YES, THERE ARE WATERFALLS IN DELAWARE

No, they’re not very big ones.

Still, they’re perfectly nice ones.

A few days back I headed out into the woods of White Clay Creek State Park in northwestern Delaware to teach myself how to photograph moving water. Not very far into the woods, mind you. If you go very far into the woods in Delaware, you’re in Maryland (or Pennsylvania).

It occurred to me that since I spend so much time around waterfalls/vigorous rivers in the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya, one of the rainiest and therefore waterfall-rich places in the world, it might be a good idea for me to practice taking photos of moving water before I go there again. My photos in that region have, for the most part, been of the point-and-shoot variety…not out of preference, really, but because most of my time there is spent backpacking under fairly extreme conditions, so lugging around extra camera gear such as a tripod or great big expensive zoom lens just hasn’t seemed practical. But next time (whenever the hell next time is) I plan to take the photography, especially the waterfall photography, a bit more seriously.

Now, the problem with practicing waterfall photography in my neck of the woods is that there are few places in the world with terrain more dissimilar than Delaware and Meghalaya. Most of Meghalaya is characterized by thousand-meter canyons and rugged limestone and granite plateaus. Delaware is almost entirely salt-swamps and suburbs and pancake flat, though not exactly extensive, agricultural land. There’s plenty of corn fields in Delaware, but this isn’t Western Kansas. The corn fields don’t extend out to the horizon. If you can see the horizon in Delaware, you’re probably looking at New Jersey.

If you’re looking for a serious waterfall, Delaware is not the place to go. Given our notable lack of topographic variance, waters here generally can’t fall. The best a river can do in Delaware is descend lazily through tidal marshes towards the Chesapeake or the Atlantic. Nothing wrong with that. Makes for good migratory bird habitat.

But all of that said, in Northern Delaware there is a tiny arc of the Appalachian Piedmont, just enough to give us hills that are, right before they cross into Pennsylvania and get significantly loftier, a few hundred feet high. This means that, technically, we can, and do, have the occasional waterfall…  

…and they’re all quite small. But that doesn’t make them bad…

The waterfall in White Clay Creek State Park is, and I’m giving an optimistic estimate here, about ten feet high. It’s along a small tributary feeding in to White Clay Creek from the east. There’s no trail to it: I think the land next to it is owned by the city, and there’s a Golf club just uphill. I’ve only visited the waterfall three times, and the other two times, which were much later in the year, the streambed was full of golf balls that had obviously rolled down from the course. Looking at a map, I’m pretty sure the waterfall is on state park land rather than private land. There weren’t any no trespassing signs around, though it also seems like nobody goes here but me and some deer and some golfers spoiling a good walk.    

White Clay Creek woods in mid-spring   

But, small though they may be, the unnamed falls in the woods are the real deal. The terrain here is, very briefly, so steep and rocky that the stream has to descend over the face of a large rock outcropping. The falls even have several tributary streams cutting through the hills just downstream from them.  

Anyway, I thought the waterfall photos came out fairly well for a first try, especially since the lighting that day was sort of grey and murky.

And now, apropos of nothing, here’s some turtles, because…I like turtles.

The three turtles in the middle with the black heads and red plastrons are red bellied sliders, the biggest kind of slider in my neck of the woods…I’ve seen some truly huge ones that put these guys to shame over by Churchman’s Marsh. The other turtles are red eared sliders (I think)

This is by a little manmade marsh next to White Clay Creek which is prime turtle habitat. It’s been a rather cold May so far (it was down in the 40s and raining much of last week), but the day I visited the waterfall it got up into the mid-70s, hence the explosion of reptiles.

I think that may be a non-native yellow bellied slider out in the lily pads there…but I’m not 100% sure. Maybe it’s just a more common (in Delaware) red eared slider, and you just can see the red spot due to the light…or perhaps it’s a yellow bellied cooter?…it’s a turtle, I definitely know that much

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting me on my Patreon page. There, you can download [BEGINNING JULY 2022!] a new extended edition of my book The Green Unknown: Travels in the Khasi Hills which includes several chapters available exclusively on Patreon, as well as access lots of other perks. Any help is greatly appreciated!

A big damn common snapping turtle, the closest thing we have in Delaware to an apex predator. I can say from personal experience that you don’t want to get bitten by one of these if you value your fingers

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