The Evening Campfire: Small, secluded waterfalls in County Warren | Sports
WHEN Wisconsin’s LAST Ice Age reshaped North America over 10,000 years ago, it carved out the Great Lakes and carved the Allegheny River gorge south from the present-day Allegheny Reservoir in the Warren County to Emlenton in southern Venango County. There, high above the river, the steep slopes send small streams rushing down to the Allegheny – streams with wild trout and beautiful waterfalls that only the lucky or the intrepid ever find.
Accessible from State Game Lands 86 to the west and Allegheny National Forest to the east, these small traversing streams are surrounded by deep hollows, house-sized boulders, dark green hemlocks, white oaks, Golden bark hickories, and red maples that climb high on the ridges above. Every now and then you will hear the cascading water trickle down and stumble upon a waterfall, a wonderful find in the forest. You can’t help but be drawn to its grace and presence, the sound of its falling torrents, its fresh and cleansing appearance, and the possibility of seeing trout climbing into the pool below. A waterfall is like a new promise in an old year.
Look for small, secluded and exquisite falls, five or 10 feet high and 15 or 20 feet wide, hidden in public lands of deep forest, unexplored and rarely visited except by a lone deer hunter in December or a fisherman in trout lost in May. The banks of the stream are largely virgin, far from the paths of the multitudes. and since they are nameless, anyone can name them, as my friends and I have often done.
Wild brook trout live here in modest populations, but hardly anyone fishes in these solitary waters. and those of us who do, never save our catch and eat it. The trout are too small, on the one hand. Too precious, for another. They are the canary in the coal mine, the litmus test for the vigorous outdoors that we all try to preserve in the Pennsylvania Wilds. A fraction of these streams, especially the larger ones, are supplemented each spring by hatchery-reared trout, and this is where trout fishermen congregate, along stocked streams, so that a hiker may choose to avoid them during the opening weekend of the trout season.
If you are interested in a specific waterfall hiking adventure, I recommend a day trip or an overnight visit to central County Warren. Take Route 62 from Shenango Valley and turn left over the bridge to the town of Tidioute. Three accessible waterfalls can be found within 8 miles of town, and each involves a short or medium hike. Turn left at the stop sign in town and walk a few hundred yards to a water treatment plant that appears on the left just before the road climbs sharply to the right. Park there and follow the well-marked trail for 1.25 miles down the river to Grove Run, which flows down the mountainside on the right. Walk a short distance uphill to find the breathtaking little waterfall that resides there. This trail has a history dating back to the mid-19th century as a towpath that was used by the nascent oil industry, with horses and mules roaming the riverside trails carrying barges loaded with barrels of oil. Railways came after the Civil War and made the towpaths obsolete, and workers built railroads right above the old towpaths and moved the coal afterwards by rail.
Then go back past the stop sign in the north of town, uphill for 3½ miles. Notice a small bridge over a stream with guardrails on both sides of the road, an old railroad bridge on the right, and two fishing camps flanking the stream on the left. This is Perry Magee Run, a hatchery stocked creek. Park alongside the road and cycle through the hills around private properties, then descend back down to the creek bed on State Game Lands 86, a stretch of public land.
Forge half a mile upriver and experience the low and wide waterfall in its beautiful valley bottom setting with evergreens, boulders, and the silent peace of a remote, lonely, fascinating outdoor location.
Continue 5 km uphill along the gravel road and look for a well marked parking lot, with heavy concrete barriers at the top of the bridge and another old railway bridge on the right side. This is Conklin Run, and it takes a full mile hike, with the first half mile hampered by blackberries and multi-flowered rose, to find the little waterfall that pours white cascades over the rock creek bed. solid. The falls sit in a beautiful setting, with the creek curving upstream and the land resting in perfect balance under the running waters, the hills framing the scene as they rise above the cool hemlock glade. It is a place to stop, reflect and marvel. and maybe pack a picnic, rest on a rock by a stream and enjoy.
This ends the Three Waterfalls Adventure, but a dedicated woodland walker can return to Middle Allegheny again and search for their own waterfall finds on other streams on local public lands.
DON FEIGERT is the Outdoors Writer for The Herald and the Allied News. His latest book, The F-Troop Camp Chronicles, and his previous books are available by contacting Don at 724-931-1699 or [email protected] Browse her website at www.donfeigert.com Or visit Leanna’s Books at Shenango Valley Mall.