The Lesson of Devil’s Falls


Devil’s Falls, near Pittston, PA, upstream of Gardner Reservoir, along Gardner Creek

Only a couple years ago I heard about Devil’s Falls.  The pictures looked incredible- a towering, large, cascading waterfall.  It didn’t seem real.  It looked like a falls you’d expect to see in some other place, far away.  But here it was, hiding in plain sight.  I recently set out to see it for myself, and I did.
This, for me, was a hike of contrasts.  Even the name of the falls is a contrast.  And it was a contrast that hinted at something deeper.
After all, places like Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Pittston are where people move from, not to.  Northeast Pennsylvania raises images of culm dumps, old mines, land that has been raped.  Depressing communities on life support, waiting for someone to tell them to die.  A place where the younger generation moves off to greener pastures- Colorado, Washington, Arizona, California, or North Carolina as the older generations wither into obscurity.  Maybe our attitudes have conditioned us.
And maybe we have been completely wrong.
No one is going to arrive here to create the place where we would like to move to; only we can do that.  And we deserve it.
Surrounding these old mining towns and cities are places of amazing beauty.  We have no idea.  From sweeping vistas, to hidden gorges, beautiful trails, and serene waterfalls- it all exists right here.  Waiting. For you.

Devil’s Falls

I once talked with someone who recently moved back to the area after being away for several years.  He didn’t realize all that was here when he was a younger man.  He said Scranton has more outdoor recreation possibilities than Burlington, VT.  Imagine that.
Think about it.  Close to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area are: Rattlesnake Falls, Pinchot State Forest, Pinchot Trail, Seven Tubs, Ashley Planes, Bear Creek Preserve, Harvey’s Creek Gorge, Tillbury Knob, Moon Lake, Frances Slocum State Park, Moosic Mountain Barrens, Merli Sarnoski Park, Nay Aug Gorge, Lake Scranton, Campbell’s Ledge, Panther Creek Preserve, D&H Rail Trail, Mocanaqua Rock Climbing and Trails, Shickshinny Falls, Lackawanna River fly fishing and rapids, Panther’s Bluff, Stillwater Cliff, Lackawanna State Park, Susquehanna River, Ricketts Glen…
And Devil’s Falls.
I parked behind a development filled with vast warehouses and hiked along an old road, a place that seemed totally forgettable.  The woods were sparse and forlorn, growing over and trying to heal the land.  As I hiked further, the forests became scenic, with larger trees.  I continued on the rutted road, as it followed a hidden water line.  I saw two large water tanks off to the left.  The road then dropped into a glen with icicle covered ledges.  The sound of roaring water filled the glen.  I knew there was something special down there.  The road became eroded as I picked my way between the ice.  I reached the bottom and looked up.
There was Devil’s Falls.
This falls alone would justify a state park or premier hiking trail anywhere else.  It was a huge, powerful, towering cascade as the currents almost seemed to cris-cross as it slid down the bedrock.  It was easily 70-80 feet tall.   Hemlocks framed the falls.  At the bottom was a shallow, clear pool anchored by a massive boulder.  This is truly one of the finest waterfalls in the state.

Looking down the falls

I climbed up the north side of the falls.  I reached an exposed ledge that had stunted oak and pine, common for dry, exposed habitats.  Just thirty feet away was a moist hemlock forest growing along the creek.  An impressive array of diversity.  Views stretched across the glen.  I descended to the top of the falls, scrambling between large conglomerate boulders.  The top revealed the impressive scope of the falls.  But there was more.  Above me were additional falls and slides beneath massive boulders.  All told, I would not be surprised if all the cascades were over 100 feet tall.  I explored this boulder city, dressed with veils of moss between the twisted trunks of mountain laurel.  Nearby the creek had etched itself into the smooth bedrock.  The clear, calm water oblivious about what was ahead.

Massive boulders above the falls

I reached another trail and looked upstream as the creek flowed under a grove of green hemlocks.  I soon returned to the old road, and my car.  I drove away along the wide, sweeping roads of the warehouse development as Devil’s Falls continued to flow in its glen of hemlocks and boulders, waiting for us…
More photos.

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