Visiting the Waterfalls at Ohiopyle State Park 3.11.2015
This past Wednesday I was eager to take in the sights and sounds of the spring thaw at Ohiopyle State Park. Having visited two weeks prior during the icy stillness of February, this day promised to be an entirely different experience with the warmer temps and abundant snow melt fueling the streams and rivers.
The drive from Berlin to Ohiopyle was complicated by dense fog, and at times I was going less than 10 mph as I made my way along Sugarloaf Road to the park. Nevertheless, I arrived safely at the Jonathan Run Trail parking lot at 7:00 am.
Exiting the car, I knew I was in store for a great day. The sound of raging water seemed to echo off of every hillside in the predawn darkness. I started down the trail, which was itself underwater for long stretches, and arrived at my first stop along Fechter Run at approx. 7:30.
Fechter Run is a very seasonal fall, this being the perfect season to see it in all its glory. During the summer months it can disappear completely. But on this day, it was magnificent.
After maybe a half hour at Fechter Run Falls, I made my way down the Jonathan Run Trail to Upper Jonathan Run Falls. I have never seen it flowing as well as it was this day. In fact, I had to set up down stream some distance from the falls to avoid the spray coming off of it.
Getting my fill of Upper Jonathan Run Falls, I continued down the trail, temporarily bypassing Lower Jonathan Run Falls. Upon reaching the GAP bike path, I hung a left and hiked a few hundred yards to where Sugar Run passes underneath the bike trail. Walking up the Mitchell Field Trail, I arrived at the bottom of Sugar Run Falls. Once again, the flow was epic, as it would be at every waterfall I visited that day.
Making my way back to the bike path, I descended the bank below the bridge over Sugar Run to get a few shots of Lower Sugar Run Falls. Because of the high water, I was fairly limited in my compositional choices due to a lack of dry places to set up, but I did get some shots I was happy with.
Now backtracking from Sugar Run to the Jonathan Run Trail I headed upstream to Lower Jonathan Run Falls, always the most difficult of the falls in the park to reach. On this day it was also the most difficult to shoot, as the spray coming off of it seemed to be everywhere, even at a considerable distance downstream and on the hillside. I didn't get a single shot of it without at least a few drops of water on the lens filter.
Wrapping things up at Lower Jonathan Run Falls, I made it back up to the trail and returned to my vehicle. A short drive brought me to Cucumber Falls, probably the most photographed waterfall in the park.
The falls themselves were ice-free, but the stairway leading down to them was solid ice. Fortunately I had my microspikes attached to my boots, so it was an uneventful descent.
I didn't spend a great deal of time at Cucumber Falls, maybe 10 minutes total. I still had other falls to get to. I returned to the car and drove the 3 minutes or so to the Meadow Run Tail parking area off of Dinnerbell Road. From there I hiked approx. 25 minutes along the trail to the Cascades on Meadow Run.
The Cascades span the entire width of Meadow Run, and they were absolutely raging. In fact, this was probably my favorite stop of the day, yielding my personal favorite image of the day (below).
With the sound of white water still ringing in my head, I made my way back to the parking area and on to my final stop of the day, the namesake Ohiopyle Falls in the borough itself.
Normally I hike down the Ferncliff Trail opposite the Visitors Center to photograph these falls, but on Wednesday that trail was underwater. So I was content to shoot it from the new viewing area adjacent to the Visitors Center. While not as intimate as the Ferncliff side, this view does allow for an all-encompassing view and the roar of the Yough was deafening. From a photographic standpoint there was almost too much flow, but it was a spectacle to witness in person. You can experience some of that in the HD video footage I put together from the day's shoot (below).