Ratings : Power - Beauty - Ease of Access -
Elakala Falls is a series of four waterfalls located near the lodge of Blackwater Falls State Park. The four falls on Shay Run are a few of more than 10 waterfalls in the park, including the major attraction of the park, Blackwater Falls, which is one of the more famous waterfalls in the eastern United States. Elakala Falls is also one of the most beautiful spots in the park. Elakala Falls is formed as Shay Run cascades down the side of the Blackwater Canyon into the Blackwater River.
The first waterfall, which is inarguably the second-most popular waterfall in the park, is the namesake for the series of falls. The story is that an Indian princess apparently threw herself over the edge of Elakala #1 after her lover scorned her. Of course, this story is repeated for many waterfalls on the East Coast with Indian names. The falls are in the shape of a small concave semi-circle with a higher cascade that flows in higher water. Surrounded by hemlocks and rhododendron, it provides a different view with each season. In the winter, a dramatic ice cascade is created on the rock cliff next to the waterfall. In the spring and after a heavy rain, the falls become a powerful torrent. In summer and fall, the falls become considerably smaller but still flow pretty consistently.
The falls are easily reached by almost everyone on the Elakala Trail, which leads off from the left side of the lodge and travels down a short and moderate hemlock-covered slope. A bridge passes over the top of the falls and then swings around to follow Shay Run for a short distance for frontal view of the falls. With a little agility, it's also pretty easy to climb down the left side of the streambank (facing downstream) where the trail turns away from the stream again. You can then make your way towards the falls and reach the edge small pool beneath the falls. I have even see people climb underneath the falls, although I wouldn't recommend it.
Elakala Falls #2 is also quite beautiful, as they fall in a short single cascade over a straight rock cliff in high water and many small scenic cascades in low water. Below the falls is a small pool shaded by hemlocks. They are the smallest of the four waterfalls as well as the most initimate. A tree has fallen against the falls, creating an interesting picture. There are views both directly below and directly above the falls. No marked trail goes to the falls, although there is a definite worn path through the woods which goes downstream from Elakala #1. You should be able to find it after climbing down the bank to see Elakala #1 more closely.
The highest and most spectacular of the series, Elakala Falls #3 is especially exciting in high water when the stream plunges over the high cliff which comprises the falls. In lower water, the falls turn into many beautiful cascades which jump their way down the cliff. At the bottom of the falls the stream continues through a large rock garden with several large boulders which provide the best view of the falls. In high water, the spray coming off the falls is rather considerable. This falls is more difficult to reach but is still very much worth visiting. To reach them, follow the path down from Elakala #2. The only difficult obstacle is the fairly steep hillside which you will have to make your way down. However, if you are in shape and have a good set of boots, it won't be too much of a problem.
Elakala Falls #4, on the other hand, is particularly difficult to reach. Not many people make it to this falls, as shown by the disappearance of makeshift path that leads to the previous two falls. Plus, it isn't very close to the other three falls. However, if you wish to visit a private and wild waterfall, you may want to try and make it down. These falls are composed of a series of cascades emptying out into the Blackwater River that include a large initial drop off of a straight rock face. To reach the falls, bushwhack your way through the tangled rhododendron-filled underbrush until you reach the falls, staying as close to the stream as possible. You may have to cross the stream and do a little bit of tough rock scrambling so be careful and do not visit this falls alone! If you reach the falls, you will be awarded as well by a view of the edge of the Blackwater River below the falls.
All in all, if you enjoy waterfalls which are more wild than popular, you may want to visit the Elakala Falls series.
Other Nearby Waterfalls : Blackwater Falls, Falls Run Falls #1-2, Pendleton Falls #1-5, Lindy Run Falls
Elakala #1 from the front in lower water
Elakala #2 from the front in lower water
Elakala #3 from the front in lower water
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