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Blackwater Falls State Park

West Virginia Wednesdays — The Falls of Elakala

IMG_8506Sounds like a more remote section of Middle-earth, doesn’t it? It also goes by the far more  ordinary name of Elakala Falls, but I prefer the name used on the map we got at Blackwater Falls State Park, where the falls are located. The falls are a series of four separate falls as Shays Run “descends into the Blackwater Canyon”, as the article in Wikipedia puts it. Our hiking map gave warnings similar to those found in this Wikipedia article, namely that once you get past the first falls, the other three become increasingly dangerous.

Early one morning during our stay, my husband and I went to hike the falls. We drove to the lodge. If you walk out the front door and turn right, you are only about a three-minute walk from the trail head, which is clearly marked. The day was overcast, occasionally spitting rain, the perfect backdrop for the dark hemlocks and spruces that overhang the trail by the falls. Under these trees grow ferns and mosses, giving the forest a magical, primeval look. If an elf or a centaur had passed us on the trailer, I wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow.

IMG_8526The path to the first falls is easy to walk and clearly marked. We crossed the bridge as the first falls tumbled beneath us. Walking down the trail that parallels Shays Run, we were able to take photos of the falls. In the evening, we brought our kids back, and my husband experimented with different camera set-ups.

During our morning hike, my husband and I looked for a trail to the second falls, and my husband thought a small path following the Run would lead us to it. But since it wasn’t marked, and my husband and I aren’t experienced hikers, we decided to stick to the marked trails of which there were many. We met no one on the trails and could take our time trying to different shots with our camera. The quiet, ancient atmosphere of the forest was soothing and mysterious.

IMG_8634If you get a chance to visit Blackwater Falls State Park, don’t overlook the Falls of Elakala. Or the Elakala Falls. Even if you only reach the first falls, it is worth the hike.

 

West Virginia Wednesdays — Blackwater Falls State Park

IMG_8546I wanted to share some of the experiences I had on my research trip to West Virginia.

My family and I stayed in a cabin at Blackwater Falls State Park. The average elevation is 3200 feet, and that height allows eastern hemlock and red spruce to dominate with a few birch and striped and red maples thrown in. It covers 2,358 acres with miles of hiking and many gorgeous views. Along with 39 cabins, the park has a lodge with a restaurant, gift shop, and pool. We also took advantage of the nature center near our cabin. By the nature center is a small lake with boats, a playground, and two tether balls. My kids became addicted to tether ball. The park is part of the huge Monogahela National Forest.

IMG_8508I wished we had arrived two weeks earlier. The rhododendrons had just finished their blooms. They start the first week of July. It would have been wonderful to see the forest glowing with these white flowers because rhododendrons grow just about everywhere in the park.

 

Another type of plant I liked were the ferns. The park boasts many different kinds, and I love their feathery, primeval look.

Of course the major feature of the park is the falls. Blackwater Falls is one of the most photographed natural features in the state. It get its name from the needles of the hemlock and spruce which turn the water the color of tea.

IMG_8437We were fortunate to come when a lot of rain had fallen. The water poured magnificently over its 62-foot drop.  We went to see them around 7 p.m., which proved to be an excellent time. There were hardly any people around, and my husband and our oldest could experiment with different camer set-ups. During the rest of our stay, we drove by the parking area many times, and it was usually parked full.

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