St. Mary's River

A hiker approaches the fall along a bench of land backed by a crag thirty feet high. Twelve feet above the creek and directly opposite the fall, the ledge ends abruptly, leaving you — a hot, sweaty observer — staring down at a tank of water 10 feet deep. What do you do? That’s a rhetorical question, of course. You jump.

The pool is around twenty feet long and oriented at 90 degrees to the fall face. It’s aesthetically pleasing since the sides are generally solid stone and arranged at straight angles, giving it a rectangular form. Plus the water is exquisite. Cool, clean runoff from the top of the St. Mary’s Wilderness. The deepest water is under the ledge, where it appears that about 25 cubic feet of rock simply disappeared. The pool faces west, so it ought to be good in the afternoon, even though the canopy partially covers the creek. There’s about 150 square feet of seating, which is unlikely to accommodate the number of people you’ll find here on a weekend.

The St. Mary’s Fall Trail begins in the George Washington National Forest on the north bank of the river. You might see one or two blue blazes on the way to the first crossing at 1.1 miles. From the ford continue .2 miles to the junction with St. Mary’s Trail and continue upstream a short distance, then cross back to the north bank. It’s .6 miles and one more ford to reach the fall.

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