Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hold Up Mars A Visit To St Lucian Waterfall

I came across this rather disturbing blog about someone's visit to one of the waterfalls in St Lucia. Considering we were there on our own (just like the victims here were) not that long ago, it's worth sharing this article just to make you aware that these things do happen (unfortunately) - especially in places where there is a considerable gap between the rich and poor. Read the article here.

A Waterfall In A Political Tug Of War

I chanced upon this article from the Washington Times talking about how a particular waterfall is now getting federal dollars for its protection. Whether the tax dollars were warranted or not for this particular landmark is what's debatable It just goes to show you that even waterfalls can't escape politics...

Here's the article.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Waterfall of the Week

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tennessee Waterfalls Weekend

This is one of those states that we don't know a whole lot about but is getting more and more attention from us as we're preparing to set our sights to domestic destinations for waterfalling in places we never would've thought of when we first turned this [activity of waterfalling] into a lifelong obsession.

It turns out that this weekend (actually today and tomorrow), they're holding a "Waterfalls Weekend" at the Falls Creek Falls, which is proclaimed to be the highest vertical drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains at 256ft. There's going to be guided hikes to that and other waterfalls in the area today and tomorrow.

So if you're in the Chattanooga area, you might want to click here and check it out!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Yosemite Waterfalls Workshop

I just recently noticed that Yosemite Ranger Mike Osborne is holding a one-day workshop called The Waterfalls of Yosemite Valley. In it, it appears that he'll show students where and how to take great photos of Yosemite's waterfall wonders. I thought it'd also be interesting to note this workshop because it just so happens that Mike Osborne is the author of the book "Granite, Water, and Light: The Waterfalls of Yosemite Valley," which I've proudly owned and read to try to learn as much as I could about the park and its waterfalls.

Here's an excerpt from the course description:
The Waterfalls of Yosemite Valley

April 25, 2009 (Yosemite National Park)

The Waterfalls of Yosemite Valley, led by Mike Osborne, photographer and author of Granite, Water & Light: The Waterfalls of Yosemite Valley, will allow you to visit many of the best viewpoints to photograph the Valley's fabled waterfalls. In addition to photographic tips, we also will cover the factors that make each waterfall individual as well as spectacular.

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Havasupai Set To Welcome Visitors Again

After suffering through a devastating monsoonal flood last autumn, it looks like the Havasupai Indian Reservation is set to re-open its doors to visitors once again later this Spring. They've already been taking reservations since January 1.

Get the scoop here.

Latest Travel Story Posted

I've finally gotten around to posting our latest escapade. This time, it took place in the red rock wilderness of Northern Arizona. Check it out!

Waterfall of the Week

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chocolate Thunder

One of the neatest waterfalls we've been fortunate enough to see is the Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River. It's not often that you see a waterfall (let alone a muddy one at that) plunge and tumble over cliffs reminiscent of the type that exist in the Grand Canyon!

So with all due respect to former NBA basketball player Daryl Dawkins, we're dubbing this one "Chocolate Thunder" since it's indeed a milk chocolate-colored waterfall and you could be forgiven if you thought this was something out of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

The World of Waterfalls has been updated to include this attraction. We also loved this waterfall so much that we even updated the Top 10 American Waterfalls list as well! Stay tuned for more updates coming out of the American Southwest.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Man Survives Niagara Falls Plunge, Resists Rescue

I ran across this article this evening. I don't know what it is about Niagara Falls, but it seems to be a real popular spot for daredevils and suicide attempts. Here's the details from the Associated Press...

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario – A man jumped into Niagara Falls on Wednesday and survived the 180-foot plunge, then resisted rescue attempts before he eventually was pulled from the icy water to safety, police said.

The man, believed to be in his late 30s, was semiconscious when he was taken to a hospital. He lapsed into unconsciousness and was listed in critical condition.

Niagara Parks Police Chief Doug Kane said the man "voluntarily entered into the water and refused medical assistance at the bottom."

He said the man was suffering from hypothermia and a head injury. Police were unable to get any information from the man because of the effects of the near-freezing water.

A witness called police shortly after 2 p.m. and told them a man had climbed over a retaining wall and jumped into the rapids above the Horseshoe Falls, one of Niagara Falls' three waterfalls. A short time later, the man was seen near the base of the falls.

Specially trained falls rescue crews tried to assist the man, but he swam away from them toward the middle of the river, Kane said.

A private helicopter was called in and got close enough to the victim so that wind from its blades forced him close enough to shore for rescuers to reach him.

"He wasn't cooperative," pilot Ruedi Hafen, owner of Niagara Falls Helicopter, told The Associated Press. "He didn't try to be helpful. We had a sling on him and he got out of it."

Rescue crews said the man was in the water for about 45 minutes and spent much of that time resisting attempts to help him.

Firefighter Todd Brunning and another rescue worker swam about 60 yards from shore, grabbed hold of him and hauled him in, Niagara Fire Capt. David Belme said.

Brunning said the man was floating on his back and got caught in an eddy, allowing Brunning to swim up behind him and wrap his arms around his chest.

"I was surprised he was still conscious when we got to him," Brunning said. "I guess he was lucky."

Brunning said the man was responsive to verbal commands but unable to talk.

"He was on a suicide mission, I assume," Hafen said. "I've never, in my career, seen someone so tough, swimming between the ice."

The last person known to survive a plunge over the falls was a Michigan man, Kirk Jones, who climbed down a small embankment and jumped into the Niagara River on Oct. 20, 2003. Jones said he had been depressed and had been drinking.

At least 17 people — not including suicide attempts — are known to have gone over the falls.

Niagara Falls' three waterfalls are the American Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

___

Associated Press writers Ben Dobbin in Rochester, N.Y., and Michael Hill and Jessica Pasko in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.

You can read the original report here.

Waterfall of the Week

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Switzer Falls Daytrip Travel Blog Posted

This was the last day trip we did before we had to spring forward today. And while we had visited Switzer Falls around six years ago, we felt the second time was a completely different experience. Indeed, it was unrecognizably different, but infinitely better than before. Check it out!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Switzer Falls Embellished

I've just finished updating our Switzer Falls page embellishing it with today's excursion. It contrasted mightily with our previous trip to this waterfall nearly six years ago so I figured this page needed a bit of a facelift. Anyways, check it out and stay tuned for yet another travel blog about today's excursion as well as how it contrasted with our previous trip.

Potential For Another Accessible Bay Area Waterfall

I came across this article discussing the recent acquisition of once private land that included a seasonal 60ft waterfall called Tehan Falls. While the acquisition was more strategic than anything, if the approval to build more park infrastructure and improved access succeeds, it appears Bay Area residents will have another waterfall to check out.

Below is the article from the Silicon Valley Mercury News:

Park District buy seasonal gem in Tehan Falls
By Denis Cuff
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 03/06/2009 09:01:38 PM PST

Park ranger Dave Gorges waited a long time this winter for signs of life from a hidden, inaccessible waterfall purchased a few weeks ago as an addition to Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park.

Tehan Falls dozed through the early dry winter, but then roared to life after a series of storms in late February and early March. Water cascaded down a 60-foot drop over a fern- and moss-covered rock wall deep in the heart of a steep canyon off limits to the public.

"It's beautiful," Gorges, a regional park ranger, said as he stood above the fall last week. "But it may not be here for very long. The flow was higher yesterday. By summer, it will be gone."

Like most of the few waterfalls in the East Bay and the Bay Area, Tehan Falls roars to life for days or weeks after heavy storms and then withers like wild flowers before the approaching summer.

This is the lot of local waterfalls. With less precipitation and lower elevations than giant Yosemite Falls or other falls in the Sierra, the East Bay waterfalls thunder and then vanish.

"It's part of what makes them special," Gorges said. "They're very impressive when they're flowing ... once you get there."

Reaching the remote falls can be tough.

In the East Bay, Murietta Falls tumbles about 100 feet off a rocky ledge about 3,100 feet up in the Ohlone Regional Wilderness south of Livermore. It takes a 13-mile round trip to reach it from Del Valle Regional Park.

On the northern side of Mount Diablo State Park above Clayton, hikers must ascend to 1,300 feet of elevation on the Falls Loop Trail to a waterfall that spills 100 feet down rocks in Donner Canyon.

Little Yosemite Falls near Sunol is an exception. It is accessible via a mile hike along a popular trail from the Sunol Regional Wilderness main entrance. Water there cascades around boulders in a creek that stays wet all year.

Tehan Falls, a much more typical East Bay waterfall, wasn't running this season until about a week ago when the dry slopes on Pleasanton Ridge finally become waterlogged enough to spill water over the falls.

"January was dry. Then it rained, but the ground was soaking up the moisture," said Stephen Quick, the Pleasanton Ridge Park supervisor.

Quick and Gorges led a reporter and photographer last week on a rugged, winding and slippery trek to the falls, which remains closed to the public. It will take the regional park district at least a year or so to plan and develop a safe trail there, officials said.

Tehan Falls — in contrast to more exposed and less vegetated falls like Murietta — is hidden in a thick canopy of oak and bay trees. Moss and hundreds of ferns cover the canyon walls around the falls with a lush green carpet. Newts slithered along the hillside. Mist filled the air.

Quick said the Tehan Canyon is so steep and rugged that it may be impractical to develop a trail to any vantage point below the falls. The slopes above have more potential for an overlook trail, he suggested.

Access to the falls will be determined when regional park planners prepare a revised land-use development plan for Pleasanton Ridge park, and submit it for a public discussion and vote before the park board.

The regional park district had tried since 1993 to buy the 103-acre Tehan Falls property, but the landowners resisted until agreeing in a series of deals to sell the property west of Foothill Boulevard for a total of some $984,000.

The park board voted Dec. 16 to buy the last 20 percent stake in the property from the last holdout.

Regional park officials said the Tehan Falls property was important to buy for strategic reasons because it gives the park district connected properties so it can proceed to develop a northern entrance and parking lot for the north side of the five-mile-long Pleasanton Ridge Park. The only major entrance to the park is some four miles to the south near Sunol.

Park officials say they expect plans for the new park entrance and the trail to the falls will come before the park board in about a year.

"There is just something about falls that attracts people," Gorges said.

Reach Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267 or dcuff@bayareanewsgroup.com


Read the original story here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Now THAT'S CRAZY!

Normally, we passively enjoy waterfalls by hiking to them and just chilling out around them. Every once in a while, we swim below them.

But then there are adrenaline junkies who climb them (when the waterfall is a vertical ice wall) and now we've come across an article where someone actually kayaked over one that's 127ft tall!

Boy, you talk about insane!

Don't believe it? Check out this article from Outside Online or this article from Metro.co.uk.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Survivorman In Familiar Territory

I've been a loyal viewer of watching the Discovery/Science Channel's Survivorman with Les Stroud. And in today's new season, he was in the Sierra Nevadas. Actually, he was somewhere in the backcountry of our beloved Yosemite National Park. And prominent in one of the environment shots of the area was none other than a gushing Nevada Falls.

Of course, Les Stroud was in survival mode after a simulated one-night backpack went awry and he had to survive alone in the wilderness for seven days (as is typical of the rest of his episodes). And, like before, he applies his survival-know-how while teaching as well as showing us viewers how to appreciate and respect the perils of nature as well as how to methodically get out of potentially hazardous situations should they occur. Though whether we'd have the wherewithall and know-how should such a situation occur to us might be another matter...

Still, I thought it was cool that Survivorman was in our favorite National Park. Normally, he's in some remote place like the Amazon Jungle, African Savannah, Boreal Forest, Kalahari Desert, or even the Arctic. I'm curious where his next survival test will be...

Waterfall of the Week



Monday, March 2, 2009

Latest Weekend Excursion Posted

After a little reluctance from our latest escapade to the local foothills for quick weekend half-day waterfalling, I finally caved in and decided to tell the story of what happened on Sunday. I figured it'd be a lesson in getting an early start, keeping a level head, and still allowing yourself to get lost in nature despite all sorts of things happening to the contrary.

Sound cryptic? Well, you'll just have to read the travel blog!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sturtevant Falls Embellished

Sturtevant Falls was one of those waterfalls that we saw early in our waterfalling days well before we started the World of Waterfalls website. So, our web page for this falls was a bit lacking given our fuzzy memory of the excursion many years back.

However, we just went back to this waterfall late this morning and managed to take more photos and embellish on the web page with more impressions and information I hope our readers find more useful than before.

I was debating whether to make a travel story about today, but I'll probably come out with one tomorrow. I think there's enough to say to make the story a bit interesting for our readers - especially regarding our little adventure trying to find parking. Stay tuned...

Vertical Wetlands

I came across a blog written by a pair of biologists from the British Columbia area of Canada who have actually done scientific studies of the ecosystems in the spray zones of waterfalls in their research areas. I came away reading that blog with the sense that this is not a well-studied topic and kudos to those guys for taking on this study and enriching us with their insights.

Now I've written about why we care about waterfalls and addressed these "vertical wetlands" (as these biologists call it) from a standpoint of what happens when the normal balance of nature is disturbed. However, this study goes much further by establishing that such habitats may play a very important role in biodiversity and extending the area of survivability for more organisms thanks to these "range extenders" as they call them. And without such nourishing places, who knows how much more limited more advanced species are allowed to exist?

Here's their blog.

WATERFALLS AND BIODIVERSITY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
by Trevor Goward and Curtis Bjork
Enlichened Consulting Ltd, Clearwater, BC, Canada V0E 1N0

Peachland Waterfall, Okanagan Valley. Photo by Brian KlinkenbergPeachland Waterfall, Okanagan Valley. Photo by Brian Klinkenberg
In 1992, Dr. Wilf Schofield and I (Trevor) began a study of the cryptogams – mosses, hepatics, lichens – that associate with waterfalls in British Columbia . This work has continued off and on over the years – lately without Wilf, who passed away in late 2008 – leading both to a deepening awareness of the ecological importance of such habitats and, latterly, to a growing concern for their continued existence in the province.

The spray zones created by waterfalls are effectively ‘vertical wetlands’ kept cool in summer, mild in winter, and consistently moister than surrounding habitats as a result of constant exposure to atomized water. In our work, Wilf and I soon realized that waterfalls affect the occurrence of bryophytes and lichens far beyond the reach of spray. Presumably this is owing to a continuous outflow of cool air that promotes the establishment of oceanic cryptogams. "Waterfall influence zone" or simply "waterfall zone" would perhaps be more descriptive of the phenomenon as a whole.

We also quickly realized that not all waterfall zones are created equal, in the sense that some promote rich cryptogam floras, while others do not. Actually this is about what you'd expect given so many potential variations in topography, aspect, associated talus, forest cover, and general habitat heterogeneity. Superimposed over all this, of course, is water chemistry. Even moderate amounts of calcium carbonate suspended in the spray of waterfalls can promote assemblages of cryptogams very different from those associated with streams less rich in nutrient loadings.

Interestingly, this means that knowing what bedrock type underlies a particular waterfall is less important than knowing what bedrock types occur upstream. Also critical here is water temperature, since warmer water holds more nutrients in suspension than colder water. The resulting variation in water chemistry could seem a bit of a nuisance, but for Wilf and me this is precisely what made waterfall inventories so fascinating: predicting which species will or won't turn up is tricky business. A bit like hunting for mushrooms, that way.

Other factors also come to bear. For one thing, waterfalls with strong seasonal variation in stream flow seem much poorer in regionally rare cryptogams than waterfalls that flow at nearly equal volume year round. No less critical, at least in inland regions, is the extent to which a given waterfall freezes over in winter. This is because frozen spray can cover trees and rocks in sheets of ice, and so prevent cryptogams from occupying habitats that would otherwise tend to promote them. By contrast, waterfalls hidden behind a mask of ice in winter produce much less freezing spray; they tend to be associated with healthy lichen communities. Likewise, waterfall zones that have been recently disturbed, e.g., within the past century, are much less likely to support "interesting" cryptogams than their counterparts with much longer environmental continuity.

What is actually known about the biological significance of waterfall zones in British Columbia? Not much, though what little we do know makes clear that we urgently need to know much more. Obviously waterfall zones can be thought of as ecological "petri dishes", that is, tiny islands of habitat conducive to the establishment of species otherwise much more common elsewhere. Effectively they function as range extenders, especially in inland areas, where several macrolichens – for example Anaptychia setifera, Lobaria oregana, Pilophorus clavatus, Pseudocyphellaria crocata, P. mallota -- occur predominantly or even exclusively in the vicinity of waterfalls. For species such as these, the highly localized conditions characteristic of waterfalls zones often promote stable, durable "source populations", thereby sustaining them in regions far outside their main ranges. One wonders to what extent this tendency of waterfalls to create disjunct populations might contribute to genetic variation within certain species.

Unfortunately, all is not well with British Columbia's waterfalls. The B.C. government projects a greatly increased demand for electricity in the years ahead. In principle, half of this projected increase is supposed to be offset by more efficient use of existing power. As for the other half, the people of B.C. are being granted two options: either we put up with fuel-burning electrical plants, or else we accept a combination of windpower, geothermal power and hydropower. At the moment the favoured option, at least by government, seems to be hydropower, which means we can look forward either to further impoundment of the Peace River by the Site C dam, or else to innumerable creek diversion projects. Or more likely both.

The creek diversion projects – "Run of the river" in government speak – are to be constructed and operated by private firms. These, the independent power producers, or IPPs, prefer to locate their intake dams on portions of creeks where they tumble over steep, rocky ground. While the dams allow some of the water to occupy the stream's original course, the remainder is diverted through a pipe down to the powerhouse. Here diverted water is run through turbines and then returned to the creek. The B.C. government is not wrong to refer to these "run of the river" projects as a renewable energy source; but the degree to which creek diversions are truly 'green' is debatable. By diverting water from creeks, IPPs are certain to diminish the ability of affected waterfalls to support rare bryophytes and lichens. No less disturbing, road construction associated with these developments will give access to some of the province's last remaining low-elevation old-growth rainforests. Can chainsaws be far behind?

Creek diversion projects are becoming common in many parts of the world. Biologists in other countries – India, New Zealand, Tanzania, the U.K. – have begun to speak out about the threats to biodiversity posed by the loss of waterfall zones. Furthest ahead, perhaps, are the Norwegians, both in the number of creeks now dedicated to hydropower production, and in public outcry over the resulting drawdown on regional biodiversity. Here in British Columbia, we really haven't begun to assess the scope of our own conservation issues around the loss of waterfall zones. Early indications are that we've overlooked a major axis of the province's biological diversity. With more than 100 diversion projects already up and running, and nearly 700 more awaiting government approval, maybe it's time we began to take the implications of all this activity seriously. Wilf Schofield, I feel sure, would heartily approve.

Adapted with permission from Botanical Electronic News No. 404,
February 25, 2009.

Visit the Ways of Enlichenment Website developed by Trevor, Curtis and associates, and learn about their forthcoming book.


Click here to read the original blog (with more photos of waterfalls from the BC and Washington State area). We have yet to visit the Pacific Northwest extensively, but would certainly love to go before they're gone - especially if the government's intent is to kill them off for hydroelectric purposes.