10.02.16: Viewing Hayden Falls

Water flows over Hayden Falls, Hilliard, Ohio. 

Technical information

July 23, 2006,
7:31 a.m.

40°4'2” N,
83°6'35" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 (12mm)


1/4th second


Hayden Falls is what I would call a hidden treasure. Thousands of people drive past it every day but never know it’s there.

I live less than two miles from the falls, but I was one of those thousands until a few days before I shot this photo in 2006.

I knew that Hayden Run, a small natural spring, flowed alongside Hayden Run Road toward the Scioto River, crossing the border between Hilliard (where I live) and Columbus, Ohio. I could see it from the road up to the point it disappeared behind trees. I assumed the elevation of the spring gradually decreased until it fed into the river.

Then I saw an item online that mentioned Hayden Falls. I decided to stop and take a look. In 2006, the site was the definition of an unimproved area. The best way to reach the falls was to park in a small lot nearby, walk down a steep hill beside Hayden Run Bridge to the west bank of the Scioto River, then walk west from the mouth of Hayden Run to reach the falls.

What I saw was a more than 30-foot high limestone cliff with a trickle of water flowing over it. Interesting, but not something that would make a dynamic photo.

That changed two days later when the weather forecast for our area predicted at least two inches of rain in the late afternoon and evening. I knew that would turn the trickle of water into a more impressive waterfall so I decided to head back to the falls in the early morning after the heavy rain, when the rising sun would be filtering through the trees, and get some photos.

But accessing the falls site after the heavy rain proved to be a challenge. There was no longer a west bank of the Scioto River. The hill I had walked down a few days earlier now dropped straight into the flooded Scioto. The only other option was to climb down to Hayden Run using an extremely steep, slick, rocky path while wearing a heavy backpack full of camera gear. 

So off I went. I have to admit it wasn’t the best (or smartest) decision I’ve made in my life.

About a quarter of the way down I surprised a large snake (probably an aggressive, but non-poisonous, northern water snake). It raced away from the rocky trail as I started sliding down the hill. My climb turned into an out-of-control, rock-to-rock run as gravity and momentum took over, leading to an emergency off-balance leap the last eight feet down to a narrow area along the swollen creek. But I stuck the landing.

The waterfall was magnificent, with large streams of water rushing over the cliff and hitting the pool below with a loud roar.

That’s when I encountered problem number two. The quantity of water rushing over the cliff created a heavy mist that filled the valley and quickly soaked the camera equipment. It was difficult to keep the glass surface of the lens dry so I could get photos. I had a lens cleaning cloth in the backpack so I covered the glass with the cloth while I was setting up, pulled it away to focus, used it to quickly dry the glass, then took a shot. I repeated the process several times until I was confident I had the photo I wanted.

Note that I used a slow shutter speed (three tenths of a second) with the camera mounted on a tripod. The shutter speed was long enough to capture the motion of the water but still short enough to maintain the definition of the flow over the cliffs. And I “stopped down” to f/14, setting the lens to a smaller aperture to increase the depth of field to have both the falls and the rocks in the foreground in focus.

Then I packed the equipment and made my way back up the rocky path, keeping watch for the snake.

After returning home and doing some additional research online I discovered that a number of people had been badly injured from falls on the rocky trail I took. The Columbus Department of Parks and Recreation addressed that a few years ago, adding a nice (but still small) parking lot, two observation decks overlooking the falls and wooden stairs adjacent to the path I followed that lead safely to creek below.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.