Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area Things to Do
Our last stop for the day, but it was really an interesting one. The Blue Heron Mining Community is an "outdoor museum". This is the end of the Big South Fork Scenic Railway as well.
What you see here are a number of skeletal "buildings" marking where the buildings used to stand when this was an active mining town. The buildings vary from places like the town church and school to various mining buildings and the entrance to the mine itself. There are several coal cars under the coal hopper, and a bridge over the coal hopper that goes all the way across the river to the other side.
Some of the buildings have recordings that discuss life in the town. The train station is a good place to start - lots of overall diagrams of the town and some introductory info. Unfortunately, it looked like there was more to see in the station, but it was closed on Sunday afternoon.
Plan to spend a couple of hours here. To see it all, plan on walking quite a bit, including up a few steep hills. This kept all of our family interested in wanting to see what the next building brought...
South of Whitley City, after another quick detour on route 742, you can pull off to a pair of overlooks of the river. Both overlooks involve very short hikes, and they both have very breathtaking views of the river valley. We saw some folks kayaking in the river below. Neither overlook takes a lot of time, but if I had to choose one - Devil's Jump has slightly more scenic views.
There's an interesting story behind how the area got its name here:
Starting at the north end of the park, the first big site is Yahoo Falls. To get there, you have to leave the comforts of Route 27 onto a smaller road, then suffer the final mile or two on a gravel road to a fairly sizable parking lot (and actual bathrooms!) Avoid the temptation to leave your car quickly and stumble around the picnic area - after a few bends, you will hit the trailhead.
The trail itself is not too bad - it's pretty wide, there are a few modest elevation changes. The toughest part of the trail is a fairly large metal staircase (going down to get to the falls, up to get back to your car.) I recall it was just short of 100 steps.
The final reward after about a half mile out is the falls. We were there in June, so the falls were fairly light, but they are quite tall. The trail loops behind the falls through a giant cavern. A very neat place! Enjoy your time before the 1/2 mile back (including going UP the stairs.)
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