Geology · History · Natural Science

Geology & History at Ohiopyle State Park

We recently took a trip to Ohiopyle State Park in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. Before going I had seen it on one of those “Best views in Pennsylvania” articles, so it had already been on my list of places to see. Ohiopyle State Park is in the Allegheny National Forest. The waterfall below is part of the Youghiogheny River.

ohiopyle state park things to do see
Ohiopyle falls, as seen upon arriving at the visitor’s center

Once we arrived, we parked at the visitor’s center and came to Ohiopyle Falls and some historical plaques before we ever entered the building. (This is NOT Cucumber Falls – but I do have pictures of that too!) As it turns out, as George Washington was looking for a route to take boats to Pittsburgh, he came to these falls. Upon seeing the falls, he changed his mind about boating through it. While looking for an alternate route he came across French troops. An attack ensued, preceding the French and Indian War. If you’ve studied the wars leading up to the American Revolution, this would be a great “what-if” discussion – if these falls hadn’t hindered the troops’ journey to Pittsburgh, would they have come across those French troops? Would the American Revolution still have occurred?

Plaques detailing Washington’s decision to avoid the falls

Upon entering the visitor center, you’ll want to grab a map. I verified my route with the receptionist – I wanted to see the natural water slides, Cucumber Falls, and the overlook. It turns out you can actually see all of these without hiking the trail, but we hiked it anyhow.

Before you leave the center, don’t forget to check out the downstairs level! There is a ton of interactive information on the animal life and landforms of the area! There is even a stampcard that you can go around and emboss at each station – we kept ours to put in our homeschool portfolios.

A station at the visitor’s center on how to choose the proper gear and attire for certain activities

When we left the visitor’s center we followed the yellow footprints along the path to the trail head. We found the trail head confused us at first, but the natural water slides were the path to the right, and cucumber falls were the path to the left. Swing by the natural water slides first as it is not far down the path! We did not get on the slides. It looked rough, and a few of the reviews we had read before we went did not recommend children to get on it.

natural water slide at ohiopyle state park
Natural Water Slide

Geology: this area once used to be solid sandstone. The slides show a sharp break in the stream gradient, but since it hasn’t eroded as quickly as the Youghiogheney, the rushing water’s force has worn a channel through the sandstone.

We backtracked and took the trail to the end, where you can see Cucumber Falls off in the distance. We took stairs up to overlook it, but then of course we climbed over rocks to get into the water where several other families were hanging out in the falls.

Cucumber Falls; view from the stairs

You can actually get to this stairway really quickly just by driving to a small parking lot beside the stairway. Check out your map for the street that Cucumber Falls is on, and you can skip the hike!

We headed back to the car after hiking back to the center. You’ll want the car to see Baughman Rock, unless you’re still seeking a challenge after that first hike!

View from Baughman Rock

Looking out from Baughman Rock is a 1,700 foot distance between the river and the ridge top. Baughman Rock is Pottsville Sandstone and is resistant to weathering, which can also be seen in other areas of Ohiopyle State Park. The Youghiogheny river has cut through this landscape you are overlooking over 2,000 feet by the time it reaches Connellsville, which is deeper than any other gorge in Pennsylvania.

If you’ve ever visited Ohiopyle State Park, please share your experience in the comments!

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