“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

In search of ... The Biggest Waterfall
Friday, December 13, 2013


Hey, y'all.....here's my recent AdVentures column from Nashville Lifestyles magazine:


I've always been drawn to those things that claim superiority: Biggest.  Fastest. Longest. Fattest.
After hearing/reading for the third time that Tennessee boasts the Highest Waterfall East of the Rockies, I felt compelled to investigate.
I know what you're thinking. I thought it, too: Niagara Falls.  If Tennessee did indeed have a waterfall bigger than Niagara then we surely would know about it – right? There would be postcards. And legends.
Fall Creek Falls, about two hours east of Nashville, sits atop the Cumberland Plateau, in Tennessee's largest state park. My hike began with what could be described as either …
A: Awesome
B: Horrifying.
… all depending on how comfortable you are when defying gravity. A long, homemade suspension pedestrian-bridge spans the river. It looks like it was made by a road crew in rural Latin America, cleverly constructed of rope and two-by-fours and rusty, wire, barnyard fencing. Let's just say that crossing it is a lesson in blind faith. The bridge moves more than you want it to, especially as you near the end and another person steps onto the opposite side, creating an effect not  unlike an undulating rug as it's being shaken on cleaning day.
The trail is steep at times, and rocky, and downright ugly – worn, dusty paths strewn with litter and graffiti on the trail-guide signs, more post-hurricane Nicaragua than Tennessee. The flora is sparse and beaten up, as if a tornado or flood had swept through. Critters, both furry and feathered, seemed to have moved on to greener locales. If The Highest Waterfall East of the Rockies were not waiting at the summit I probably would have turned back.
As I neared the falls I kept stopping to see if I could hear them – but I could not. I was perplexed: How could The Highest Waterfall East of the Rockies not be heard from a mere quarter-mile away?
Eighty feet away. Still no roar of water.
"Ahhhhhhh, mystery solved," I said when I finally saw the falls. Indeed, at 256 feet it is the Highest Waterfall East of the Rockies (Niagara Falls is 176 feet), but it certainly isn't the largest. Niagara marks the spot where one of the world's largest inland lakes pours into another of the world's largest inland lakes. Hence, the roar.
Fall Creek Falls, however, is made from one little river, almost a creek, which means the volume of water is so small that the falls is not a wall of water at all but rather a tentative-looking, misty column that resembles a long bridal veil.
"Cumberland Falls is bigger that that," said one unimpressed man standing near me. "Burgess Falls, too."
Group by group, people approached the promontory, looked at the falls and uttered a flat "huh." One woman surveyed the scene for a few seconds then turned to her companion and said, "Did y'all know that Connie Marie's havin' a baby?"
Having succumbed to gravity, an obese bulldog  (The World's Fattest Bulldog, perhaps?) was lying at her feet.
"How on earth did that dog make it up that steep hike?" I ask.
"Oh, We drove up," she answered, motioning to the parking lot beyond the trees.
So, if you do venture this way to see The Highest Waterfall East of the Rockies, I suggest you drive instead of hike. Unless you want to collect some empty aluminum cans for extra cash.