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Witch Hazel, with Mina Sauk Falls behind

I wrote about Mina Sauk Falls a long time ago, but recently had the opportunity to revisit that beautiful landscape with my friend Randy Hyman. It was a memorable experience to hike to the falls, something I hadn’t done in perhaps three or four decades.

Although the falls are now in the state park system, part of Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, they’re still pretty hard to get to. I had forgotten just how rugged the trail down to the falls is (or perhaps it didn’t seem so rugged when I was in my twenties), But we made it down and back without incident, enjoying the immense profusion of spring wildflowers along the way.

Sand phlox along the Mina Sauk Falls trail

Mina Sauk Falls is notoriously hard to photograph, first because it descends in a series of small cascades at first, before it reaches the main falls, and second because photographing the main falls from below requires you to scramble down a perilous heap of boulders to reach a vantage point from which you can see them. I didn’t make that effort, but here’s a photo by Skye Marthaler, available from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license:

Falling water draws us, whether it’s the massive flow of one of the world’s great waterfalls or a wet-weather tumble like this one. I think their appeal comes from two things. First, there’s the elemental quality, water flowing over rock. How much simpler does it get? All that force, all that power, laid out before us in a simple display of nature’s magnitude. Then there’s the timelessness of it. Watching a waterfall you sense that other people from other centuries, other millennia, have likely done the same thing. That may be why waterfalls tend to attract mythology so strongly. Leland and Crystal Payton have written an entire book, Lover’s Leap Legends, about how practically every high place in North America has generated a story about an Indian maiden leaping to her death, sometimes in mourning over her lost love and sometimes accompanied by him, and how all of these stories are essentially fictional. Mina Sauk Falls is no exception to that tendency, with an early ethnologist gently describing the existence of Mina Sauk and the origin of the fall’s name as a “romancer’s creation.”

But even if you’re not tempted to jump off the overlook, you have to admit that it offers some magnificent views. Even if you can’t see the entire waterfall in one easy sweep, you can see for miles down the valley of Taum Sauk Creek, with a glimpse of the Proffitt Mountain reservoir from a few points along the way.