Waterfall Wonders

Even putting aside iconic Niagara Falls, America abounds with some of the world’s most captivating cascades, many just steps from parking. Now’s a perfect time for a road trip, as autumn leaves approach full color. Here are a few to consider:


Named for a local native tribe, the 30-foot overfalls called Potawatomi Falls is considered one of the most picturesque along the National Black River Scenic Byway. Nearby Gorge Falls furrows through a narrow conglomerate canyon before briskly dropping 34 feet.

A thrilling display of wild twisting and churning, The Black River’s Rainbow Falls, named for the abundance of prismatic rainbows in its rising mist, is the final plunge before the river empties into Lake Superior.

Porcupine Mountain’s Presque Isle River drops through  Nawadaha Falls and Manido Falls and then rushes into an expanse of churning whitewater before hitting Manabezho Falls, a myriad of chutes charging 20 feet down a craggy dark boulder.

Deep within the Ottawa National Forest, a boardwalk provides routes to six scenic viewing locations overlooking Bond Falls’ series of short drops, ultimately converging into a 100-foot-wide cascade flowing over 40 feet of volcanic rock.

Located within the Munising city limits, along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a paved 800-foot trail guides visitors into a shaded sandstone canyon at the base of Munising Falls’ 50-foot drop, where tannins and moss tint the swirling water amber and hazel. The powerful water force that feeds into 50-foot Miners Falls funnels inside a crevice of converging rocks, allowing close-up glimpses from the upper platform without encountering too much spray. Sable Falls cascades 75 feet over three tiers of sandstone cliffs before spilling into Lake Superior.

Buried deep within a 50,000-acre state park bearing its name, amber-tinged Tahquamenon Falls encompasses two sets of falls; its upper falls span 200 feet across with a 50-foot drop, dumping about 50,000 gallons of water per second at peak. The equally spectacular lower falls comprise five smaller cascades surrounding a small island.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park (Heather Monaghan/Pure Michigan)



The first of the falls along the Columbia River Scenic Highway, two-tiered Latourell Falls, is most renowned for its lower falls — an uncurving 249-foot linear stream gushing from a basalt cliff outcrop.

Shepperd’s Dell Falls is a 92-foot, two-tiered waterfall washing through a bucolic canyon. From the top, the water drops 42 feet and then roars down a 50-foot plunge into Youngs Creek before streaming into the Columbia River.

Touted as the most scenic waterfalls along the highway, the multi-tiered, 242-foot Wahkeena Falls (meaning “most beautiful” in Yakama) is acclaimed for its alluvial fan formation, patterning various veins of a raging river cascading over the ridge.

Dropping 176 feet into a pool along the roadside, Horsetail Falls forms the shape of an equine tail. 

At 635 feet, Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall. Rapids here plunge from two tiers measuring 542 feet and 69 feet, with a small downhill rapids in between.


Multnomah Falls. (Byron Hetrick)
Multnomah Falls. (Byron Hetrick, Wikimedia Commons)

North Carolina

The area around the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, North Carolina, offers a large number of cascades to take in.

The 60-foot-tall Looking Glass Falls is the gushing gem of the Pisgah National Forest. Its easy roadside access welcomes early-bird revelers who arrive to marvel at the sunrise over the falls, illuminating the surrounding autumn hues.

Residing upon the sacred grounds of the Cherokee Nation, Soco Falls flows from a series of smaller falls at the confluence of two creeks splashing 50 feet down onto moss-covered rocks below.

Only viewable from an adjacent mountain ridge, Glassmine Falls flows only after a heavy rain, plunging from a remote and inaccessible cliff top within Ashville’s watershed.

You’ll catch a glimpse of Toxaway Falls in Gorges State Park from above while driving across a scenic highway viaduct. Park and follow the ridgetop walkway for views of the water splashing over multiple tiers of intensely hued bedrock from its namesake lake above.

Bridal Veil Falls, the first of four waterfalls on Little River, was featured in the movies The Hunger Games and The Last othe Mohicans. Visitors can walk or drive beneath a ledge of the first cascade.

A short trail leads behind Dry Falls’ powerful plummets, providing visitors misty views of the surrounding autumn hues while remaining dry.

Bridal Veil Falls, North Carolina. (Jsfouche, Wikimedia Commons)

A short trail leads behind Dry Falls’ powerful plummets, providing visitors misty views of the surrounding autumn hues while remaining dry.

An abridged version of this article is featured in the September/October 2017 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.