Here’s a place that’s changed for the better in the last 200 years.
Hells Hollow Falls are part of the gorge cut by Hell Run, a tributary of Slippery Rock Creek in Lawrence County.
At its headwaters Hell Run flows through farmland, then into the woods where the gorge and waterfall have been protected as part of McConnell’s Mill State Park.
It wasn’t always this beautiful.
In the mid-1800’s the valley was logged and mined for its iron-ore-rich limestone and the coal to fire its industry. The Lawrence Iron Furnace, two coal mines, a quarry, and a lime kiln were all within a short walk of the waterfall. It must have been a smoky, dirty place in those days.
In the 1870’s the local iron business collapsed and within 50 years the coal mines closed too. The trees grew back, the buildings disappeared, and the brick-walled lime kiln became a curiosity in the woods.
The only noticeable scar is coal mining’s affect on the water. The abandoned mines release toxic, orange, acid mine drainage (AMD) into Hell Run’s feeder streams above the falls. Fortunately, even in the dry month of July there’s enough fresh water to dilute it.
When I visited Hells Hollow Falls last Sunday I marveled at the miniature slot canyon upstream. Geologists say this channel was formed when the creek ran inside a limestone cave just below ground level. Eventually the top of the cave fell in and revealed the flume, pictured below. If I was the size of an ant, this would be the Grand Canyon.
The waterfall looks cool … especially in this heat.
(photos by Kate St. John, taken on 17 July 2011)