As the warm weather approaches I begin to think of outdoor adventures for my family to share. Last year we enjoyed several walks and water play at Thistlethwaite Falls off of Waterfall Road in Richmond.
The trailhead sign for the Whitewater Gorge is found at the entrance to the Falls. It explains how the Falls came into existence in 1854 when Timothy Thistlethwaite, in order to build mills in the area, and his brother-in-law Joseph Ratliff dammed the water of the river by putting huge boulders in place and changed the course of the river over the rocky ledge which now forms Thistlethwaite Falls.
What it has meant in more recent history as the mills died out is a place for young and old to experience the sight and sounds of the waterfall. My husband remembers families decades ago washing their cars on the opposite side of the road, while down below the waterfall would roar and you could hear the laughter of children splashing about in the pool of water at the base. You may not find anyone washing a car now—not sure if it’s even legal—but you will on any given summer day see a family or group of young people enjoying the cool surroundings of the Falls.
Earlham College students in the Geology classes sometimes visit this site as it is a hotbed of fossil finds. (I collected several Brachiopods and a Horn Coral there myself for my class). There are also trails along this part of the Gorge which are mostly shaded and fairly easy to maneuver with a small child.
Some tips: Wear water shoes if you plan to walk the river, especially around the Falls as it is very rocky. And wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet, especially the kids, because inevitably you or they will be splashed by another member of your group or the Falls themselves. You may want to bring a snack or a picnic, towels and a blanket or chairs to sit on and plan to stay while—it is a relaxing place to hang out.
When the warmer weather hits and you are looking for a place to cool off and see nature at its purest remember the historic Thistlethwaite Falls. It has become a family tradition for us—maybe we will see you there!