Perhaps the rarest and most intriguing image in the varied landscape of Ohio is the picture of a waterfall tumbling down a cliff or cascading over the mouth of a cave. The waterfall animates the beautiful scene, gathering light to make the rock sparkle.
Some waterfalls are free-flowing streams that tumble over the edge of a cliff, or springs that gush through the pores in solid rock. Others glide over dainty stair-steps in the stream bed or take mighty leaps over steep drops from rock to rock.
Many of Ohio?s cliff faces and recess caves owe their existence, as well as their appeal, to a waterfall. The waterfall is the artist, the tool that chisels the rock, and the work of art. Like the greatest of artists, the waterfall
devotes everything to its work. When the masterpiece is completed, it may wither away as the unrelenting process of erosion finally gobbles up the base from which the water falls.
A waterfall is formed after years of water erosion. Layers of soil and gravel are worn away until the water reaches erosion resistant rock strata, like sandstone or limestone. Further downstream, the water continues wearing away softer strata, such as shale or loosely cemented sandstone, until a ledge is formed causing water to cascade down ? and a waterfall is born. In some cases, the backwash from the falling water accelerates the erosion of less resistant layers beneath the ledge, forming a recess cave. For every new waterfall plummeting over a rock ledge for the first time, another is eroding itself out of existence.
Natural enemies including drought, changes in vegetation or diversion of the stream may shut off the flow prematurely and threaten the waterfall?s very existence. In pioneer days, a waterfall was a ready source of energy to turn a millstone. The dams and mills are long gone, and no real harm done, but evidence of their presence can still be seen anchored in the rock face near several waterfalls around the state. ?Jean Backs, Editor
Hocking Hills State Park offers a variety of stunning waterfalls. Most picturesque is Cedar Falls, a 50-foot horseshoe-shaped cascade over the sculpted Black Hand sandstone. The delicate falls spilling over the yawning mouth of Ash Cave drops 90 feet to the sparkling splash pool below. In winter, the waterfall often freezes, creating an impressive pillar of ice.
The Old Man?s Cave gorge boasts four distinct waterfalls along a halfmile stretch of scenic Old Man?s Creek. Upper Falls is a white veil splashing 40 feet over a ledge beneath a quaint natural bridge.
Middle Falls is a series of small falls and rapids churning along the stream bed beneath Old Man?s Cave. The stream bed takes a dramatic dip as Lower Falls plummets 50 feet into a swirling pool. Finally, Broken Rock Falls leaps over a sandstone cliff and splashes from boulder to boulder.
As the rainfall dictates, cataracts also tumble over cliff walls and gush from openings in the rock faces at Cantwell Cliffs, Conkles Hollow and Rock House. Winter may transform these weeping walls into fields of icicles.
Cascade Falls at Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park plunges 60 feet over the sheer face of the cobbled Sharon Conglomerate.
Minnehaha Falls slips through a crevice and tumbles 25 feet to a rock ledge, before spilling another 20 feet to a splash pool surrounded by massive rock walls.
Upper Lyons Falls tumbles nearly 40 feet over the open mouth of Lyon?s Cave in Mohican State Park. Nearby, Lower Lyon?s Falls takes a 30-foot tumble through the rugged terrain of the Clearfork River gorge.
As the Little Miami River tumbles through its steep-walled gorge at Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve and neighboring John Bryan State Park, the stream squeezes through a narrow channel in the limestone bedrock and pours out in a gusty spray at ?The Narrows?. Further west, the riverbed takes an impressive fortyfoot dip as the river plunges vigorously into a still pool below.
Hueston Woods State Park boasts a lovely, if modest, stairstep cascade at Cedar Falls along a woodland stream on the Cedar Falls Trail.