With the improve from nationwide river to nationwide park standing, West Virginia’s New River Gorge Nationwide Park and Protect has generated a substantial amount of pleasure, each right here in West Virginia and throughout the nation. Whereas a lot of the information I’ve seen focuses on the enduring New River Gorge Bridge, the various out of doors journey alternatives and the historic worth of the Gorge, I’m going to spotlight a choice of the various waterfalls inside and close to the park that draw photographers yr after yr.
The New River Gorge area is residence to effectively over 100 waterfalls, with lots of them nestled within the park’s boundaries. In my books on the topic, the Gorge was damaged up into three sections: Higher, Central and Decrease. I’ll comply with go well with right here, beginning within the Higher New River Gorge with what I take into account the “crown jewel” of New River Gorge waterfalls.
Higher New River Gorge
Sandstone Falls marks the transition zone of the New River from a large river of huge bottomlands to a slim, rugged river raging by means of a deep boulder-strewn gorge. Sandstone Falls is definitely one in all my favourite waterfalls in West Virginia and past. Divided by a collection of islands on the New River, Sandstone Falls measures in at 15-25 ft excessive, however its 1,500-foot width is most spectacular.
Sandstone Falls is straightforward to entry because of an elaborate quarter-mile-long boardwalk and bridge system. The primary bridge is small and crosses a artifical channel that when diverted water for a grist mill utilized by native farmers. The primary overlook on the boardwalk gives good vantage factors of the decrease part of falls and is a well-liked spot for fishing. To the left of the overlook, you’ll discover the Island Loop Path, which leads you thru the Appalachian Riverside Flatrock Neighborhood, a singular botanical ecosystem in West Virginia.
The second bridge crosses a large pure channel with a ravishing view of the decrease falls within the distance. The boardwalk ends at an overlook with a 20-foot-high part of falls within the distance. All alongside the boardwalk, you’ll discover a number of user-created paths main to numerous vantage factors alongside the channels and river.
The trail close to the tip of the boardwalk is the place I invite you to depart the boardwalk and discover. The path results in an island with magnificent vistas of the river and the primary part of falls. Three stream crossings are required to achieve the island, so cross with care throughout greater water flows. As soon as on the island, you may be mesmerized by the scene in entrance of you. That is the place you witness the grandeur of Sandstone Falls up shut and private. Compositional selections for pictures are quite a few right here. Go to within the morning hours, and you’ll typically be met with foggy circumstances for moody pictures, and the sunsets listed below are wonderful to witness and seize.
Kate’s Department Falls
Kate’s Department Falls is one other favourite of mine, but it surely does want constant rainfall to actually shine and is subsequently finest visited in early to mid-spring. Trillium is prevalent right here and, when in bloom, makes a wonderful foreground to your pictures of Kate’s Department Falls.
Kate’s Department Falls is positioned on a spur path off of the favored Glade Creek Path and is a 2.4-mile spherical journey hike from the higher trailhead car parking zone. Or you can begin your hike from the decrease trailhead parking space and add in a cease at Decrease Glade Creek Falls in your means as much as Kate’s Department Falls. Glade Creek is a really picturesque stream, and within the spring, you will discover quite a few wildflower varieties alongside the path.
Brush Creek Falls
Whereas outdoors the nationwide park boundaries, Brush Creek Falls is kind of worthy of a point out. Brush Creek is positioned close to Athens, West Virginia, and is maintained and managed by Pipestem Resort State Park. Adjoining to Brush Creek Falls is the Nature Conservancy’s Brush Creek Protect, a haven for spring wildflowers, migrating warblers, and dramatic limestone and sandstone cliffs.
From the parking space, comply with the rock-strewn path for 1 / 4 mile. Your first view of the falls can be what I name the higher falls—a collection of small cascades that makes up the ledge of Brush Creek Falls. Proceed down the path a brief distance previous a picket fence and make an abrupt switchback all the way down to the creek.
A number of good vantage factors for photographing Brush Creek Falls might be discovered when you descend the trail from the path above. The pool is fairly giant, although, so my favourite views are within the creek itself or from the opposite aspect of the creek. Watch out for those who resolve to wade into or throughout the creek; all stream crossings must be made with further warning on account of slick rocks and turbulent water.
For added picture alternatives, there are some good stream scenes and small cascades downstream from Brush Creek Falls. Accessing them would require some creek strolling or steep scrambles down from the path. When Brush Creek is raging, take the time to hike an extra 1.5-plus miles to White Oak Creek Falls. Lastly, yet one more neat little cascade is on the opposite aspect of the highway on the parking space—you may’t miss it.
Central New River Gorge
Dunloup Creek Falls
Constant water ranges in even the driest of summer time months make Dunloup Creek Falls an exquisite four-season waterfall. The roadside pullout gives a pleasant view of the falls from above, although a brief however steep scramble all the way down to the creek will afford you significantly better digicam angles. I like to get my ft moist at this waterfall. From the middle of the stream or close to both financial institution, Dunloup Creek Falls takes on a completely completely different look. Remember to spend a while exploring the creek upstream and downstream from these falls, as there are a number of small cascades and stream scenes accessible. Additionally close by is the historic ghost city of Thurmond, a preferred New River Gorge Nationwide Park and Protect location.
Wolf Creek Falls
Whereas this can be a roadside waterfall, many of us driving by miss out on Wolf Creek Falls. It’s hidden deep within the canyon and particularly troublesome to identify when the bushes are stuffed with leaves. The trail all the way down to the falls could be very steep, and I describe the descent as extra of a managed tumble as you make your means all the way down to the creek. About midway down, you’ll encounter a jungle of rhododendron, and though you’ll have to duck just a little as you undergo, you may be grateful for the lending hand the branches afford. As soon as by means of the thicket, you may be on the base of the falls. My favourite perspective right here is from a small ledge close to the place you emerge from the rhododendron jungle. A pair different good vantage factors are from the alternative financial institution and from a ledge above the falls.
Higher & Decrease Fern Creek Falls
There are not less than a dozen waterfalls on Fern Creek, however I’ll focus strictly on the higher and decrease falls right here. Merely put, this waterfall trek isn’t for everybody. Whereas the approaches to Higher Fern are on established paths, from then on, it’s an off-trail bushwhack with seemingly insurmountable obstacles resembling rhododendron thickets and house-sized boulders alongside the best way.
There are two approaches to Higher Fern Creek. One is through the extremely fashionable Limitless Wall Path and utilizing a climber’s ladder to descend to the creek. The opposite is an easy-to-follow path alongside the cliff line solid by rock climbers.
For a lot of the yr, the higher falls of Fern Creek are largely hidden from view, because the water is working by means of a cave-like cleft within the cliff wall. However when the stream is rain-swollen, the higher falls tackle a dramatically completely different persona. Ed Rehbein, my good pal and co-author of our ebook on New River Gorge waterfalls, adequately describes it as “excessive drama.” You’ll hear the thunderous rumble of water effectively earlier than you see it, and whenever you spherical the ultimate bend within the path, you may be stopped in your tracks on the rugged magnificence in entrance of you. Fern Creek leaps in spectacular style over the cleft into an amphitheater strewn with huge boulders—excessive drama certainly!
From right here, you will want to resolve if you wish to make the troublesome trek all the way down to the decrease falls and witness the opposite waterfalls on the best way. For those who go, you may be descending after which working your means again up on a harmful and steep grade that requires a number of off-trail navigation by means of the beforehand talked about obstacles. Another phrase of warning: That is the one space within the Gorge the place I’ve encountered multiple copperhead snake, so proceed with nice warning.
In case you are nonetheless raring to go regardless of these warnings, the most effective route is to remain on the proper aspect of the stream (trying downstream) as you descend. There are not any official trails down into the canyon, however there was sufficient site visitors lately that you must be capable to decide up a faint path right here and there.
As you fastidiously work your means down into the canyon, you’ll move by a number of smaller falls and a few vital drops, with one in all them being what I dub as the center falls. From right here, the scramble on all the way down to the decrease falls is a bit simpler to navigate, and in a couple of tenths of a mile, you’ll attain them. Of all of the waterfalls on Fern Creek, the decrease falls is my favourite and is kind of stunning.
Glade Creek Falls
We are going to once more step outdoors of the nationwide park boundaries right here and go to a close-by state park. The long-lasting Glade Creek Grist Mill in Babcock State Park makes for a dramatic backdrop to this stream-wide waterfall, which sits a number of yards downstream of the mill. Glade Creek Falls is a ravishing waterfall however having the previous grist mill within the background makes this a must-see location. The Glade Creek Grist Mill is definitely West Virginia’s most-photographed web site, and for those who go to right here throughout peak fall foliage season, you’ll perceive why. Remember to discover downstream from the waterfall, the place you will discover a number of fairly cascades and stream scenes.
Decrease New River Gorge
Mill Creek Falls
Mill Creek is a rugged mountain stream full of gorgeous stream scenes, small waterfalls, and cascades, with Mill Creek Falls being the spotlight. Its setting and the small ledges over which the water programs ship distinctive picture alternatives in all seasons.
Whilst you can hike to Mill Creek Falls on the historic Ansted Rail Path, it’s a lot simpler to entry through Hawks Nest Street, the place you may merely park and scramble all the way down to the falls. Proceed down the highway and take within the view of Hawks Nest Lake, which is the New River held again by a dam simply downstream. There’s a photogenic railroad bridge over the lake. From the parking space, it’s also possible to take a straightforward half-mile hike on the Fisherman’s Path to Decrease Turkey Creek Falls.
The waters of Cane Department cascade steeply down a collection of ledges right into a pure amphitheater surrounded by a slim canyon with the towering partitions on both aspect, giving one the sensation of being in a cathedral. Cathedral Falls, positioned proper off U.S. Route 60, is likely one of the tallest and most-visited waterfalls in West Virginia.
You may step out of your automobile and begin taking images—Cathedral Falls is that shut. The roadside location and sheer fantastic thing about the falls just about ensures that you may be sharing the falls with others. I’ve discovered that visiting early within the morning or on wet days will increase my probabilities of discovering uncommon solitude at this stunning waterfall.
See extra of Randall Sanger’s work at randallsanger.com.