Pic of the Week 4/20/17: Gorman Falls
Location: Gorman Falls Colorado Bend State Park, Bend, TX
Date taken: 4/9/17
I awoke in bed in the hotel bedroom and stared at the ceiling for a few moments before turning my head over to look at the clock. "4:14" it read. "About an hour too early" I thought to myself and proceeded to get up. I shuffled over to my laptop that I had left charging overnight. There was a chance for early morning precip and cloud cover, so I needed to check the weather before the day's activities. I yawned as I opened up the laptop and started to search for weather data. It was a long drive yesterday, but I was now in Marble Falls, TX waking up an hour early, and getting ready for the big day we had ahead of us. My mother, who has accompanied me on numerous photo adventures, was still asleep. I checked the satellite and clear sky charts and it looked like we were going to be overcast throughout most of the day. This was not what I wanted to hear. Overcast skies rarely make for good landscape photos. I was interrupted when Mom's cell phone alarm went off at 5:00am, it was time to get up.
We got up and proceeded to get our gear together and get down to the car. Our first stop was Colorado Bend State Park about 65 miles away. Our goal was to get to Gorman Falls by sunrise and hopefully capture some light rays stretching across the waterfall. I had never been to this location before, but I had heard good things about this particular location. In fact, about three days before we made the trip the area received some significant rain and the Colorado Bend Facebook page posted a nice video showing the falls flowing in all their glory. This instilled some more confidence in our first stop and now we just had to hope the clouds would break through before sunrise.
The drive up to the park was quite interesting. We followed 281 north to Lampassas where we would turn off on FM 580 driving west towards Bend, TX. I always enjoy driving on these farm market roads. They're usually clear of traffic and it gives you a chance to experience some of the landscape of the area. FM 580 was mostly a straight shot west, but there were a lot of twists and turns as we got closer to some of hills. Deer were huddled together on the side of the road grazing and the edges were lined with a plethora of wildflowers that grew in patches for miles down the road. When we reached Bend, TX we needed to turn off 580 and start driving on county Rd 442. After reaching the junction we came to the low water crossing of the Cherokee Creek The road narrowed down to a single lane as you crossed the bridge. Luckily there were no other vehicles coming by and we took our time admiring the limestone rocks scattered around the creek below. This is the only way to access the park and if the creek gets too high they close off the park entirely.
We crossed the creek and continued east getting closer and closer to the park. Some miles later we came to another junction and we turned onto County Rd 446. This road would lead us to the park entrance. We reached the park entrance and found the kiosk to pay your entrance fee. I made the mistake of suggesting we go to the headquarters to pay our entrance fee, which was not open at the time. After realizing the headquarters was not open at this hour we turned around and headed back to the kiosk and made our payment. Now we were ready to head to the Gorman Falls trail head. Following Co Rd 446 we came to a turn off pointing to Gorman Falls on the left. The road quickly changed from a decent paved road to gravel/dirt road which in my mother's Volkwagen Bug was probably not the smoothest ride. But we made it to the trail and I was eager to get out to the falls.
According to the TPWD website the hike to Gorman Falls is 1.3 miles and is rated as "Challenging", but I had high hopes that it was all going to be worth it. I've hiked for longer distances with more gear before so I wasn't particularly concerned. It was 8:00am when we started the hike. The trails themselves were marked well and easy to follow. There was the occasional bench that encouraged weary hikers to rest and take in the surrounding scenery. Mom and I happily accepted the invitation. We hiked about 1 mile until reaching a cross road in the trail that intersected with the Gorman Springs trail. This was a sign that we were close to the falls and after passing through a small grove of trees you could just barely hear the sound of running water.
Following the trail markers we continued down the path now starting to descend. Large limestone rocks and boulders were strewn about between the trees and grasslands. We came to the last part of the trail, and the most challenging, we would now need to descend down a makeshift staircase made from the native limestone. Looking straight ahead I could see the top of Gorman Falls through the trees. We climbed down scores of steps sometimes holding on to the ropes they installed to help with our balance, but we finally reached the bottom. Here the waterfall became even more audible and all sounds except the birds were drowned out over the running water. I reached the overlook platform and drank in the scenery around me. We were the first ones there and enjoyed it all to ourselves. The area around the falls was off limits and a small wire was placed with a sign stating "SENSITIVE AREA DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT". I set up my tripod and found a composition that I thought would work, but there was only one problem. The sun never broke through the clouds. Regardless, I kept on shooting.
I watched as the water cascade down the rock and crash into streams converging to a pool that drained into the Colorado River. The water originates from Gorman Spring and travels along Gorman Creek before falling an impressive 65ft to form Gorman Falls. Along the way the water breaks up the limestone rock and deposits calcite. This combines with the mineral-rich water to form a sensitive and delicate rock known as travertine. The park calls Gorman Falls a "living waterfall" because it keeps growing. Gorman creek deposited travertine in a formation approximately 650 feet wide and 60 feet thick to make this impressive waterfall and it keeps growing to this day. Although it likely took centuries for this formation.
The waterfall is tucked away surrounded by trees and lush vegetation which can make it difficult to photograph. But I found a spot that let me see as much as the waterfall as possible. I wanted to convey the seclusion and isolation of the waterfall and I believe the surrounding vegetation did that. You truly feel like you're in a tropical or rain forest setting when standing here. It was so beautiful and peaceful. I had to use my wide angle to get as much of the falls in the shot. I also chose to limit the amount of sky in the photo due to its overcast and uninteresting nature. I did have a point where just a little bit of light peeked through the clouds cover and softly landed on some of the moss covered rock giving the scene a nice sense of depth. Once we finished up our shoot, hikers and tourists started coming in and we started back up the trail. This was just our first stop for a very busy day of shooting and we saw some amazing sights on this trip, but Gorman Falls is my favorite. The fact that we were the only ones there unimpeded by tourists makes it even more special.