Chasing waterfalls with Gary; Sunday H-T story on guidebook

I made a note to revisit the Hanover College campus back in October 2014 when I was in Jefferson County researching the Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana. I literally drove in along the aptly named Scenic Drive, made a loop, drove out and headed west to the Pennywort Cliffs Nature Preserve. The campus, with its scenic overlooks on the Ohio River, was magical on that perfect autumn day. But I had no time to explore. Pennywort was the last of four natural area explorations on the travelogue.

So when my friend and landscape photographer Gary Morrison suggested last week that we pursue some waterfalls down on the Ohio, including Horseshoe Falls on the Hanover campus, I was eager and cleared the day.

We couldn't find our first option, Fremont Falls, which, at 108 feet, is reputed to be state's tallest -- a claim that is in dispute. So, I wasn't disappointed when we turned to option 2, the Horseshoe Falls on the Hanover campus.

But after a friendly local out for a walk -- my guess a professor, possibly staff -- obtained for us a map with descriptions of the campus's Daryl R. Karns Natural History Trails, we learned the Horseshoe Falls was located on the campus's north end off Scenic Drive, just across from the Environmental Education Center.

"Horseshoe Falls trail is a side trail that takes you to what is generally considered the most beautiful waterfall on campus," the literature said. 

At maybe six feet high, the bowl-shaped Horseshoe certainly is not in the class of a Fremont or Big Clifty Falls, but it was indeed a gem. The trail is rugged but short -- a good workout but not exhausting. The Happy Creek Valley in which the falls are situated are lush and pastoral.

And I'm always reminded of John James Audubon's observation when I stand before water falling over rock: “The rumbling sound of the waters as they tumble over the rock-paved rapids is at all times soothing to the ear.”

That old bird and nature lover, who lived across the shore on the Ohio for a while and painted on the Indiana side, was talking about the Falls of the Ohio just downriver a few miles to the west. But I share his sense every time.

I can't say I remember anything but "soothing to the ear," but I always think of John J. saying it.

Clifty Falls an unfortunate choice

Since Gary had not been to Clifty Falls State Park, I suggested we go there rather than Pennywort, which, may have been another somewhat rugged one. I only hiked in to the canyon in 2014 and ran out of steam before reaching its 30-foot fall. 

But, unfortunately, I can't recommend visiting Clifty -- once among my two or three favorite state parks -- except perhaps in fall or spring.

I planned the trip to the 78-foot Hoffman Falls, from the back side, only to find the trail spur over the creek just upstream a few feet from the fall closed due to an un-repaired (retired?) bridge. So we couldn't get an angle on the park's second-largest fall. The boardwalk portions of the short, backcountry trail we took were unsteady and in need of replacement in places.

While the infrastructure was indeed secure at park's tallest, the 83-foot Tunnel Falls, this natural phenomenon was likewise nearly invisible. As was 60-foot Big Clifty and 60-foot Little Clifty Falls.

I could go on but won't. I have have mixed feelings. Given how trashy I found the entire Ohio Valley while researching the guidebook -- read shockingly littered -- I'm not totally opposed to making it difficult for two-legged critters to get near our natural gems.

But, still, it seems that any state park's primary natural feature should be visible.

Outdoor Page H-T guidebook story in Sunday edition

On a brighter note, the Herald-Times Outdoor Page editor Carol Kugler interviewed me and wrote a story on the guidebook in the Sunday, June12 edition. 

The story will be posted on the online edition, which is only available to subscribers.

Photographs: Top, Horseshoe Falls, Hanover College; Left, Landscape photographer Gary Morrison; Right, Big Clifty Falls; Bottom, Tunnel Falls.


Follow Us

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Flickr icon
Pinterest icon
RSS icon

Copyright 2013. Site created by Ansette, LLC.   Back to Top

Back to Top