Sandstone Falls is a major attraction for photographers in the New River Gorge of southern West Virginia. The area is part of the New River Gorge National River and managed by the National Park Service. This is an unusual and noteworthy waterfall. While it is not very tall (up to about 25 feet, but less than that in most places), it is extremely wide. The New River is about 15oo feet wide at this spot where the water tumbles over a sandstone ledge. While it is considered one waterfall, there are countless different drops making up one very wide waterfall.
Getting a photo of the full width of the waterfall isn’t possible, but there are plenty of possibilities to see and photograph the different parts of the waterfall. The National Park Service has a boardwalk that leads from the parking lot to an island in the middle of the New River that is surrounded by Sandstone Falls. Along the boardwalk you can get easy views of the section of falls nearest the parking lot. My favorite views were from the island.
You can use the boardwalk to reach the island and then explore to find great views of other sections of the waterfall. The far side of the island was my favorite spot. Be very careful because the rocks are slick and the flow of water is very strong in many places. Don’t get too close, or a slip could put you into the water.
From the island you’ll also find some other views that you can’t get from the boardwalk.
If you like photographing waterfalls I think you will really appreciate Sandstone Falls because it is so much different than most other waterfalls. That does bring some challenges though. Unlike many waterfalls that are in a forest and under tree cover, Sandstone Falls is totally exposed. A cloudy, overcast day will give you the best lighting for photographing the falls. The day I was in the area was clear and sunny, and that made it a challenge.
Getting to Sandstone Falls
Sandstone Falls is fairly easy to reach, but as of October, 2017 there is major construction that will likely slow you down. From the town of Hinton you can take New River Road north along the west side of the river for a few miles until you reach the parking lot for the falls. The GPS coordinates of the parking lot are: 37.759503, -80.904921
Tips for Photographing Sandstone Falls
This is a popular area that does attract some visitors, especially photographers. However, it doesn’t usually attract huge crowds because of its location. There is plenty of room if you are willing to go out onto the island, so you should have no problem photographing the falls even if a number of other people are there. I would definitely recommend going on a cloudy day, if possible. If, like me, you’re only in the area for a short time you’ll have to work with whatever weather you have at the time.
Many waterfalls have an obvious composition that will be ideal for photos. That’s not the case with Sandstone Falls. This isn’t like a waterfall that has a small viewing platform at the bottom where you really only have one angle. Here you’ll be able to walk around and find all kinds of different possibilities. You won’t be able to photograph the full width of the falls, but you can still photograph wide sections, or key in on the details of different parts of the waterfall. If you enjoy finding interesting details, you could spend endless amounts of time at Sandstone Falls.
Of course, you’ll want to have a tripod for getting the best photographs. You won’t need a very slow shutter speed because the water will be flowing pretty strong.
The last tip is to be careful, especially if you are on the far side of the island, where most visitors don’t go. Be careful on the rocks and stay away from any dangerous situations near the water.