By Jeremy Patton
East Wall Falls is located in Daniel Boone National Forest, Laurel County, Kentucky.
From London, drive west on KY-80 to the bridge that crosses the Rockcastle River. Before reaching the bridge, park in front of the guard rail on the right side of the road. Near the guard rail, a drain descends below the highway to a side path that leads to a north-south oriented cliff-line paralleling the Rockcastle.
There is no official trail, so you must follow the cliff-line to the waterfalls. Some bushwhacking is required, but overall the route is clear, especially if you hug the base of the cliffs north of the natural gas line.
The multi-tier East Wall Falls #1 resides near KY-80. You will find it plummeting from atop the bluff. My girlfriend and I did not notice it during a previous visit, so it is likely wet-weather-only. On 12/26/15, the area was at flood stage, so the photo below depicts the waterfall at its best:
After 0.25 miles, the cliff-line tapers off at a rock wall popular with climbers. Climbing hardware can be seen still attached to the wall. A natural spring spurts from inside a rock shelter at its base. Someone inserted a pipe to “improve” the spring, making it easier to collect water. On 12/26/15, it spewed from numerous crevices, like cracks in a leaky dam.
Just around the corner, you will emerge at a gas-line clearing. Following it west leads to the Rockcastle River bridge while trekking east leads to Pine Creek Gorge. Do not enter the treacherous gorge unless you are experienced and in shape.
Ignore the gas-line clearing and continue hugging the cliff-line north. The next half-mile is easier with less vegetation miring the way. Some intriguing geological formations adorn the bluffs, including several that I call “swirly rocks.” I am no geologist, but you will understand what I mean when you see them.
At approximately 0.75 miles, East Wall Falls #2 leaps from a towering bluff above a immense rock shelter. It reminds me of Yahoo Falls in McCreary County, but I believe this waterfall is higher. A natural platform lies behind the falls, a perfect area to relax and observe. When Delania and I visited on 9/20/15, the waterfall was completely dry.
Yahoo Falls in McCreary County is reputed to be the highest waterfall in Kentucky at 113 feet. I believe that East Wall Falls #2 is significantly higher. I cannot prove it now, but I am researching ways to measure its height. It is exciting to think that the highest waterfall in the state resides in Laurel County, yet few people know about it.
Just north of the platform surfaces another natural spring from the base of the bluff. Someone has constructed a rock basin around it and inserted a pipe to facilitate the collection of water. Delania says that the spot is known as “the Sink.” There are other withering signs of “improvement” in the area, evidence that people have frequented it over the years. An aquainence of mine suggested that it could have been popular with moonshiners because they preferred to use spring water in their stills. Moonshining was a common activitiy in this region before the national forest was established.
I have decided to call the waterfalls tentatively the East Wall Falls because they are located on the east wall lining the Rockcastle River. Delania told me that friends of hers from Somerset call the tall one April Falls. I am not sure why they would give it that name, unless they are referring to the fact that it dries up and is reborn every April. There is a slither of truth to that because spring is a great time to view waterfalls, but that is true of all of them.
More waterfalls might exist along the wall. I plan to hike north until the cliffs break near the mouth of Pine Creek.
Timing is critical for your visit. Heavy rain, snow melt or generally spring are your best opportunities.
Thank you my lovely girlfriend Delania for introducing me to this area.
12/29/16 – I introduced the Bearded Dwarf to the East Wall and waterfalls #1 and #2. We decided to press further north and were rewarded by finding East Wall Falls #3, about 40 feet high with a cascade near the top.
We continued following the wall then noticed that it began to taper, about midway between KY-80 and the mouth of Pine Creek. We noted several possible routes to the top of the cliffs, an area that Delania and I hope to explore. I plan to follow the entire wall, cross the bridge at KY-1956, then hike back via the Pulaski County side of the river.
The following day, Shane reported that he had a great time, but was very sore. He does not get to hike as often as I do, so that was a reminder of the route’s difficulty.
1/16/17 – Delania and I revisted the East Wall, where she related several times that it was her favorite place to hike.
Waterfalls #1 and #2 were flowing well. Delania was impressed when she saw East Wall Falls #3 for the first time.
I ordered a clinometer and 100 foot tape measure. I will measure the height of East Wall Falls #2, AKA April Falls, before the end of winter. I will practice the measurements and math on an object of known height, probably a basketball goal, before attempting loftier targets.
Added 1/28/16 – Updated 1/31/17