Douglas Falls was just supposed to be a side trip. I had already came to see the great and mighty Blackwater Falls in a very healthy water-flowing situation. I had spent time there in the afternoon while it was packed with tourists and just before dark when I had it all to myself. I also got to spend some quality time the day before as well as Elakala Falls. I had spent the night in the nearby Blackwater Falls Lodge and was heading back to my home 2 states away on this late Sunday in June. I knew Douglas Falls was close by and was one of the “elite” waterfalls in West Virginia. So before breakfast, at 6:30 am, I set off to find it.
After leaving Blackwater Falls State Park, Douglas Falls was a short 10-15 minutes away. About 2 miles north on Hwy 32, a left turn onto Douglas Rd, another left turn just after crossing the North Fork Blackwater River, then a short drive down the gravel, pot hole laden road gets you to what turned out to be a very short hike. This last road was hard on my Honda Accord. I crossed a bridge that I probably had no business crossing. The beautiful waterfall, scenery and history lesson that awaited me was certainly worth it though.
Just after crossing the bridge, the road soon dead ends at a gate. There is room for several cars here, but this area was totally occupied by several groups camping along the river. I put my car into reverse and settled on a nice pullout a short ways back upstream. Once down at the gate, the waterfall was just down a steep bank on the left. That was it. It was a bit tricky though. Once down, there was the remains of the railroads from the 1800s, about 10 ft above the river. It was difficult finding my way down this to the base of the falls, but I found it somewhat easier back up right at the base. Getting in position just downstream for some photos required some tricky steps as the water was up from recent rains. I did find my spot and first took a look around me at all the strange orange-reddish looking rocks.
It was certainly an unusual looking site. Every bit of rock that was wet, was stained this color. As it turns out, just upstream are the remains of numerous beehive shaped Coker ovens that were once used to burn coal into a substance known as Coke. All of the coal activities of the 1800’s here had a terrible impact on the environment in West Virginia. The water of the North Fork Blackwater River is still suffering from acids seeping into the river from the remains of the Coker oven days. It’s this acid that is staining the rocks still today. Here is a video of the beautiful 35 ft Diuglas Falls:
On the way back was when I really paid attention to the Coker ovens. The remains here are still in good shape. There are some info signs also explaining the Coke process and the impacts to the environment.
This short trip turned out to be fascinating! It was the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend at Blackwater Falls State Park!