Steam Trains & Hometown Waterfalls
February 7, 2004

While on my fitness walks on the streets along the edge of Van Buren's Mount Vista, I've noticed several natural watercourses headed straight for the edge of the bluff. Which got me to thinking - I wonder if there's a waterfall down there somewhere? It's certainly possible considering there's a 300 foot change in elevation in one tenth of a mile.
Up top it's all private property, but the woods below the bluff are not fenced or posted; so this fall I found the area on a computer topo map, marked a course, and transferred coordinates to my GPS receiver that I could call up some day after a big rain.
Wednesday night we received 1.1 inches of rain, which combined with some other recent rains told me it was time to look for a waterfall.
I'm going to switch to another story briefly about what happened on the way to look for waterfalls. As I was crossing the railroad tracks at the West end of Main Street I noticed something odd. There were 20 or 30 people scattered up and down the train tracks. Now this was 7:30 on a Saturday morning and it was below freezing outside. What the heck? I shrugged it off and drove on down toward Lee Creek Park, and noticed several more people near the tracks - some of them photographers with cameras on tripods. Then when I got all the way down to the park there was a truck parked in the place I had planned on parking. I got out and walked up to the railroad tracks that follow along the base of Mount Vista, and there was a guy standing there with a camera. He saw me and said hi and I said "I've got to be honest - I don't know what's going on here. What are you here for?"
He proceeded to tell me there was this big steam train coming through. It was the biggest one in the world, had just been to the Super Bowl and was passing through on its way home. I said thanks for the info and turned and started hiking down the tracks. I'm sure he thought I was nuts.
I got a couple hundred yards down the tracks and this loud train whistle broke the relative silence. I looked up and could see this huge cloud of steam rising from down the tracks. I continued walking and all of a sudden there it was. And it was moving really fast. I grabbed my camera out of the backpack as quick as I could and started taking pictures. I didn't have time to adjust any of the settings so all the pictures came out blurry.
I did a little research on the web when I got home. You can go to Union Pacific's web page to read about the train and see a good picture.
Now on with the waterfall story. Further down the tracks I came upon a small stream tumbling down the mountain and making all kinds of racket - but my GPS told me I wasn't at the main watercourse yet so I went on down a couple hundred yards and came to an even bigger stream, and there was a decent amount of water in it. There were no fences or no-trespassing signs so I headed up the mountain along the stream. To make a long story short I did find a nice little 14 to 18 foot waterfall. I'm sure there are a few people who know about it - probably some of the nearby property owners or their kids or grandchildren. There was a yellow plastic bowl at the foot of the falls. It’s neat to know there’s a waterfall in my hometown.