It is loud and chaotic and the current twists and turns and tugs at me. Every move is planned and deliberate much like rock climbing. I make sure I have secure finger and toe holds in the smooth bedrock before I move my right hand closer to the main flow of water. The current catches my legs and pulls them toward my head. I am careful not to get swept down the 10 foot falls. I hold tight to the bottom as I get into the main flow and am amazed at the view, even though fine entrained air bubbles make things look murky.
I think I may have a new favorite subset of river snorkeling. I like downstream drifts and skulking where you start downstream and slowly work upstream, but snorkeling waterfalls is a whole new venue.
I am amazed because an incredible diversity of life swirls before me in strong eddies and lives in what seems to be a pretty violent place from the surface. A school of 20 or so young bullhead catfish swirl in a large circle close to the bottom. Suckers face upstream and look like weather vanes pointing into the wind as their bodies change orientation based on deflections of current. Darters hunker in the cracks in the smooth bedrock and a decent sized striped bass darts through the center of the swirling current repeatedly. Sunnies hang on the periphery. A large eel startles me when it swims over my left arm and under my right. This is awesome I say through my snorkel. I watch the different fish interact with each other, but mostly they are focused on how they interact with the current. Like me they are working to not get swept over the falls. The current is strong, and while it is loud here, it isn’t nearly as violent as it appears from the surface, and a sense of calm comes over me as I watch and experience life happen.
I never expected to see all this biology in the strong current. I never expected to experience calm in the middle of a waterfall. But then creek snorkeling is good at expanding expectations. River snorkeling is all about exploration and experiencing the world from a very different perspective. It’s about expanding our view of the world. And snorkeling waterfalls does just that.