Friday, January 18, 2008

Backbone Rock Falls

The most beautiful waterfall that I've ever seen is Backbone Rock Falls at Backbone Rock Recreation Area on the Tennessee/Virginia border, just a few miles west of Damascus, Virginia. Backbone Rock itself is something to see, and is a thin pillar of rock rising abruptly above the stream that surrounds it on three sides. In the late-1900s, the engineers building a rail through the area decided that it would be easier to punch a whole through Backbone Rock rather than completely take down a portion, thus creating what is often referred to as "the worl'ds shortest tunnel". A motor road runs through it now, and it's something to see.

Backbone Rock Falls lies just a short stroll from the highway and the famous rock. It plummets into a very steep, very dark little canyon filled with hemlock trees and extremely tall yellow poplars doing their best to reach up and out of the gorge and past the rocky lip to the open sky. The shadows and the dark greens and the atmosphere of this place are unique in my experience, and while the waterfall certainly is not a major one, it remains to me the single most beautiful waterfall I have visited.

Standing at the foot of the falls in the bottom of the gorge.

My friend Roy's daughter Emily down in the gorge at the bottom of the fall.

Roy, among hemlocks, at the top of the gorge.

Backbone Rock, aka: World's shortest tunnel.

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