Laughing Waters

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




We replicated the gristmill that stood on the site and was swept away in the Flood of 1916.  Back in those days, numerous waterwheel gristmills were built in Hickory Nut Gorge for grinding grain.  Our neighbor’s grandfather worked in the original mill.  We found a log cabin that dated from the 1840’s, took it down and re-built it, placing a working waterwheel on it.  We acquired two authentic grinding stones and eventually plan to install them so that we are able to grind corn in the old-fashioned way.

The remains of the historic Drover’s Road are still evident and pass right by the mill.  Along this dirt road, people drove their horses and wagons to the mill to have their corn ground into grain.  They also drove their animals to market along this route.  Now the remnants of the Old Drovers Road at Laughing Waters are part of our trail system and lead from the lodge, cottage, and gristmill to the orchard downstream, connecting to the new Upper Hickory Nut Gorge trail system.

Since 2005 we have been busy restoring the mill as well as creating the community center/retreat site that serves so many people.  We completed Laughing Waters lodge in the spring of 2010 and began our first 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 Laughing Waters and Hickory Nut Forest continues to grow and expand, we look forward to new creative opportunities to enhance this magical place.


Laughing Waters is a rejuvenating retreat space for the greater community with room for gatherings of all kinds: weddings, potlucks, personal retreats, seasonal celebrations, and workshops on subjects like self-transformation, sustainable living, organic gardening, healing arts, and sacred ceremony.  A one-bedroom cottage sits upstream from the lodge and can be used as a honeymoon cabin for the bridal couple during wedding weekends, or it can be rented separately for private retreats.  Laughing Waters is a versatile and high energy place where people can feel vibrantly alive and open to their full potential.


There is a place on Hickory Nut Creek in Hickory Nut Gorge, NC that named itself. At the site of the ruins of a 19th Century gristmill is the Laughing Waters Retreat Site and Community Center. The sound of water rushing over giant moss-covered boulders evokes feelings of peace and joy.  Hemlock and rhododendron groves line the banks. This energetic site is the community hub of Hickory Nut Forest, an eco-friendly community of 23 home sites that are examples of green homes, renewable energy, and sustainable lifestyles.  At Laughing Waters, the electricity is produced by a micro-hydro turbine powered by the water cascading down from the Continental Divide.


Laughing Waters allows people to come together to meet old and new friends. The peaceful atmosphere encourages collaboration, creativity, inspiration, and renewal of vibrant health. Many find it to be a refuge and safe haven from the stresses of our modern world. A large fire circle near the tumbling waters of Hickory Nut Creek offers a sacred place for sharing companionship and honoring mother nature’s abundance. Walking the forest and stream side trails offers an easy way to immerse yourself in the healing beauty of the land.

The 1840’s log cabin being restored as a working gristmill.