Monday, July 28, 2008

Waterfalls, the Blue Ridge and Valley & Ridge

One of the common misperceptions about Blacksburg is that it's "in the Blue Ridge Mountains." It's not uncommon to label this part of the Virginia Highlands the "Blue Ridge," when in fact Blacksburg is in the valley & ridge geologic range, between the Blue Ridge to the east and the Appalachian Plateau in West Virginia. The Blue Ridge is the eastern most range in Virginia and northwest North Carolina, being that part of the mountains that drains into the Piedmont. Hence, lots of streams and creeks tumble off the Blue Ridge.

Blacksburg is in the Valley & Ridge area, which is just what it implies - a series of long ridges/mountains with valleys between them that run in a southwest to northeast line. Brush Mountain, a classic ridge-mountain, runs beside Blacksburg, extending many miles north of town and terminating with at the New River. You can get some sense of how the ridges run from this photo, taken from the overlook on War Spur Trail. Along the left is Potts Mountain, with War Spur Creek draining into the valley below. On the right, out of view behind the trees, is John's Creek Mountain.

View from the overlook on War Spur Loop Trail
Drainage (that would be creeks and rivers) runs a bit differently in the Blue Ridge than in the Valley & Ridge sections of Appalachia. While there are plenty of creeks and rivers in our neck of the mountains (like the famous Cascades on Little Stony Creek in Giles County), typically they aren't as robust as the streams that drain off the Blue Ridge into the Piedmont. The reasons? Gravity and height - tumbling off the Blue Ridge typically involves a steeper, longer plunge downhill than draining off a ridgeside into a valley. Sure, that's simplified a bit, but there are plenty of examples, one being Rock Castle Creek and the Gorge it carved, described in an earlier post.

Some of the most spectacular, and easily accessible, Blue Ridge creeks are found in North Carolina, particularly in the Pisgah National Forest near Grandfather Mountain. Lost Cove Creek, Harper Creek, Prong Creek, and Wilson Creek drain through the Pisgah National Forest, and there are dozens of miles of streamside trials. There are also many waterfalls, and we made the trek to two of them in June.

Through the merry rhododendron groves along Lost Cove Trail
Our first hike was on Lost Cove Trail, which goes along Prong Creek. There's a great series of waterfalls on Prong Creek, each a small tumble into a great little swimming hole. The uppermost of this series is pictured below.

But the real gem is the popular Hunt Fish Falls waterfall and swimming hold extraordinaire. I've been going here for over 30 years, and it's always a treat. If you're lucky and go mid-week you'll miss the crowds that come down the short, .8 mile hike to the stream. We had such luck in June when we found the place deserted. Here are some photos:

The view from the rocks near the top of the falls, looking down to the swimming hole. It's deep enough to dive just below here. To the left is the second fall. Turning around from here, you'll see the falls pictured below.
Take another step to the left and you're looking at the waterfall from eye-level. Here's the view upstream. Our favorite campsite is upstream to the right.
Asta's not much of a water dog - nary a bit of Lab blood in her that we can detect. But she really enjoyed the water when were here, wading into the pool, chest-high, to fetch sticks, and scampering across the low rapids at the other end of the swimming hole. Here she eyes the waterfall and warily steps back.
View from across the swimming hole to the falls.


Roan said...

Those photos are beautiful.

And I never stopped to think that Blacksburg WASN'T in the Blue Ridge! I learned something today.

I have your blog in my RSS reader. I get notifications whenever you post. How's that? Gene in my feeder...

:) Great!

Post more pics of your dog. She's beautiful.

Bantering Bibliocrat said...

thanks Cassie - i'm honored to be RSS'd ! I just added your Wordpress to my blog list. RE: Blue Ridge vs. Ridge & Valley - when we first moved to the New River Valley five years ago it took me a while to figure out why the mountains "felt different" than the Boone area. turns out it's geology. I had the same sense when I lived in the Ozarks - it "felt different," and again, it was geology.

The photo of "I am not a rich activist I am an Appalachian" is remarkable!

I've got a few more posts to catch up on from the summer, including more photos of Asta!

see you in blogland


Roan said...

yeah, i've been commenting over and over about how these mountains of eastern KY just feel so different from my blue ridge mountain home. It's strange how just a "feeling" about them can be so strong. The mountains are similar-looking (I'm squished between Pine Mountain and the beginning of the Cumberland Plateau) but they FEEL so different. And it's totally geology. You are so right!

I'll add you to my blog friends as soon as I figure out how.