Wonderful Cumberland Falls

The Niagara of the South

Prints Available

Kentucky State Park is national treasure

One of the states I rarely get to is Kentucky. It just never seems like I'm close enough, or I run out of time before crossing the border into the Blue Grass State. So I made a point of spending a day there recently when I was in neighboring Tennesseee.

And I found enough to make it clear that I need a dedicated Kentucky road trip!

The highlight of my short visit was when I rounded a curve in the mountain back road to find a sign reading "Cumberland Falls State Resort Park." Well, everyone knows I love a waterfall, so I turned into the parking lot and heard that familiar roar when I opened the truck door.

I shouldered my camera gear and made the short walk to the edge of the Cumberland River to find one of the most amazing cascades in the Eastern United States.

In fact, Cumberland Falls is so big that it has been nicknamed the Niagara of the South. It definitely lives up to that moniker.

The waterfall is 125 feet wide and stands almost 70 feet tall, and a staggering 3,600 cubic feet of water pours over that ledge every second of every day. The rush of water is so loud you can barely hear yourself think!

And the color of the Cumberland River is gorgeous, a beautiful, deep turquoise that is unblemished even at the foot of the violent cascade.

The park includes two observation decks: one near the base of the waterfall and one overlooking the scene.

I started at the base of the waterfall (photo below), setting up my tripod to capture the curtain of water with that beautiful turquoise water tinting the top of the falls. It was truly beautiful to stand so close to that roaring giant!

A neutral density filter was used to slow the shutter speed just enough to add some dramatic glow to the wash of water. The final print is below.

Below Cumberland Falls

Prints Available

I then moved to the upper observation platform for the grand view of Cumberland Falls and the river as it flowed downstream. The challenge here was that the waterfall was producing a lot of bubbles that trailed far downstream.

A test exposure revealed those bubble streams were pretty distracting, even at a few seconds of exposure time.

So I turned to my Lee Filters Big Stopper, a 10-stop neutral density filter that allowed me to drag out the shutter speed to a whopping 100 seconds. This produced beautifully soft wisps of white in the river below the falls that only add to increase the drama and draw the eye back to the massive waterfall.

The final print (seen at the top of this blog) is one of my favorites from my trip to the Appalachian foothills.

Bonus waterfall

Eagle Falls

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After wrapping up my shots of Cumberland Falls and just standing to enjoy the view for a while, I headed for the truck. On the way, a park ranger struck up a conversation — and told me about another waterfall on the opposite bank of the Cumberland River.

Well, I just had to know how to get there, and soon I was parking at another trail head, shouldering my pack and making a 1-mile hike to beautiful Eagle Falls.

This waterfall, formed as Eagle Creek spills over a ledge just before joining the Cumberland River, definitely wasn't even close to Cumberland Falls in terms of size. However, it was definitely beautiful.

It took a few minutes to find the best composition. In fact, the photo above was the second angle I shot. But I think it really shows off the waterfall and the creek as it continues on toward the Cumberland River.

I was soon back in the truck headed west for another Bassmaster tournament, but I'm already trying to figure out how I can get back to that part of Kentucky. I just know there's so much more for me to find!