top of page

Springtime at the Falls

I had an itch to wander again. Spring is just around the corner. Sunshine and warmer temperatures just invite me to go driving. Knowing that streams throughout Indiana would be running full due to last week's rains, I felt a trip to Cataract Falls would inspire.

Cataract Falls are located in Owen County, northwest of Spencer and west of US231, and is billed as Indiana's largest waterfall. Mill Creek flows over the Upper Falls and Lower Falls before emptying into Cagle's Mill Lake within the nearby Lieber State Recreation Area. "These falls resulted from two pre-glacial bedrock ridges buried beneath ancient lake sediments of the Illinoisan glacial period." (Indiana DNR)

I have been here several times before when the water level was low and I was hoping for a very different experience this time. I found what I was looking for. Here is a video of the Upper Falls from the rarely traveled gravel road on the east side of the stream.

After attending 7:30am Sunday Mass, I left straight from church. With a moniker such as Life Off The Highway, I was struggling as I drove around I-465 then onto I-70 west. It was 40 miles before I exited at SR39 (Exit 59). I was most amazed to see how many warehouses have been constructed at this exit since I drove past a year or two ago.

Now I was back in my element driving secondary state highways and searching for certain back roads. I was ready to capture buildings and other things I found interesting on my drive. (These pictures are farther down the page.) I turned west onto SR 42. I circled once in Monrovia to take a picture of a nondescript building, that looked like a former bank. With a little research at home, this is the First National Bank of Monrovia built in 1921. Next up was Mt. Tabor Christian Church in Crown Center, and then Eminence High School (combining the old and new for current use). I stopped in the middle of the highway to capture the blue steel bridge.

From SR 42, I turned onto Camp Otto Road, a rough, pot-holed gravel road for only 3 miles and then it dropped into a valley next to Mill Creek. I could see the falls through the trees and then noticed a metal gate with posted notices, but nothing about private property. I passed it, then backed up and parked. I walked down a gravel path and then wet dirt until I found the right clearing with the view to capture the video above.

I went on up to the official entrance near Cagle's Mill Covered Bridge. I was pleased there was no entry fee today. I walked down to the concrete-constructed overlook to get pictures of the Upper Falls. While there, I struck up a conversation with a fellow wanderer from the Martinsville area who loves this place. We talked about Life Off The Highway and he has pictures of every courthouse in Indiana. I shared that visiting every dot on the map is my journey and I am glad that he has his. He's looking for another challenge and I invited him to follow me and see what might come next.

I walked the 2-mile trail to the Lower Falls. Since it wasn't marked, I didn't know it was 2 miles or I would have driven. Glad I didn't know. I got several pictures of the falls, trees, and stream along the first part of the trail which is steep and a little challenging. Then the trail just gently sloped the remainder of the way. As you may know, getting to somewhere new always seems farther than the return trip (it is an interesting phenomenon). It was absolutely gorgeous today, bright blue sky, no clouds, and temperatures in the 50ºs and 60ºs.

It was interesting because the roar of the waterfall made it hard to carry on a conversation at the overlook. Then the sound dissipated on the trail and it was very, very peaceful. Occasionally, I met couples or families walking the other direction. Made me long for a walk with Beth.

As I neared the Lower Falls the roar returned as the water cascaded over the rock ledges that you can actually walk across during low water. I scrambled down to get onto the rock ledges lining the stream bank. After I captured pictures and video then I saw a sign up ahead telling visitors not to go beyond the fence, but there was no fence where I went! Below is a panoramic shot of the Lower Falls.

Below I was approaching the falls coming downstream. The middle is at the falls and, on the right, is the falls at the water's edge. I encourage you to look up the falls on the internet to see numerous pictures taken when the water is low. I am assuming that earlier this week the lower falls may have been completely submerged.

Here is a movie of the Lower Falls panning Mill Creek downstream.

After walking back on the trail which wasn't as long on the return trip(?), the last section was a very steep climb. Here are a couple of interesting trail shots.

I headed back to my truck and drove with the windows down at first. It was that nice outside. On the way home I snapped a picture of Cagle's Mill Covered Bridge just above the Upper Falls.

To no surprise, I headed home a different route than the one I came on. Here are the pictures mentioned above on my trip to the falls.

I drove south on US 231 then back east on SR 67 through Gosport and Paragon, past Martinsville and through Mooresville, before circling the city on I-465. Here are some pictures I took on my return trip. These three markers are located in Gosport on the curve of SR 67 in which means they're not convenient to stop and study. On the left is a newer marker about the history of the 10 O'Clock Treaty Line which cuts through town. A historical marker for Camp Hughes, a Civil War training camp in the middle, and a stone carving of the signing of the aforementioned Treaty Line on the right.

Here's Main Street in downtown Gosport, a beautiful historic home in town, and Gosport United Methodist Church. There's a pretty drive south out of town towards Bloomington and heading into Limestone Country.

Finally, there was the Paragon State Bank building and its night deposit drop on the side of the building. Across the street was the Lodge building, erected in 1898 (plate above center window) with plates for the Paragon IOOF #406 established in 1872 (left) and Morgan Lodge #431 Knights of Pythias established in 1895 (right).

In my Cultural Heritage Tourism class at IUPUI I encourage students to wander. Don't wait for someone to tell you what you should notice. Be curious and take pictures for your benefit, not necessarily to be seen. I try to help them understand the differences between destinations and drive-bys. Each has value but for very different reasons. Without these drive-bys on my trip down and trip back, I would have had 3 hours of drive time versus 3 hours of wandering.

If you "Look Deeper," you'll "Discover More." This is Life Off The Highway. Now get out there and wander!


bottom of page