This waterfall is tucked away in the Smith Creek Nature Preserve just south of Boxley.
The Preserve is a 1,226 acre preserve that contains Smith Creek (which flows into the Buffalo near Boxley), and sits atop Sherfield Cave, which contains the largest colony of Indiana bats in the state. Last week was my first ever visit to this area, and I was pleasantly surprised. The parking area and trailhead are tucked away just off of highway 21, and in previous drive-bys didn't look terribly well developed or maintained. But once you get to the parking area, there are several well-developed trails -- more than we were expecting - so we're already planning our next trip back to the area.
QuiVaLa Elise Falls is one of the highlights of the area for photographers and nature lovers (the cave, which is not accessible, is the reason for the preserve). The falls name is literally translated from French-Indian and translates to mean "Who goes there Elise?" Elise is Elise Roenigk, who, along were husband, owned the land and made it available to the Nature Conservency in 2005.
To get to the falls, start at the trailhead at the main gate. There are generally maps in a box at the main gate to help guide you. Start directly down the road past the gate. As you get to the bottom of the first hill at about .2 miles the main road will veer right, while a smaller trail will take off directly to your left. Turn LEFT here (there was a sign here last week that pointed you to "Elise Falls").
You will follow this trail (which also follows an old, less-traveled road) the rest of the way down the hill. It will be steep at times, but was well maintained and easy to follow. We also hiked in Spring and there were a lot of purple, white, yellow and red wildflowers all along the trail.
At .7, the road will run into Smith Creek. Smith Creek is usually dry here (I believe it runs mostly underground at this point) and you will want to walk out into the creek bed. There are more trails that pick up on the other side of the creek that we'll hike some other day.
However, to get to the falls, you'll follow the creek bed to the left (downstream) for a a couple hundred yards past a small bluff. Just past the bluff, you'll see a small creek come in from your left that spills into Smith Creek. Follow this creek upstream 100 yards and you'll get to the falls.
The falls is 21 feet high and tumbles through a slot in the rocks in the bluff line. It's a pretty neat little falls. When you're done here, it's time to turn around and head back OUT of the creek area. You'll follow the same track you came in on, but you'll have 500 feet of elevation gain getting back out, which makes the hike out much tougher than the hike in.
Getting to the trailhead:
The Trailhead is just off Highway 21 just south of the Boxley Valley. Look for a two track road with a red gate on the left (east) side of the road. The gate sits about 100 feet back from the road. The entrance is exactly 3 miles form the Boxley Baptist Church This is 3.2 miles North of the Mossville Church. There is a sign there highlighting the Smith Creek Nature Preserve. Drive down this dirt road to the the parking area by the gate (there is room here for 6 cars or so). The trail begins on the other side of the gate.
Distance: 1.7 miles round trip
Footwear: Trail shoes or hiking books
Kid Friendly: It's safe to travel on, so if they can make the 500 foot climb back out, then it's a good trail for them.
Trail Guide: Tim Ernst's Waterfall Book. Or, pick up a map at the trailhead.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.