The directions weren’t very clear; across the field, pick your best walking through the woods, down a steep embankment, find the brook, listen for very rushing water, and hope for the best.
This has been our way of finding many waterfalls that we didn’t know very much about. The brook was a small one like many others coming off the Creignish Hills. Like many of the other brooks, it is part of the River Denys system that flows into the Bras d’Or Lake.
We followed our rough directions and soon heard the slight roar of the hidden waterfall. It was over 50-feet high. We were able to climb to the top and survey the view or sit on a log just below the plunging, cascading waterfall.
Why do most of the brooks that tumble off the Creignish Hills have waterfalls? Maybe it’s because they cascade from harder igneous rocks of the hills to the softer sedimentary rocks of the valleys below. This contact between the two main types of rocks produces the waterfalls. Before we leave this magic environment of trickling, gurgling water, soft mists and sprays, jutting rock ledges, drenched moss-covered rocks, we must crouch down and drink from this crystal-clear mountain stream.
People who live in geographic situations where there is no relief or elevation difference never experience the dynamics of a falling brook. Can you picture a landscape without flowing and falling water?
Cape Breton is blessed with many small ranges of hills, some connected to others, some isolated, but all with magnificent brooks and rivers dropping dramatically off their upland surfaces. The sound of all this moving water is integral to the mountain from whence it came. Many are found in deep ravines with giants of pine, hemlock, spruce and hardwoods that have avoided the ax and saw of the lumberjack. For unnumbered years the brook ran and fell over the precipices.
As winter comes, the moss-covered rocks and ferns that cling to its walls will soon be glazed over with sheets of ice and icicles. Great cascades of ice will soon hide the brook as winter marches on. These hidden treasures will become almost inaccessible to most hikers as deep snows settle into their hidden valleys.
Gold seekers first trekked up our many brooks in search of elusive riches. Early settlers recognized the power potential of the falling water and soon built log dam after log dam on every small brook throughout Cape Breton. Grist mills, fulling and dying mills, sawmills, and shingle mills harnessed the power of the brooks and their waterfalls. We might find remnants of an old log dam, or if we are really lucky come across some of the old stone walls and millstones.
You probably have a special outdoor place that you enjoy returning to whether it is a beach, a lake, a seashore, or one of Cape Breton’s villages. You have probably guessed by now what mine is. Yes, it’s a tumbling brook with a waterfall. It is what I call my special place. Like my growing list of places and things to write about in Cape Breton, my list of waterfalls to hike is an ever increasing one.
My next waterfall is not just another one but one to trek and photograph.