Fall Creek Falls State Park

The other day I shared a short post about our initial visit to Fall Creek Falls State Park with a photo of Cane Creek Cascades. I want to share a few more images with you today and talk a bit more about the park. Fall Creek Falls State Park really is a gem of a place. Their own brochure describes it as “a paradise of more than 26,000 acres, sprawled across the western top of the rugged Cumberland Plateau, one of the most scenic and spectacular outdoor recreation areas in America.” Yep, that about gets it right.

I’ve always gravitated to places like this. In Pennsylvania, I found a haven at Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County, where the Youghiogheny River passes through a rugged and beautiful hardwood-lined gorge on its way toward its rendezvoous with the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers near the appropriately named Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!).

In northern Virginia where my brother lives, we have the many creeks and rivers in Shenandoah National Park, the Wolf Gap Recreation Area in the George Washington National Forest, and the beautiful Shenandoah River State Park. All of these places provide a soothing balm for our souls when the busy-ness of the modern world gets to be too much. 

And now I live in Tennessee, closer than I’ve ever lived to my favorite place on earth, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smokies around Gatlinburg was the only place our family ever went on vacation when I was growing up, and so in a sense, I feel like grew up in the Smokies. But while I now live closer than I ever have, the Smokies are still about four hours away. That’s close enough to make a number of weekend jaunts throughout the year, but not quite close enough for a day trip.

Enter Fall Creek Falls State Park, which I’ve now come to call Smokies West. It has most of the terrain features that I love about the Smokies, but on a smaller scale. And at less than two hours from my home, I can visit just about anytime the mood strikes. And I expect the mood to strike often.

The predominant feature of the park is the Cane Creek Gorge. As it flows through the gorge, Cane Creek drops several hundred feet in less than a mile, starting with a 45 foot drop over Cane Creek Cascades, which is the image I shared the other day. Less than 50 yards further downstream is the image you see at the top of this post. And if you notice, Cane Creek seems to come to an abrupt end toward the center of the frame. At that point, Cane Creek drops some 85 feet over Cane Creek Falls. Sadly I wasn’t able to get an image I liked of the falls at the Cane Creek Overlook. There’s a better vantage point for the image I wanted to take, which I could see on the other side of the gorge. It’s accessed, I think, by a one-mile hike from the Fall Creek Falls Overlook. But by the time we got to the Cane Creek Overlook, we just didn’t have time to drive back around and hike in. Next time.

The image above is Fall Creek Falls, which drops 256 feet. It’s one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States, and is the highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River. To put that into perspective, Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls, drops only 188 feet.

Just to the right, out of frame, is the much smaller Coon Creek Falls, which shares the plunge pool with Fall Creek Falls. There wasn’t a lot of water flowing from either Fall Creek or Coon Creek on the day we were there, but there was a little more coming from Fall Creek, so I decided to focus on Fall Creek Falls and exclude Coon Creek Falls.

What you also can’t see in the image above is the people that were playing at the bottom of the falls. The image below is a wider frame from a different vantage point, and you can just see, at the bottom center of the frame, three people. Seeing people really helps bring some scale to these falls.

There are seven falls in the park. We saw six of them briefly. The other that I actually photographed is Piney Creek Falls, shown below. This is another one of the falls that I’ll spend some more time at and try and find some other compositions. I’d like to see more of the falls themselves than I can see in this image. So I guess I’ll just have to go back and spend more time there. 😉

Fall Creek Falls really is a magical place. Beautiful streams, rugged rock formations, and virgin hardwoods combine to make this park someplace special. “In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world,” John Muir said, “the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.” Fall Creek Falls State Park is all that and more. It’s a bountiful place to explore with a camera, a peaceful place to hike, and a great place to recalibrate your soul.

More to come . . . .