Eastern Waterfall Guide

Southford Falls Falls of the Month, July 1999

Blackwater Falls

A portion of Blackwater Falls Ratings : Power - StarStarStarHalf star Beauty - StarStarStarStar Ease of Access - StarStarStarStarStar

Inarguably, Blackwater Falls is the most famous waterfall in West Virginia. It draws thousands of spectators every year due to its location near the ski resorts of Canaan Valley ski and golf resorts as well as the popularity of Blackwater Falls State Park for its trails, activities, and beautiful scenery. Of the scenery in the park, Blackwater Falls is probably the most important feature.

Situated at the start of the fantastic Blackwater Canyon, a haven for both fishermen and kayakers, the falls have long been well-known. Before the park came into being, locals used the falls for a swimming hole, jumping off of its high walls into the deep pool below. With the park came easy access to the falls. A combination of trail and boardwalk allows close viewing of the falls and a handicapped accessible trail to a overhead view of the falls added later gave another aspect to the falls. Visitors can easily walk the main trail to three different viewing places along the way, with the closest being twenty feet away from the falls about halfway up.

Carved out of the sandstone that makes up the Blackwater Canyon, the falls are special because of their form and changeability. The ledge is shaped like a V which points downstream. In lower water , the Blackwater River flows mainly around the outside of the edges of the V, cascading to the pool below. In addition to these two outer streams, a third cascade falls near the point of the V. In higher water, the falls become violent as the water covers the entire ledge, plunging off into the turbulent pool. During these periods of high water, the spray from the falls covers much of the lower section of the boardwalk. In the winter, the falls freeze over, creating an eerie ice sculpture.

There are three ways to view the falls. The first is the aforementioned main trail to the falls. Leading away from the end of the parking lot of the park's Trading Post, a trail takes one down under the shade of the predominant Eastern hemlock trees, occasionally using stairs to get down some of the steeper sections. After a minute or two of walking, the trail opens up into a wide open patio-like area from which one can view the falls as well as part of the canyon. Another staircase leads down from this area to the boardwalk which goes to the falls viewing area. A staircase along the way leads up to another viewing platform. The entire journey from the parking lot to the falls takes five minutes at most and is well-maintained.

The second way to view the falls is along the Gentle Trail, a paved handicapped-accessible trail built so that everyone could enjoy the falls. This trail leads away from the Gentle Trail parking lot to a viewing platform high above the falls. In addition to the birds-eye view of the falls, the Gentle Trail also provides an excellent view of the Canyon downstream from the falls. The trail itself takes less than five minutes to walk and is shaded by numerous hemlock and spruce trees.

The third way is much less used and not maintained by the park. Next to the Gentle Parking lot is a small stream called Falls Run. Although a little steep and not always well-defined, a little path runs down along the left bank of Falls Run (facing downstream) to the Blackwater River bank below. From there, one can make their way up-river to the bottom of the falls. This way can be dangerous, especially in high water, and is not recommended for anyone that isn't in good shape or doesn't want to get dirty, wet, or tired. However, the view is somewhat incredible and definitely worth the trek. Two small waterfalls on Falls Run also make this trip interesting. The trail down Falls Run crosses over the stream midway down after the second falls so be aware to watch for the crossing.

It may be interesting to note that there is a push from the West Virginia Sierra Club to make Blackwater Canyon a National Park, especially because of the recent attempts to develop and/or log the privately owned sections of the canyon. At the least, the Sierra Club wants the private sections purchased by the National Forest service to make them a part of surrounding Monongahela National Forest. In any case, the Canyon contains many small streams which drop into the canyon, creating many smaller but extremely beautiful waterfalls. In the state park alone, there are at least 14 waterfalls on six different streams or rivers. To my knowledge, there is at least one waterfall outside the area which is threatened by development, Lindy Run Falls. Blackwater Falls State Park and the WVA Sierra Club deserves the support of any waterfall lover in this struggle.

Total distances : Less than .2 miles round trip for the two easier methods of reaching the falls. A difficult mile round trip for the third method.

Other Nearby Waterfalls : Elakala Falls #1-4, Falls Run Falls #1-2, Pendleton Falls #1-5, Lindy Run Falls

Complete List of Falls of the Month : Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part IV - February 2001, Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part III - January 2001, Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part II - November/December 2000, Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part I - June through October 2000, Bash Bish Falls - May 2000, Wadsworth Falls - March 2000, Staton's Falls - February 2000, no December or January Falls of Month (I was lazy...), Raymondskill Falls - November 1999, Linville Falls - October 1999, no September 1999 Falls of the Month, Race Brook Falls - August 1999, Blackwater Falls - July 1999, Muddy Creek Falls - June 1999, Whiteoak Canyon - May 1999, Elakala Falls - April 1999, Southford Falls - March 1999

Photos of Blackwater Falls :

Blackwater Falls from the side in medium-low water
Blackwater Falls from the side in medium-low water
Blackwater Falls from the front in medium-high water
Blackwater Falls from the front in medium-high water
Blackwater Falls from the front in medium-high water
Blackwater Falls from the front in medium-high water

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