Fast and muddy water; McCormick's Creek, Cataract Falls

We heard McCormick's Creek long before we reached the Statehouse Quarry, which sits creekside a quarter mile or so upstream from the White River West Fork. And I can't say I was thrilled when I found the creek a muddy, coffee-with-cream color. The water rushed, unlike I'd ever seen it, with a deafening roar. But the idea of roiling muck as the day's visual image didn't exactly delight.

For the most part, my instinctive reaction missed the mark by more than a quarter mile. I literally turned the mud to photo gold, as evidenced by the McCormick's Creek Photo Album I posted (and one from Cataract to come). The swirling water over the creek beds' glistening rocks slaked my thirst for abstract photographic expression, even if the sudsy accumulations at the fall bases were anything but refreshing.

McCormick's Creek State Park just east of Spencer is Indiana's oldest state park and turned 100 years old on July 4. The Statehouse Quarry, which commenced operation in 1878, is so named because it produced limestone used to build the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

The Statehouse Quarry trail is one of the park's lesser-traveled paths, lacking high-profile attributes like waterfalls, caves and stone arches found elsewhere on McCormick''s 1,924 acres. The trail crosses the creek, which was running too fast to cross. The rock piles were too slippery to climb on or through.

The falls are usually crawling with tourists who wade across and up the creek to swim and climb around them. Not on Friday.

Cataract Falls, located north and a little west of McCormick's on the Mill Creek, aren't close to the state's tallest. But they are the most dramatic, dropping nearly 40 feet in their Upper and Lower sections over a wide, limestone bed, carrying more water than any other in Indiana. The Upper Falls drop 20 feet, the Lower Falls 18.

Like McCormick's, Mill Creek raged after a soggy summer and Thursday evening's downpour. Below the Lower Falls, the creek widens into the serene, 1,400-acre Cagles Mill Lake, a.k.a. Cataract Lake, built in 1952 as the state's first flood-control reservoir.

The lake headwaters on Friday were sudsy to the point of gross.

Photographs: Top, Left, McCormick's Creek State Park; Bottom, Cataract Falls State Recreation Area.

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