Monday, October 16, 2023

Episode 666 (10-16-23): Fall’s an Excellent Time to Explore Waterfalls

Click to listen to episode (5:07).

Sections below are the following:

Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 10-13-23.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the weeks of October 16 and October 23, 2023.

SOUNDS and VOICES – ~8 sec - people visiting Dismal Falls in Giles County, Va., August 20, 2011.

That’s the sound of people enjoying a scenic and splashy site in southwestern Virginia, where the main attraction is a type of water feature renowned for fascinating formations and dramatic drops.  Have a listen for about 35 seconds to some music and mystery sounds, and see if you know this type of water feature.  And here’s a hint: the alternative name for autumn is what the water does.

MUSIC and SOUNDS  - ~33 sec

If you guessed a waterfall, you’re right!  You heard three Virginia waterfalls: the Cascades in Giles County; a waterfall in Mill Creek Nature Park, also in Giles County; and Falls Ridge Falls in Montgomery County.  The accompanying music, by Williamsburg, Va., musician Timothy Seaman, was “Crabtree Falls,” named for a Nelson County waterfall whose 1200-foot total vertical drop is the highest of any waterfall east of the Mississippi.  And the episode’s opening sounds were from Dismal Falls, once again in Giles County.  These five are among 61 scenic and publicly accessible waterfalls in the Commonwealth listed in the “Great Virginia Waterfall Trail,” compiled by the Let’s See America Web site.  Meanwhile, the World Waterfall Database has 186 entries for Virginia, including smaller waterfalls, some located on private properties, and some now inundated by reservoirs.

Encyclopedia Britannica defines a waterfall as “an area where flowing river water drops abruptly and nearly vertically,” and notes that the terms cataract, cascades, and rapids can also be applied to water coursing over an elevation change, depending on the height and the sharpness of water’s drop.

Most of Virginia’s waterfalls occur along the Blue Ridge or farther west in the Valley and Ridge province; additionally, significant drops of the Potomac, Rappahannock, and James Rivers occur along the Fall Line between the central Piedmont and eastern Coastal Plain.  These are places where some key waterfall-formation factors occur: changes in the elevation of the landscape, rock layers with different levels of resistance to erosion, and plenty of flowing water.

Virginia’s waterfall champ Crabtree Falls doesn’t rival the world’s tallest, such as Tugela Falls in South Africa, with a total drop of over 3000 feet.  Nevertheless, the Commonwealth’s many and varied, large and small waterfalls are popular, scenic, and invaluable water treasures.

Thanks to Blacksburg neighbors for recording the Dismal Falls sounds.  Thanks also to Timothy Seaman for permission to use part of “Crabtree Falls.”  We close with another waterfall-related musical selection.  Here’s about 40 seconds of the traditional tune “Over the Waterfall,” in a version by Virginia Tech geography instructor Stewart Scales.

MUSIC - ~38 sec – instrumental. 


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of “Cripple Creek” to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The Dismal Falls sounds were recorded by friends of Virginia Water Radio at the falls in Bland County, Va., on August 20, 2011.

The other waterfalls sounds heard in this episode were recorded by Virginia Water Radio as follows:

Cascades Falls in Giles County, Va., recorded September 28, 2023;
Waterfalls along Catwalk Trial in Mill Creek Nature Park in Giles County, Va., recorded September 6, 2020;
Falls Ridge Falls in Falls Ridge Nature Preserve in Montgomery County, Va., recorded April 20, 2019.

“Crabtree Falls,” from the 2002 album “Sycamore Rapids,” is copyright by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  More information about Timothy Seaman is available online at  “Crabtree Falls” was used previously by Virginia Water Radio most recently in Episode 125, 8-27-12.

The version of “Over the Waterfall” heard in this episode was recorded for Virginia Water Radio on July 11, 2014, by Stewart Scales, used with permission.  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio in Episode 222, 7-14-14.  Information on “Over the Waterfall” and on Henry Reed (1884-1968), a Giles County musician noted for his version of this tune, is available from the Library of Congress, “Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection,” online at; and from, a Web site produced by Terry Reed, Henry Reed’s granddaughter.  Henry Reed’s version of “Over the Waterfall” is available from the Library of Congress’s online audio archive, at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


(Photographs are by Virginia Water Radio.)

Cascades Falls in Giles County, Virginia, September 28, 2023.

Waterfalls along Catwalk Trial in Mill Creek Nature Park in Giles County, Virginia, September 6, 2020.

Waterfall in Falls Ridge Nature Preserve in Montgomery County, Virginia, April 20, 2019.


Used for Audio

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Waterfall,” online at  The is the source of the quote used in this episode’s audio.

Giles County [Virginia] Administration:
“Dismal Falls,” online at; and
“Mill Creek Nature Park,” online at

Let’s See America, “The Great Virginia Waterfall Trail,” online at  The site includes maps, a video, and detailed information on 61 waterfalls included in a 1373-mile waterfall trail route.

National Geographic, “Waterfall,” online at

The Nature Conservancy, “Falls Ridge Preserve,” online at  The site includes photos and a short video (1 min./37 sec.) of plants, animals, and the falls.

Radford University, “Geology of Virginia CD-ROM Web Edition,” (several authors), online at  A map of Virginia’s geomorphic (or physiogaphic) provinces is online at

U.S. Forest Service, “Cascades Day Use Area,” online at, “Waterfalls,” online at 

World of Waterfalls, “How are Waterfalls Formed?”  Online at

World Waterfall Database, online at  The list of Virginia waterfalls is online at

For More Information about Waterfalls in Virginia or Elsewhere

McDowell County [N.C.] Tourism Development Authority, “Blue Ridge Traveler/Waterfalls,” online at 

National Park Service:
“Shenandoah National Park-Virginia/Hikes to Waterfalls,” online at; and
“Waterfalls & Gorges,” online at

Randall Sanger, Waterfalls of Virginia & West Virginia: 174 Falls in the Old Dominion and the Mountain State, Adventure Publications, Cambridge, Minn., 2018.

Joe Tennis, “
Natural wonder: County accepts ownership of Abrams Falls; discusses state park,” Bristol Herald-Courier, October 12, 2023.  This article describes the purchase by Washington County, Va., of 46 acres around and including Abrams Falls and the county’s efforts to have Virginia create a state park in the area.

U.S. Geological Survey, “Waterfalls and Rapids in the Conterminous United States Linked to the National Hydrography Datasets V2.0,” July 14, 2020, online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Rivers, Streams, and Other Surface Water” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes on waterfalls.

Episode 125, 8-17-12 – on Crabtree Falls in Nelson County, Va.
Episode 205, 3-17-14 – on Falls Ridge Falls in Montgomery County, Va.
Episode 222, 7-14-14 – on Cascades Falls in Giles County, Va.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-3 plus 5: Matter
3.3 – Materials interact with water.

Grades K-5: Earth and Space Systems
3.7 – There is a water cycle and water is important to life on Earth.
5.8 – Earth constantly changes.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.
6.8 – Land and water have roles in watershed systems.

Earth Science
ES.8 – Freshwater resources influence and are influenced by geologic processes and human activity.

2023 History and Social Science SOLs

Grade 4: Virginia Studies
VS.1 – The student will apply history and social science skills to explain the relationship between physical geography and the lives of Virginia’s peoples, past and present.

Grade 5: United States History to 1865
USI.1 – The student will understand the geography of North America, including by locating and describing major geographic regions and bodies of water of North America and their impact on the early history of the United States.

Grade 8: World Geography
WG.2 – The student will evaluate the significance of natural, human, and capital resources.
WG.3 – The student will analyze the characteristics of the United States and Canadian regions, including by describing major physical and environmental features and how geography may change over time.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.
Episode 606, 12-6-21 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.