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Ohio's cascading waters captivate and inspire

Waterfalls are beautiful to the eye and a delight to the ear. Many of us find waterfalls so enchanting that we feature table-top versions at home and in the office.

But, nothing compares to the real thing and Ohio – a state better known for its farmland than its cascading water – offers many opportunities for you to see dramatic displays of tumbling water.

Early explorers and settlers to the Ohio Valley region frequently noted these geological occurrences in their journals. Waterfalls were identifiable landmarks and they were valued as a potential power source for milling operations. Today, those mills are a chapter in Ohio’s rich heritage and hikers and adventurers treasure the cascading waterfalls for their beauty and mesmerizing sound.

Just how many waterfalls we have in the state is unknown. Like many things in nature, there is an ebb and flow to a waterfalls existence. For every new waterfall plummeting over a rock ledge for the first time, another is eroding itself out of existence.

Waterfalls are formed after years of water erosion. Layers of soil and gravel are worn away until the water reaches erosion resistant rock formations, like sandstone or limestone. Further downstream, the water continues wearing away softer strata until a ledge is formed causing water to cascade down – and a waterfall is born.

Waterfalls can be found across much of the state, with the exception of northwest Ohio. It’s good land for farming, but not so good for developing waterfalls.

“The underlying rock in that region is covered with glacial and lake sediment, making the terrain very flat and erosion resistant.” said Mike Hansen, a geologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

A large number of Ohio’s waterfalls exist in the southeast portion of the state where the hills and valleys were left untouched by land-leveling Ice Age glaciers. It’s also a region of thick, massive beds of sandstone, which are resistant to erosion.

Surrounded by rock ledges and tree-shaded gorges, beautiful Ash Cave in Hocking County features one of the state’s largest waterfalls, estimated to be 90 feet high. The Hocking Hills region has several other beautiful falls, including Rock House Falls, which spills a phenomenal 100 feet.

Northeast Ohio is also comprised of sandstone, which was formed millions of years ago and provides the right elements for waterfalls.

A local favorite is Brandywine Falls in Summit County. This 70-foot waterfall is one of Ohio’s most scenic and accessible waterfalls providing picnickers and hikers of all ages year-round enjoyment.

Not all of our waterfalls are tall, narrow cascades. Greenville Falls in Miami County is a fan-like waterfall spanning the width of the waterway and spilling down about 25 feet.

Franklin County in central Ohio features 35-foot tall Hayden Run Falls. Visitors to Mohican State Park in Richland County can visit Upper Lyons Falls, which cascades nearly 40 feet. Cascade Falls plunges 60-feet over a sheer rock face and is located within Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park in Portage County.

To list all of Ohio’s outstanding and notable waterfalls in this column would be impossible. It’s up to you to plan a hike and explore one of nature’s most enchanting gifts.

Uploaded: 2/21/2004