One of five major cascades is seen on Crabtree Falls in George Washington & Jefferson National Forest in Nelson County, Va., on Jan. 14, 2019. (Image by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

There isn’t much more romantic than coming upon a waterfall when hiking by a stream. But what if that waterfall has the highest vertical drop east of the Mississippi River? Welcome to Crabtree Falls, a popular site within in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest in Nelson County, Virginia.

A series of five major and several smaller cascades make up the falls that tumble a total of 1,200 feet into Crabtree Creek below. From there, the water flows into the Tye River, onto the James River and, eventually, ending up in the Chesapeake Bay.

It is believed that the falls are named after William Crabtree, one of the first settlers to arrive in the area in 1777. However, it was noted environmentalist and native Nelson County resident, L.A. Snead, who led negotiations for the U.S. Forest Service to secure the land surrounding the falls in the late 1960s to stave off attempts for the area to be developed.

If you choose to visit the waterfall, make sure to follow the rules of the park and heed the safety warnings along the trail leading to the falls. It is believed that over the years approximately 29 people have tumbled off the trail to their deaths while trying to get a better view of the waterfall.

Winter is a great time to get outside in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Many parks remain open year-round and crowds thin out. Make sure to check online before heading out to make sure portions of the park are not shut down due to bad weather.

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