If you haven’t noticed yet, I have a minor obsession with visiting and photographing waterfalls. To be honest, it could probably be classified as a sickness at this point! As such, I recently went to scout out some of the off-trail waterfalls in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park.
What follows is an overview of that trip and a log of my experiences.
My First Time in Mammoth Cave
Despite having lived in or near Kentucky my entire life and having traveled to literally hundreds of destinations throughout the state, this would be my first time visiting Mammoth Cave. I’m not sure why considering it’s only about a three-hour drive from my house.
For some reason, I had just simply neglected to check the area out. Having experienced this most recent trip, however, I feel that may have been a mistake on my part!
Trust me, I will definitely be returning to the area in the future!
My plan for this trip was quite simple. I would wake up bright and early, jump in my Jeep, and head on out to the park. I would then hit up two streams within the park that each have a cluster of waterfalls on them: First Creek and Blue Spring.
The night before leaving, I checked the Kentucky Mesonet and it appeared that the area had been hammered with rain just a few days before. Weather Underground was also calling for completely overcast skies. I was hopeful that I might actually get some good photos out of this trip!
Oh, I also stayed up far later than I should’ve! As a result, I ended up hitting the snooze button a few too many times Saturday morning. I didn’t actually hit the road until about 6:00 a.m. Oh well!
I arrived at my intended destination at about 9 a.m. Saturday morning. A little bit later start than I had intended, but that’s okay.
What wasn’t okay, in my mind, was the weather conditions. I was greeted with clear blue skies and harsh sunlight… my least favorite conditions for photographing waterfalls!
To make matters worse, I would soon find out that the water flow was not nearly what I had expected.
To put all of this more concisely, this was not going to be a good waterfall photography trip. Rather than fret over this fact, I simply decided to mark this one up as a scouting trip.
Part 1: Blue Spring
I started this adventure off by venturing down Blue Spring. For those interested, here’s a YouTube vlog of this portion of the trip:
The first stop along Blue Spring was a waterfall called Pillar Falls. This was the point in the adventure where I realized that the flow was not going to be anywhere near what I had hoped for. It was so pitiful, in fact, that I didn’t even bother stopping to shoot it.
I continued downstream to Azure Falls. This one was a much more impressive waterfall and had significantly better flow than Pillar Falls. I still would’ve preferred more flow, but it was at least acceptable here. My biggest complaint, however, was the sun! It made for poor photography conditions.
Further downstream is Cobalt Falls and an unimpressive, unnamed side falls. I skipped stopping at the side falls.
Cobalt Falls is an interesting waterfall that I’d love to return to in better conditions. Unfortunately, the conditions on this day just weren’t conducive to great waterfall photography.
On the way out, I headed farther downstream to a spot known as Pinnix Pocket (also called Pinnix Point). This is an extremely interesting side waterfall that flows in front of a strange rock formation. The flow here today was terrible, but it’s a spot that I definitely intend to shoot in better conditions!
From here, I bushwhacked up the hill to meet up with the road to continue on to the next part of the adventure: First Creek.
Part 2: First Creek
First Creek was by far the more interesting of the two areas I checked out. First of all, the waterfalls here were, in my opinion, more interesting. There were also two arches and a rock shelter with a historical carving. Again, here’s a YouTube vlog of this portion of the trip.
To gain access to First Creek, I followed a small, unnamed drainage down that has two waterfalls and two arches on it. The first waterfall, Grotto Falls, is a nice little waterfall that I’d love to return to photograph in better conditions.
Right near Grotto Falls is an interesting arch, called Hobbit Hole Arch. It’s a neat little arch, but it’s about impossible to get a decent photograph of the thing!
Further down is Talon Falls, which is an extremely unimpressive, slide-type waterfall. Near here, however, is Talon Arch, which is an impressive rock formation.
I continued to follow this drainage down until I met up with First Creek itself. From there, I headed farther downstream to Eye Socket Falls. The lighting here was the worst I had encountered yet, so all I have is an iPhone photo of it. In fact, I didn’t take my DSLR out again for the remainder of this trip.
What was really interesting here is that I found a large rock shelter on the way to Eye Socket Falls. The size of this rock shelter isn’t what was impressive, however.
The place was full of hominy holes and I also found a carving that I believe reads “EB Jan 17 1932”. I found this extremely neat!
After spending some time appreciating this rock shelter, I headed upstream to both Sandstone Falls and Fish Bowl Falls. I found both of these to be interesting waterfalls, but the conditions just weren’t what I wanted for photography. As such, I don’t have any shots of them.
There are two more waterfalls farther upstream on First Creek, but I decided to go ahead and skip visiting them. I instead bushwhacked up the hill back to the road. From there, it was just a short road walk back to my vehicle.
While this trip certainly wasn’t what I had hoped for photography-wise, I would consider it a successful scouting trip. The waterfalls I visited are quite interesting and I think they all have the potential to make for great photographs in the right conditions.
I intend to continue monitoring the weather in the Mammoth Cave area to do a return trip to properly photograph some of these beautiful destinations!