There are 24 name waterfalls in RICKETTS GLEN STATE PARK ——— along KITCHEN CREEK ——– as it flows in three steep, narrow valleys or glens in the US State of Pennsylvania. They range in height from 9ft to the 94ft GANOGA FALLS The park is named for R. Bruce Ricketts, a Colonel in the American Civil War, who owned over 80,000acres in the area in the late 1th century and early 20th century and spared the “old growth forests” in the glens from “clear-cutting”.
The park, which opened in 1944, is administered by the State’s Bureau of State Parks. Nearly all the waterfalls are visible from the FALLS TRAIL built by Ricketts, which the State Park rebuilt in the 1940s and late 1990s. The Trail has been called “the most magnificent hike in the State” and “one of the top hikes in the East”. The waterfalls are on a section of Kitchen Creek that flows down the ALLEGHENY PLATEAU to the north and the RIDGE-and-VALLEY APPALACHIANS to the south. The waterfalls are a result of increased flow in Kitchen Creek from glaciers enlarging its drainage basin during the last ICE AGE.
Ricketts named 21 of the waterfalls, mostly for Native American tribes and places, and his family and friends. There are 10 named falls in GANOGA GLEN, 8 named falls in GLEN LEIGH and between 4 and 6 named waterfalls in RICKETTS GLEN. The DCNR names 22 falls, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) names 23 falls and Scott E. Brown’s 2004 book ——– Pennsylvania : a guide for hikers and photographers names 24. The falls are described in order going upstream along the creek for each of the three glens.
The headwaters of Kitchen Creek are on a dissected plateau, from which the stream drops approximately 1,000ft in 2.25miles as it flows down the steep escarpment of the Allegheny Front. Much of this drop occurs in Glen Leigh and Ganoga Glen, 2 narrow valleys carved by branches of Kitchen Creek, which come together at WATERS MEET. The branch in Glen Leigh has 8 named waterfalls and lies north of the ‘confluence’, while the branch in Ganoga Glen has 10 named waterfalls and lies to the northwest. Ricketts Glen lies south of and downstream from Waters Meet.
About 250-300million years ago, the Allegheny Plateau, Allegheny Front and Appalachian Mountains formed the ALLEGHANIAN OROGENY. This happened long after the sedimentary rocks in the park were deposited, and the part of GONDWANA that became Africa collided with what became North America, forming PANGAEA. In the years since, up to 5,000ft of rock has been eroded away by streams and weather. At least 3 major glaciations, in the past million years, have been the final factor in shaping the land that makes up the Park today.
The effects of glaciation have made Kitchen Creek “unique compared to all other nearby streams that flow down the Allegheny Front”, as it is the only one with an “almost continuous series of waterfalls”. Prior to the last Ice Age, Kitchen Creek and Phillips Creek had drainage basins of similar area and slope, and both watersheds were confined to the Allegheny Front. This changed, when receding glaciers formed temporary dams on two of Kitchen Creek’s neighbouring streams. As the glaciers retreated to the northeast about 20,000yrs ago, glacial lakes formed. Drainage from the melting glaciers and lakes cut a “sluiceway” or “channel” that diverted the headwaters, and they also left deposits of debris — 20-30ft thick, which formed a dam blocking water from draining into the BIG RUN. The result was increased water flow in Kitchen Creek which has been cutting the falls in the glens since.
While the official Ricketts Glen State Park web page classifies waterfalls as either “wedding-cake” or “bridal-veil” type, Brown’s book has four classification : falls, cascade, slide and chute. In the “bridal-veil” type, water falls freely from a ledge. The “wedding-cake” type is divided into 3 types: “cascade”, where water falls down a “vertical to nearly vertical” surface that has “terraces” ; “slide”, where water falls down a “near vertical to less than vertical” wide surface that is smoother than a cascade and “chute”, where the water is confined by rock as it falls down “a narrow slide or cataract-like feature”.