we came back with a larger crowd. During the trip, we camped at Sandy Flats, put on our bathing suits and hiked up river to the slide. We had to watch the river closely to find the slide and remember where to bushwhack down to the water. I remember playing in the water with Jim McKinney, Kimberly Hicks, Billy Gardner, and a half dozen others.

For several years we continued to go back to the slide and play in the water during summer trips. I never saw or heard of anybody else going there. Then a dozen or more years or later, I was amazed to see a national whitewater kayaking magazine article about the Linville River. A brazen group of paddlers had blazed a new route from Linville Falls to Lake James. The magazine photo of the group showed them sliding down our moss covered sluice.

Bob Laney

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Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.