Lake Catherine State Park’s Falls Branch Trail provides a lovely hike with varied terrain, bridges and water features. Although it is shorter than the other park trails it offers hikers of all levels a wonderful Nature experience. There are three wood benches and several rocks along the journey for those wishing to take a leisurely pace. This trail like all others within the park is well marked and makes a loop leading you back to the trail head. Free parking is available for day hikers.
The trail begins with a series of bridges crossing over a narrow winding creek. These well maintained wooden structures add variety to the hike along this mostly flat section of the trail. Lovely wildflowers add color on the banks of the slow moving water. Purple violets, pink oxalis and yellow goldenrod create a beautiful spring bouquet. Old stone steps lead upward from the final bridge to a winding path traveling through a mixed tree forest and rock accented landscape. Bird songs echo softly from the increasing spring canopy. Beautiful white blossoming Dogwoods glow among the illuminated green Leaves.
Soon after a moderate climb the trail leads downward to a wider creek that separates Horseshoe and Dam Mountains. The collecting pools of water created by the rocky creek bed reflect the bright new green of spring opening above them. Waterfalls increase in size as you hike further down the trail. Each plateau is reached by traversing a cluster of stone steps built early in the 1900s.
When you reach the top of the main waterfall the trail head of the Dam Mountain Trail located on the other side of the creek is visible. The main waterfall cascades into a clear pool below that is a popular spot for hikers to rest and cool their feet. Several families arrived after a hike on the Dam Mountain Trail and were enjoying a chance to wade in the water.
Further down the trail I spotted a *Banded Water Snake swimming in the Lake Catherine. I watched as it floated, dove and swam at the shoreline. As I finished taking a few photographs I heard screaming up at the falls. The only word I could make out was “SNAKE” followed by frantic splashing and additional yelling. Please note if you are hiking for the first time in the Banded water Snake is a non-venomous Snake that loves the water. Although snake bites are rare in the park take care when you wade or swim as they are territorial and will strike if you don’t move away.
The final leg of my hike along the Falls Branch Trail is along the edge of Lake Catherine. The murky blue green water sparkles in the sunlight and is still easily viewed through the early spring foliage. Butterflies and dragonflies weave in and out of the flowering bushes feeding on nectar in afternoon sun. As you pass the lake shore campground you will cross the last creek on a suspension bridge. Several minutes later I reach the trail head, it has been a glorious time in the park.
Love to ALL!
*originally identified as a Cottonmouth I was later informed (2015) this is a Banded water Snake.