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Falls of The Ohio Extreme Hike - 2012

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Hidden : Saturday, 13 October 2012
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Posting a link to CWGladstone's excellent You Tube video below in the log

Extreme Hike - 2012


350 Million Years Ago...

...this region was 20-degrees south of the equator and covered by a shallow tropical sea. It was part of a single mega-continent formed 1100 million years ago. That continent was named RODINIA. About 750 million years ago Rodinia began to break up and drift apart and the continents we know today were formed.

Our Blue Planet..back then..

The fossil beds at the Falls of the Ohio provide proof of an ocean and coral reef that existed here more than 350 million years ago!

The coral reef as seen today stretches from Louisville north to Indianapolis. But nowhere else in the world does such a large, exposed fossil reef of this period exist. The fossilized reef lies exposed only at the Falls of the Ohio and is available for foot access for only a few weeks in the fall.

The Devonian Period occurred between 395 and 345 million years ago. During that time, Indiana and Kentucky languished beneath a warm, tropical sea, and were located about twenty degrees south of the equator. Tectonic shifting of the earth's continents eventually moved this part of the earth's surface to its current location.
During the 45 million year span of the Devonian Period, the oceans deposited layer upon layer of lime silt, sediments, and plant and animal remains.

Of these deposits, five distinct fossil layers lie exposed at the Falls:
  • The uppermost layer - or the youngest rock - is the Paraspirifer Acuminatus Zone, which contains fossils of brachiopods (including paraspirifers, a two-shelled animal similar to a clam); bryozoans (commonly called lace coral); trilobites; and some solitary, branching, and colonial corals.
  • Second is the Fenestrate Bryozoan-Brachiopod Zone. Named for the predominant fossils found there, here one also can find crinoid stems in abundance.
  • A six-inch-thick layer called the Brevispirifer Gregarius Zone follows, and contains fossils of brachiopods and gastropods (sea snails), horn corals, or cup corals, and one of the Falls' most unusual corals, the astromatoporoid.
  • The Amphipora Ramosa Zone, commonly called the Cave Zone. Pocket caves have developed here due to the powerful erosive powers of the Ohio River rushing across the rock. This zone occurs along the vertical cliffs of the river channel, where the cutting force of the river reaches its peak.
  • The oldest and most remarkable layer is the largest to be exposed. It bears the name Coral Zone because of its abundance of fossil corals - so many, in fact, that visitors find it difficult to walk on this layer without stepping on fossils exposed in the bedrock.
  • To assist in fossil identification, the interpretive center provides an educational website HERE.


That water is only 20-inches deep!

Fall Colors In The Upper Wetlands


Please consider this!

  • This is an EXTREME HIKE, a six-mile round trip! Reflective limestone! Six hours! A horizontal rock climb! Swift water crossings! Quick sand! Moonscape craters. Knee-deep wading! Potholes! Slippery! Mud flats! Sand dunes! Rock walls! Mesas! Caves! Wet boots! Blisters! You'll LOVE it!
  • You'll be walking BELOW the normal level of the upper river pool on an ancient seabed that can be 55-feet UNDER WATER at flood stage! Billions of gallons of water are right...THERE just inches away behind the spillway gates!
  • We'll go where not many people have gone on foot!
  • Lewis and Clark, Prince Madok, pioneers, Native Americans and the underground railroad crossed here!
  • John James Audubon sketched birds here. Mark Twain was lodged on a rock in a boat for several days here.
  • There are several geocaches and EarthCaches to log along the hike!
  • You'll hike the upper and lower wetlands. See the Cottonwoods and Willows.
  • Want creature features? An OCTOPUS was caught here! Live crocodiles and alligators have been seen here. Tropical fish with teeth!

NOTE! This hike can only occur if river conditions allow safe passage. The lower gauge must be 12 feet or less. The UPPER SPILLWAY GATES MUST be closed completely (we'll cross there).

For an instant up-to-the-minute NOAA McAlpine Dam lower gauge forecast, click on RIVER LEVEL. If that dotted line continues at/below the ~12-foot mark, we're good to go!

There's a hurricane watch link on this page. Rainfall that occurs inland of the upper east coast could drain through the Ohio River Valley causing a rise in river levels. This hike was canceled last year when the warning sirens sounded and the spillways were opened for just that reason as we watched!

For an instant up-to-the-minute NOAA Tropical Storm Watch Update, click on
National HURRICANE Center

Fossil Beds September 20, 2008, and, Fossil Beds September 20, 2004 (after Hurricane IVAN)

Be prepared:

  • Sunscreen and MOSQUITO spray
  • DO bring your moonwalk. You'll need it.
  • DO bring your creek legs and sand feet.
  • DO be prepared to be knee-deep-wet and sandy. This is, after all, a beach!
  • We'll cross at the the upper gates ONLY. You'll see the broken steps by gate #9 leading to the concrete deck.
  • DO be prepared to cross moving water. If the lower gauge is around 10.0 feet or lower, current is minimal. More depth, more current.
  • DO bring a camera. Sure, you may fall and ruin it, but if you don't the pics are priceless! Think PROFILE PIC!

This can be a dangerous and unforgiving place. The description of the possible difficulties associated with this hike is intended to raise awareness. Carelessness can result in pain here. Crossing swift moving water is required out and back.
The Falls is the only natural bottleneck (strainer) along the entire 981 mile length of the Ohio river. Every year, thousands of items (plastic bottles) are washed down the river and accumulate as debris at the island. You will gain a new perspective on what PLEASE DO NOT LITTER really means.

The Plan

The coordinates will bring you to a free parking area just inside the state park. First come, first park (fishermen park here, too). No 'back-in' parking (it's the law). Other parking nearby under the RR bridge (14 spaces). The 'Good Morning' meet and greet starts at 0830 hrs or as early as you arrive. We'll sign the log, press on the name tags, pass out some printed data, have a brief Q/A session, then SHOVE OFF at 0900 SHARP!
Plan on being WET and DIRTY by 0930.

Get your GEAR ON!

  • Bring water.
  • Bring more water. You DO NOT want to run out of fresh water (other water nearby)
  • NO RESTROOMS (big river). Plan accordingly.
  • Snacks, i.e. ENERGY FOOD - No restaurants here!
  • UV PROTECTION! Limestone is highly reflective!
  • Skeeter beeter! (especially if it recently rained).
  • Camera
  • Extra batteries.
  • Resealable waterproof storage bags keep stuff dry
  • Duct tape. (blister spots)
  • Hiking staff.
  • Lace-up footwear recommended (sandals are NOT!)
  • Whatever else you want to lug (light travel strongly recommended)

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