June 27, 2004
They say you can’t step in the same river twice, but perhaps that isn’t true at Blackwater Falls. That torrent of eerily dark water tumbling over a precipice seems frozen in time, a scene for the ages. This is the impression the falls made upon me when I first visited West Virginia, some thirty-five years ago, and it remains so to this day. I’ve seen countless waterfalls since then, but to my mind none match Blackwater Falls’ serene beauty.
On that maiden trip to West Virginia, my mother and I stayed in one of the park’s rustic cabins set near the edge of a forest. I remember sitting on the porch, watching as the deer emerged from the woods at dusk to forage in the glades. Fireflies were next to make an appearance in the profound stillness before sunset. As darkness fell, owls began solemnly hooting. It all made quite an impression on me back then.
As an adult, I’ve stayed in the lodge at Blackwater Falls State Park several times in the past few years. The lodge is near the edge of a vast gorge, surrounded by densely forested mountains. Wooden lounge chairs dot the lawn that stretches down from the lodge to a broad stone overlook. This is the perfect place to sit with a book and relax, and a good place for lazy birdwatchers, too.
Inside, the lodge has a certain homespun charm, with a spacious indoor lounge and country-style restaurant providing sweeping views out over the lawn. The restaurant is nothing special, though it’s reasonably priced and often has fresh trout on the menu. Still, there’s something to be said for coming down for breakfast and taking in the view out over the gorge while drinking coffee and contemplating the day ahead.
Rooms at the lodge are a bit on the cozy side, though not cramped. There are larger suites available for those wanting something a bit more upscale. The rooms face either the parking area in front of the lodge or the overlook; ask for the latter when making reservations. Be sure to specify a non-smoking room, too, as we once had the misfortune to come on the spur of the moment one weekend when a non-smoking room wasn’t available and, boy, was that ever a smokey room. It was so badly kippered that we kept the windows open despite the autumn chill.
In one section of the lodge there’s the inevitable arcade room, a board game room, and smallish indoor swimming pool, but these are only rainy-day distractions. It’s the outdoor activities that are most appealing here. There’s boating, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, bicycle rentals, cross-country skiing, volleyball, basketball, tennis, baseball, a nature center, and 20 miles of splendid rhododendron-lined trails. But the main attraction is dramatic five-story-high Blackwater Falls, the water tinted a dark amber color from the tannic acid of hemlocks and spruces. Each time I visit this timeless place, I feel revitalized.
From journal Caverns, Critters, and Class V Cataracts