Photo Journal: Ohio Isn't Flat - Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio - May 2019

Flat. Boring. Ugly. That's how people where I live (Michigan) often describe where I'm from (Ohio). If your opinion of a place is decided by driving through on the highway, you should probably just keep that opinion to yourself.

The rolling Appellation Mountains that West Virginia and Kentucky are famous for start their bumpy upheaval in southeastern Ohio...about 100 miles east of I-75's judgemental traveling throngs.  Hocking Hills' 2,300 state park is home to sandstone geological monuments, caves and cliffs including Old Man's Cave, Ash Cave, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls and more. It's some of the most underrated country in the country.

If you are from Michigan and wondering where you can always find better waterfalls and football teams, they're right next door; in Ohio.

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The sandstone formations surrounding Hocking Hills State Park are remnants of an ancient sea. Since a glacial blockage thousands of years ago water has been carving a path through the stone. Seasonally the waterflow varies here from a torrent to nonexistent. Following a record breaking wet Spring the park's "Upper Falls" were actively running even into early Summer.

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I've heard these falls be called "Middle Falls" though I can't find any official designation for them with that name. They are located at the base of the Hocking Hills State Park's prominent landmark, Old Man's Cave, so I am un-officially naming them Old Man Falls (singular-possesive "'s" intentionally omitted). Coming back in October to photograph the Fall's Old Man Falls. Or...Old Man Fall's Fall.

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Cedar Falls was misnamed by early settlers who mistook the stately hemlocks for cedars. Hopefully none of the settlers tried enjoying a nice "cedar tea" made with the mistaken Hemlock as it can be fatally poisonous (Hemlock is thought to have killed Socrates). Cedar tea on the other hand is considered to be good for treating flu, fever and chest colds. Whether mistakes were made naming the upstream Queer Creek from which the water flows is unknown.

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Queer Creek meanders through the Hocking Hills State Park occasionally pouring over waterfalls into small tributaries before continuing downstream where it ends up nowhere as far as I can tell. The series of waterfalls are aptly named "Upper", "Middle", "Lower" and "Cedar" indicating their position along the stream. The last being falsely named for the preponderance of Hamlock Trees surrounding the falls which early settlers mistook for Cedars. The wrinkle is that the Middle falls are often mistakenly called the Lower falls. Furthermore, there is a set of falls just ahead of the named Upper falls which would make them the ACTUAL Upper falls. They apparently don't have a name at all. The Lower falls, while lower in elevation than the no-name, Upper and falsely-named Middle falls, are not actually the lower-most falls. That honor belongs to Cedars Falls which should really be named HEMLOCK FALLS! Just upstream of Cedar Falls: Lower Falls; HIGHER and further upstream! And now you know....

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A gorge is a "narrow passage through land" like a narrow, steep-walled canyon. It is also "a mass choking a passage" like an ice gorge. This gorge (passage) was formed by erosion and not likely by an ice blockage as glaciers are not thought to have made it as far south as the park.

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Old Man's Cave is neither a cave (it's part of a gorge) or the possession of an old man. The list of humans who have at any time called this overhanging lip of Blackhand Sandstone their home is surely a long one as people are thought to have inhabited this area for as long as 7,000 years. An 18th-century hermit by the name of Richard Rowe was the "old man" living here when someone dubbed it Old Man's Cave and the name stuck.

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The Blackhanded Sandstone that makes up the pockets, cracks, grooves and cliffs of Hocking Hills is remnant of an ancient ocean. Techtonic shifts and millions of years of erosion have carved out caves, gorges and creeks. If you planted a forest on an ocean floor you would have Hocking Hills State Park as it exists today.

Posted in Travel, US, Landscapes and tagged Ohio, Waterfalls, Cliffs, Caves, Rivers.