Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cypress Falls & Cave Trip Report

Maiden Hair Ferns

Cypress Falls and Cave Hike

Dana Koogler solo
Tuesday May 15, 2012
2 miles round trip

Pictures are here:

Cypress Falls Virginia Photos

Google Map of Cypress Falls and Vicinity
( 5160 Borden Grant Trail is Sam's House)
The other gold star to the west, top is Jonestown Rd.
The three stars heading down to the creek are
the drops of Cypress Falls.

     Tuesday morning I had planned on going to the woods to visit Cypress Falls.
We'd had three inches of rain the previous days and flooding in Rockbridge County.
Goshen and Natural Bridge, Virginia the hardest hit areas.  Kids two hours late to school those days. My brother-in-law, Brian works for Cintas. He left for work at O'Dark Thirty and had to turn around the day before to return home as Hwy 39 was flooded and the road closed.   I figured it was an excellent time to visit the falls and get a little therapy for my heart and head and some exercise as well.

      I  got a fairly early start. It was about eight-thirty when I started my hike.
I climbed the fence as only a lifetime expert fence climber can and walked the wet grass cow pasture down along the creek to the woods.  Past the gate that keeps the cows out the forest was really beautiful. North White Cedar grows here.  Today the woods smelled of fresh rain, damp earth, cedar boughs and wild roses.  Cypress Falls is on Uncle Lyle Koogler and Aunt Dot's place.  It is always a beautiful hike. Today putty root orchids bloomed along the path in large numbers.

       I began to see lots of small cascades in the creek which was churned up muddy brown from the hard rains the night before.   It was no time til I stood at the brink of the first big drop of 120 feet.   No way down from near the falls.  I walked over and checked out the first cave which enters the ground going straight in. Large boulders surround the cave mouth.   I climbed the hill and began working my way round to the base of the first drop.
In order to reach it you go up over the hill and down the other side. There is no official trail here, but you can see where other folks have done it before by the track on the earth.

       I worked my way up the hill and down over the other side through the rocks, briars and  underbrush.  I came out at the base of the second falls and turned to go back up to the base of the first drop.   I tied off a length of rope to make it easier to get down the bank. I crossed the creek and stood looking directly at the beautiful, raging waters of Cypress Falls main drop. It is a scene from paradise.  The plunge pool was muddy, but the waterfall itself was white and glorious.   The deep green leaves of late Spring on the trees obscured the top portion of the falls from full view.  I took some photos and video footage and decided to do something I had not done before. I explored the far side of the plunge pool and falls.
I was so glad I did! The forest floor was covered in soft pine needles and ferns.  I found springs gushing out and flowing to meet the plunge pool from a separate water source. Massive travertine rock formations abounded on this side of the pool.  The hillside was a cliff face pock marked with openings. I could see the cave Aunt Dot had told me about.
I climbed up the cliff and entered it.  I needed this experience today.  I felt like I was living a dream. So perfect. So fun! So beautiful.  I just thanked God and asked him to keep me safe, but had I died I'd have died happy. Days like today and experiences like this are treasures to me.  The cave was small, but interesting and beautiful.  I crawled around in it exploring a small passage that lead to another small opening like a window.
It was fun to stand in the cave mouth looking out. Seeing the forest below and listening to the roar of the falls close by. 

Cypress Falls from under the tree canopy
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Cypress Falls is 120 ft high
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Looking out of the cave mouthVA 056

Travertine formations. The cliff to the far left.. the larger opening is the cave I went in.  Travertine rock is formed when calcium carbonate and other minerals from the water flowing are absorbed into vegetation like grasses which eventually harden into stone.  There are a number of these type waterfalls in Virginia. Another place on the globe to find them is Plitvice in Croatia!
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     I  went back round to the opposite side and gathered up my things including my rope.
I walked down to the second falls and tied off the rope again.  The second falls is about thirty feet high.  It would have been possible to reach the base without a rope, but it sure was easier with it and it did not tear up the bank.  I enjoyed the second falls. Last time I was here my mom, my niece and nephew were with me and it was Winter.  Mom told me sternly that we had gone FAR ENOUGH. She is not a fan of my adventurous ways and with my sisters kids along I knew better than to try her patience.  Today I was free as a bird to do as I wished without recriminations.  I enjoyed the falls, but what else struck me was just how pretty this area is all around.  Lush green growth and all those hemlocks and cedars over that muddy cow creek.  I grew up swimming in stuff like this so today I was not one bit bothered by it.  The water was warm and murky, but I went on in. 
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Second drop of Cypress Falls

Muddy stream flowing on past the second drop of Cypress Falls. Beautiful!
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     I climbed back up the bank and continued down to the third drop which was not far from me.   I stood at the brink of the third drop which is about 100 feet high.
I videotaped it.  I then worked my way round in front of it.  Last time I was there was about fourteen years earlier with KT and Cathy.  We had a good view of the entire falls then, but it was January. Bitterly cold and snowy.  Today the tree leaves obscured the view.  I knew it was supposed to be possible to continue downstream all the way to where the creek  drops into South River.  I did not want to try that solo today, but I did want to go past this spot to see if I could find a way to the base of the third drop.    I had a path about 6 inches wide with only a few feet total between me and falling over the bluff.  Not a real good track here, but I managed to work my way carefully past and on downstream.  To my right the bluff rose high and steep and overgrown with every sort of vegetation and littered with downfall.  The gorge was incredible. Deep green forest gloom with the stream to keep me company on my left.  A Red Riding Hood forest like a storybook.
I loved it.  I could see after a point that the stream flattened out. There were a couple more cascades below with the largest being about fifteen feet high.
The terrain did ease and I found a spot to go down over the bank. It still was a mess getting to the base of the third drop. I had to wade the creek very carefully picking my way among fallen trees and over submerged rocks.  I finally made it and got a clear view of the falls. It was worth every bit of effort. 
The third falls is very lacey and part of the flow at the top is diverted through a hole eroded over time. Its beautiful and interesting.  Ferns were all around me.
Above me the rocky bluff loomed.  It would have been far easier and simpler to tie off and rappell down, but solo it was not a good plan. What I had done was more trouble, but safer.  I enjoyed the falls here and ate a snack and a drink break. It was getting hotter and more humid as the day wore on.  I hated to leave, but I finally tore myself away and repeated the process and was thrilled when my feet were back on the actual path. 

            I climbed back up the big hill, leveled off and worked my way back out to the gate and my vehicle.   The sun was out and the day was clearing up to be extra beautiful.  I left all my worries washed away ....... let 'em go on down to South River. 

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Third drop of Cypress Falls is 100 ft high.Below is a video of the main, biggest drop of Cypress Falls. At the top is a link to the page where I have a total of five videos from this trip. They are all good.


  1. OMG! Dana what an adventure; and you did this all by yourself! Those falls are so neat and I enjoyed hearing the rushing water on the video. Checked out the other photos too, just beautiful.

  2. Thanks Mamabug. Yes, by myself. Very fortunate to be a wild animal. It was great fun going back to my folks house with Mom's customers there wiping my nose on my sleeve and just watching the horror at how I be. ;^D Had to go in the garage and change clothes and bag the boots and clothes. I was nice and black dirty.

  3. Beautiful photos, Dana. What a magnificent place.

    1. Thanks Daisy. It is indeed a magnificent place. Kenny took a look at this TR and says we have to do a return trip in August when there for the Brooks Reunion. He has not seen the 3rd falls in all the times he'd been there! Didn't even know about it. Says we'll make it all the way through to the South River! Fun!

  4. Wow Dana, You are one brave woman... I would or could never do that... I'd be worried about what was living in the cave!!!!! Guess I'm just not brave enough... BUT--the waterfall was awesome --all of the drops...

    We had a chance yesterday to get some rain here --but NOTHING.... Darn.... We needed it.


    1. Betsy, I usually don't go off trail by myself. This was a little different in that I'd hiked this several times before. Glad you liked the trip report. I hope y'all do get some rain. We had a small shower yesterday and it helped cool things off. Today was real pretty.


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