Discover the Tallest Waterfall in West Virginia

© Bohemian Baltimore / CC BY-SA 4.0

Written by Mike Edmisten

Updated: July 20, 2023

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When John Denver recorded the iconic words, “Almost heaven, West Virginia,” in 1971, he was surely thinking, at least in part, of the state’s lovely waterfalls. There are around 275 waterfalls in West Virginia, all of which have their own unique characteristics and charm. But, out of those 275, which waterfall is the tallest of them all?

Blackwater Falls

With a height of 57 feet, Blackwater Falls is the tallest waterfall in West Virginia.

Blackwater Falls in State Park in West Virginia

The rocky prominence of Blackwater Falls makes the waterfall easily identifiable in any picture.

©iStock.com/ablokhin

The falls are located in Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, West Virginia. The waterfall features a rocky prominence that divides the water as it cascades over the precipice. This feature makes the falls instantly recognizable in pictures. The accessibility and beauty of Blackwater Falls have made it one of the most photographed places in West Virginia.

Once the water spills over the top of Blackwater Falls, it plunges 57 feet into Blackwater Canyon. The canyon stretches for eight miles from the falls and reaches depths of around 525 feet near the park’s lodge.

The “Blackwater” name refers to the water’s tint that comes from the tannic acid of fallen hemlock and red spruce needles. It has a reddish-amber hue as it cascades downward over the falls. As the Blackwater River flows through Blackwater Canyon, it takes on a darker color.

Unlike some waterfalls, which require a long and arduous hike, the walk to Blackwater Falls is only 0.4 mile. It does require guests to navigate more than 200 steps to access the viewing platform, so keep that in mind before descending to the falls. Climbing back to the top will undoubtedly require some effort. The steps can also be treacherous when wet or icy.

Blackwater Falls, WV

The falls are accessible via a long staircase.

©Nicolas Raymond from Bethesda, Maryland, USA / CC BY 2.0 – Original / License

Blackwater Falls State Park

The state park was established in 1937 through a donation of 446 acres of land by the West Virginia Power and Transmission Company. The park has since grown to 2,358 acres of protected red spruce and eastern hemlock upland forest.

The park is located in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, sitting at an elevation of 2,897 feet. Blackwater Falls may be the park’s main attraction (hence the park’s name), but there are other waterfalls in the park, too. Elakala Falls is a 40-foot waterfall. Pendleton Falls is 20 feet high, with additional cascades above and below the falls. Along with others, these waterfalls in the state park are accessible by hiking trails.

Blackwater Falls near Davis, WV, very full with the previous evening's rain.

Blackwater Falls State Park is a large protected forest of mainly red spruce and eastern hemlock trees.

©iStock.com/Brandy Herren

Lodging

Along with waterfalls, the park offers 65 campsites with electrical hookups. The park’s lodge offers 54 rooms with sweeping views of the gorge below. The lodge also features “The Smokehouse” restaurant.

Pendleton Lake

Pendleton Lake is located in the park and provides a lovely setting for a kayak or paddleboard excursion. Boats with electric motors are permitted, but gas-powered outboard motors are prohibited. And if you want to take a dip, you’re in luck. The lake is open for swimming from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The lake provides great fishing opportunities. Anglers can hook into largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, and trout in Pendleton Lake. The nearby Blackwater River is stocked with trout during the spring and summer months, as well.

Pendleton Lake, at Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia.

Boats without gas motors are permitted on Pendleton Lake.

©Jon Bilous/Shutterstock.com

Hiking and Other Activities

Blackwater Falls State Park features over 20 miles of hiking trails. The 330-mile Allegheny Trail also passes through the park.

If you or the kids are looking for something completely different to do, the park also features an 18-hole disc golf course. 

Winter opens up a whole new host of outdoor activities in the park, including the Blackwater Falls Sled Run. The run features the park’s 14,000-foot “Wonder Carpet conveyor” to take sledders back to the top of the hill. It is the longest such conveyor in North America.

Frozen Blackwater Falls in Davis, West Virginia

Blackwater Falls typically ice over in the winter.

©iStock.com/Tazz Anderson

Wildlife Around Blackwater Falls

The lands of Blackwater Falls and the surrounding state park are filled with wildlife. Black bear sightings are common in the park. White-tailed deer and wild turkeys also proliferate in the park. Hundreds of species of birds make the park a wonderful spot for birding, as well.

Location

Blackwater Falls State Park is located about five miles from the West Virginia/Maryland border as the crow flies. It is easily accessible from major cities. The park is a roughly three-hour drive from both Charleston, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. 

Where Is Blackwater Falls Located on a Map?

Blackwater Falls State Park is found in the Allegheny Mountains of Trucker County in West Virginia. Tucked away in the middle of the park is Blackwater Falls and a rugged Canyon.

Here is Blackwater Falls on a map.


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About the Author

Mike is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on geography, agriculture, and marine life. A graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and a resident of Cincinnati, OH, Mike is deeply passionate about the natural world. In his free time, he, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks.

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