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The Awe of Waterfalls

Pakentuck Ondessonk Waterfalls_webWhy does water mesmerize us?  No matter its state – rain, snow, fog, clouds, waterfalls – it is beautiful. Regardless of what body it forms – the ocean, a creek, a lake – we are drawn to it. It is both life-giving and deadly. Creative and destructive. Gentle to touch, yet one of the most powerful forces on Earth. Water is responsible for slowly carving the canyons and bluffs of the Shawnee National Forest over thousands of years. Quote Ovid, “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” One particularly captivating act of water is when it falls.

What makes Waterfalls so captivating?  Falling is not a great natural phenomenon. Everything falls. What goes up must come down. But there is something about water falling that is hypnotizing. Perhaps it demonstrates just how invincible water is. It can fall from clouds thousands of feet in the air, land in a creek, then fall over the edge of an 80-foot cliff at Camp Ondessonk continuing down the creek with no problem, all while we look on in amazement.

Maybe another thing that adds to our awe of falling water is that it continues to fall. A falling star is fleeting, split-second surprise. It takes only a moment for a leaf to fall from a tree in autumn. But waterfalls last. The water just keeps coming. We can enjoy it for hours.

Another gift of falling water is the sound. Whether the calming trickle of a creek or the roar of Cedar Falls after a summer rain, falling water Phantoms Canyon Ondessonk Waterfalls_webproduces a symphony that changes its tune from day to day, even hour to hour. No two spots ever sing the same song. The creeks and waterfalls are a hydrologic masterpiece of movements. A hike in the Shawnee after a rain is an opus complimenting the sights and smells of the forest no musical playlist from your earbuds could produce.

The waterfalls at Camp Ondessonk in particular make this place special. The Shawnee is known for its waterfalls and canyons, but there is nothing in this area rivaling the height of Cedar Falls at Pakentuck, or the towering walls and dramatic flows of Phantom’s Canyon. We are truly blessed not only to have 983 acres, but rather these 983 acres.

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