Laughing Waters

Retreat Center located on over 100 acres in the beautiful Hickory Nut Gorge.



Laughing Waters offers this energizing surrounding for experiencing weddings, private retreats, workshops and events including programs on self-transformation, living sustainably, organic gardening, healing arts, yoga, and sacred ceremony.


Throughout the 1800s, numerous waterwheel gristmills were built in Hickory Nut Gorge for grinding grain. Laughing Waters is located at one of these historic sites.  Our neighbor’s grandfather worked in the original mill. The remains of the historic Drover’s Road still runs next to an old stone wall beside the creek and passes right by the mill. Along this dirt road, people drove their horses and wagons to the mill to have their corn ground into grain.

In 2005, we decided to create a replica gristmill on the site of the old stone ruins. We soon decided to keep the ruins as they were, and build next to them instead. Our first sketches included a waterwheel as part of Laughing Waters building. However, when we were able to find an authentic 1840’s log cabin, we decided to re-build it and place a working waterwheel directly on it.

We modified our plans to include overnight accommodations, cooking facilities, several large gathering spaces, and a large deck overlooking the creek and waterfall. After 18 months of building and creative problem solving, we finally completed the Laughing Waters building in the spring of 2010, and began our first full year of activities and events. (You can see the stages of the construction process in our slide show.) Over the years, as the vision of Hickory Nut Forest continued to grow and expand, the main building became the community gathering place and a center for workshops and classes.


Laughing Waters’ mission is to serve as a community center for Hickory Nut Forest, a deeply rejuvenating retreat site, and a learning center for people to feel vibrantly alive and open to their full potential.


There is a place on Hickory Nut Creek that named itself. At the site of the ruins of a 19th Century gristmill is the Laughing Waters Retreat Site and Community Center. Waterfalls tumble over giant moss-covered boulders. Hemlock and rhododendron groves line the banks. In this energetic site is the hub of the community with gatherings of all kinds, potlucks, and seasonal celebrations. Laughing Waters is a sustainable building with a micro-hydro turbine powered by the water cascading down from the Continental Divide.


Laughing Waters offers numerous community events enabling people to come together to meet old and new friends. The atmosphere at Laughing Waters encourages collaboration, creativity, inspiration, and good health. It is a refuge and safe haven from the stresses of our modern world. With a fire circle near the tumbling waters of Hickory Nut Creek, it is also a sacred place for sharing companionship and joyful ceremonies to give thanks for Mother Nature’s abundance and healing energies. The quality of life that comes from developing friendships and cooperating with people who have a common love of nature is invaluable.


We have erected an 1840’s log cabin by the site of the old mill and added a working waterwheel. We acquired two authentic grinding stones and eventually plan to grind corn in the old-fashioned way.

The old gristmill also inspired us to also install a modern micro-hydro turbine that provides electricity for Laughing Waters. This, along with the solar powered homes, enables Hickory Nut Forest to be a “net-zero” energy community.