The Allure of Waterfalls by John Haywood
“Everyone loves waterfalls!” Something I hear so often when talking with people I meet.
What is it about these natural wonders that people find so appealing? For most, it’s the waterfalls themselves. From the small cascades found at roadside to the thunderous behemoths like Niagara Falls, there are virtually endless variations for everyone’s enjoyment.
A large, crashing waterfall creates a white noise that quickly becomes barely noticeable and can soothe the soul. There is no mistaking that sound of a waterfall in the distance as one draws closer. As you weave through the trees, the excitement builds in anticipation of what is just around the corner. When you finally reach the source of that sound and see the prize, there is no feeling like it! A true sense of accomplishment and wonder.
Waterfalls can also have their own identities. In the ways they are formed, how they sound, and in their surroundings, no waterfall will be same. A massive 300-foot ribbon fall that contains a number of drops and gently flows down a rock face will undeniably have a different presence than a 100-foot rushing cascade that crashes down over a ledge and onto the rocks below.
“A large, crashing waterfall creates a white noise that quickly becomes barely noticeable and can soothe the soul.”
For others, the thrill is in the hunt. Armed with maps, GPS, guidebooks, and a thirst for adventure, thousands of people head out each year in search of their own perfect waterfalls. With so many great locations offering a spot for lunch for the lone hiker or a picnic for the family, waterfalls make the perfect backdrop.
For those of us who like to go out in search of new or undocumented waterfalls, the thrill is in the discovery of places that very few, if any, people have been. In my adventures to photograph waterfalls, I have been fortunate to discover a few new falls. The discovery becomes addicting and one can soon catch waterfall fever. The only known cure for this is more adventure!
When I first started looking for waterfalls many years ago, I packed Russell Dunn’s Adirondack Waterfall Guide and headed out into the mountains with my fiancée. We spent many days following the directions penned by this pioneer of waterfall exploration and I was quickly hooked. Each time we would arrive at our destination, the excitement would peak and I would take a minute to take in the sights. I would then get to work photographing these incredible scenes. It became a passion.
The many different styles of waterfalls also means there will always be a waterfall for everyone. The most common waterfalls are Plunges, Horsetails, Cascades, Staircase, Flume, and Ledge. There are descriptions and variations of each one of these plus a few other types found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall. Which one is your favorite?
I have a couple of favorites, both of which are in the Adirondacks. Rainbow Falls at Ausable Chasm and Split Rock Falls in Underwood. I have been fortunate to have been to the base of Rainbow Falls numerous times to photograph this 70-foot beauty. You can see the rich history of this waterfall in the short distance between the falls and the route 9 bridge. The remains of the former horsenail factory and bridge supports from the railroad that once spanned the Ausable River still stand as a reminder of centuries gone by.
Split Rock Falls in Underwood is a fantastic spot to visit as it is not only easily accessible, but beautiful in its surroundings. A very short walk from a parking area along route 9 leads to this multi-tiered waterfall that has become a super-popular swimming spot. The Boquet River is split into two drops as it flows over the top of this waterfall into a large pool. From this pool, the water spills over in a single drop and continues to flow north into another large pool which flows over a large rock formation spanning the river. This then forms yet another large pool which is great for wading and swimming. I try to stop here every time I’m in the area.
Regardless if you are a new fan of waterfalls or a devout waterfall enthusiast, one thing should always take precedence — safety.
Regardless if you are a new fan of waterfalls or a devout waterfall enthusiast, one thing should always take precedence — safety. When visiting waterfalls, it is paramount to respect the natural boundaries and the danger of getting too close to the edge. Tragedy can strike in an instant if care is not taken. It is also important to use caution when at or near the base of waterfalls as the danger of falling rocks and debris is real. A recent tragedy involved a young boy who was killed when a large rock dislodged from the side of a gorge and struck him. Always be aware of your surroundings.
With the ever-changing landscape and Mother Nature working tirelessly, there will never be a shortage of waterfalls. If you’re looking for a rewarding and refreshing experience, grab a guidebook, map, and whatever other supplies you may need and join the hunt!
I use the Waterfall Guides by Russell Dunn and a DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer to find and seek out new waterfalls