Located in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, Blackwater Falls State Park is a great place to photograph several beautiful waterfalls as well as amazing views of the Blackwater Canyon. The park is beautiful in all seasons, and in this article we will take a look at what Blackwater Falls State Park has to offer for photographers.
→ Related reading: 10 Tips for Fabulous Waterfall Photography
Points of Interest in Blackwater Falls State Park
Here is a look at some of the most noteworthy locations in the park for photographing.
→ See More of The Best Places to Photograph in West Virginia
The main attraction in the park is Blackwater Falls, which is the highest above-ground waterfall in the state of West Virginia. At about 60 feet in height it is a beautiful waterfall with a distinct look. The rocks typically cause a few separate flows that cascade over the edge.
However, at times when the water flow heavier it looks a bit different. I was there recently after a rain storm and with the high flow of water it looked like the photo below.
There are several different vantage points that are possible for photographing Blackwater Falls. The two photos above were taken from the observation platform close to the falls. From the parking area there is a wood walkway that leads to the observation platform. The photo below shows the walkway and the location of the platform.
Part way to the falls there is also another observation platform that provides an alternate view.
From the other side of the river the Gentle Trail leads to a platform with a nice view from a distance.
Another popular waterfall that you will certainly want to check out is Elakala Falls. This is actually a series of 4 distinct waterfalls on Shays Run. South of Blackwater River a short trail leads to Elakala Falls #1. The trail has a bridge that goes right above the falls, and after you cross the bridge you can hike down to the base of the falls. There is a rocky area here that is perfect for photographing this beautiful waterfall. Photos of this waterfall often feature a soft swirl of water at the base.
However, when I was visiting the flow of water was too strong to see any swirls, and it looked like the photo below.
Each of the other Elakala Falls get progressively more challenging to reach because there is no official trail and you will have to do some scrambling to get down into the canyon. I wasn’t able to make it beyond the first one because the high water left left no room to photograph from the banks that day, but if you are able to venture to Elakala Falls 2, 3, and 4 you can get some great photos.
Lindy Point overlooks the Blackwater Canyon and provides one of the most popular views in the park. There is a short trail (probably less than 1/2 mile) from the parking area that leads to Lindy Point. The trail leads you through some beautiful scenery along the way. At Lindy Point there is a viewing platform, or you can explore the rocks off of the platform. Lindy Point is a great location for sunset photography.
Pendleton Point provides a view of the deepest and widest part of the Blackwater Canyon. The view point is located a very short walk from the parking lot. The view here is a little bit more limited than at Lindy Point, but it is still a nice view. Pendleton Lake and a series of Pendleton Falls are relatively close to Pendleton Point and worth checking out.
Nearby Attractions for Photographers
While you could spend quite a bit of time exploring and photographing Blackwater Falls State Park, there are also several other nearby locations that are great for photographers. Douglas Falls is popular with photographers and just a short drive from Blackwater Falls. The Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge is also very close. Dolly Sods Wilderness is just a short drive away and worth exploring (especially Bear Rocks). Seneca Rocks is less than an hour’s drive from Blackwater Falls.
→ Related reading: Guide to Photographing the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia.
Where to Stay
Blackwater Falls State Park is located near the small town of Davis. There are several different motels and lodges in the area (see this page), or you can stay in the park itself. The park has a lodge as well as cabins that are available.
Here is some gear that will help you to get the most out of your trip to Blackwater Falls.
To photograph the waterfalls effectively you will need a sturdy tripod. It’s also a good idea to have a lightweight tripod, especially if you are going to be venturing to the Elakala Falls. I use and recommend a carbon fiber tripod from Sirui.
Wide Angle Lens
For photographing the waterfalls you will probably want a wide angle lens. The viewing platform for Blackwater Falls as well as the area for photographing Elakala Falls #1 is relatively close to the falls, so a wide angle lens will help you to get everything in the shot. I prefer the Canon EF 16-35 f/4L IS USM.
A telephoto lens can also be helpful for photographing the details. It will also be helpful for photographing Blackwater Falls from the Gentle Trail.
A polarizer will help to cut down on the glare from waterfall and wet rocks around the falls. If you are photographing from Lindy Point or Pendleton Point the polarizer will also help to add some contrast to the sky.
Landscape Legend Lightroom Presets
Our own Lightroom presets can help you to reduce time during your post processing. Landscape Legend is the most comprehensive suite of Lightroom presets created specifically for landscape and nature photos.
Photo license links: CC BY-SA 2.0, CC BY 2.0, CC BY 3.0