I wanted to explore these falls since I realized they were here two years ago, but my timing never lined up with the rivers and anytime I was able to jump into them, the river had other ideas with high levels and muddy water. The falls are a stair step arrangement of 10-20 foot drops that end in deep snorkelable pools and wind through almost a mile of glacially tossed boulders.
It takes a little work to get to them and as I hike in I think about people I miss in my life: parents, old friends I lost contact with, and I think about places that have been special in my life. Most of them are aquatic.
A pile of recently cut brush piled into a river pool signifies a beaver bank den. The pool is part of a mill ruin and low straight line stacks of rocks are all that remain of the foundation. Beaver slides lead to trails that strike off into the woods. The falls complex starts here as a series of low drops and get progressively more dramatic as I head upstream. I decide to get into the pool above the beaver mill pond, where the remnants of a more modern mill come into view. This mill worked through by diverting water around the falls in a 4 foot diameter green tube into the brick powerhouse that lies at the base of the falls, just upstream of the pool I plan to snorkel. There’s a story here. A human and natural history that is intertwined, so that they really can’t be separated.
There aren’t any fish here that I can see, but I bet there are tons tucked in between all the voids the large rocks on the bottom provide. It’s cold and they are probably settled in for the winter. The water is murky and puffs of sediment float by. I start out in a relatively calm part of the river and work my way into increasingly more chaotic conditions until I am full in it and the force of the water tears at my mask with a disorienting curtain of bubbles. The underwater roar of falling water is immense.
Algae transform rocks, even out in the strongest current, into underwater gardens and paint the river scape in red, green and orange patches. I fight upstream and drift back down to feel the full fury of the water, the loud chaos and quiet still. I remember past river experiences with my parents, and friends I don’t have much contact with anymore, and I miss them. I think about memories of my kids in rivers when they were little. My oldest is almost ready to strike out on her own, and I miss those days. Like the mill remnants, beavers and falls all play a critical role in the story of this place, rivers play a central role in my story, and the story of my family and friends.
Maybe that’s why places like rivers are special. Because they evoke memories and help form new ones. The give us the space and opportunity to think about things we tuck away during the bustle of daily life, like people that were a part of our lives but aren’t any more. I have to come back to explore here in warmer weather when I can stay in for more than 30 minutes, and when more life is out and about. I need to spend more time in this water to get to know it better, to make new memories of exploration and adventure. I could spend a year just exploring here.