Venturing along the winding WV Route 16 out of Fayetteville, West Virginia, one will discover the hidden gems of Laurel Creek. Nestled amidst the lush greenery, a series of roadside waterfalls can be accessed through a rugged journey of bushwacking and scrambling down rip-rap. Amongst these natural wonders are the majestic Upper Laurel Creek Falls, boasting a 20-foot cascade, and the serene Lower Laurel Creek Falls, featuring a 10-foot cascade.
After a warm and mostly snowless December, January has produced one snowstorm after another. Taking advantage of the last storm over the past few days, I camped out near Fayetteville, West Virginia, and captured New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, Thurmond, the Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park, and various other scenes.
Typically, hot and dry summer months result in diminishing streamflows throughout Appalachia, making decent waterfall photography only possible after heavy rains. But this has been one exceptional year as parts of Appalachia have received nearly six inches more rain over normal for the prior three months, and bounties have abounded in central West Virginia.
Earlier in the spring, while visiting nearby cascades along Flatwoods Run, I came upon the historic Fidler's Mill in the unincorporated community of Arlington, West Virginia. Scrambling down onto large boulders, the gray clapboard, and board-and-batten-sided mill bracketed a wide 10-foot-high cascade along the Little Kanawha River.
I had long passed by Pipestem Falls alongside WV Route 20 near Hinton, West Virginia, but never bothered to stop as the waterfalls were barely visible from the overlook. That has changed in recent years with the clearing of brush and trees along Pipestem Creek, opening up views of the reclusive cascades, although the best views of Lower Pipestem Falls require a scramble down rocks from makeshift paths at the overlook.