Seventy Six Falls was kind of an ominous waterfall for us because we noticed three shrines or crosses that we believe commemorated loved ones who probably lost their lives here.
After our visit to this plunging waterfall (I don’t know how tall it is though I’d guess it’s around 90ft or so), it became apparent why people might have lost their lives at this spot. After going down some steps from the car park, then crossing a bridge over the waterfall’s feeding creek before reaching the sheltered picnic area, it quickly became apparent to me that getting a good view of the falls became dangerous.
It turned out that the fenced off area (to minimize cliff exposure) by the picnic spot didn’t yield any views of the falls. However, if you go past the end of the fence to the left, there was a very narrow ledge with high exposure to fatally high drop offs. The farther you went on this ledge, the more of the waterfall became visible, but it became clear that this might not be the best way to view it (especially in light of the existence of an alternate overlook from the other side of the falls).
There was a warning sign and fence placed before the ledge to try to keep people from trying to get onto the ledge, but clearly if you’re thin enough, it won’t be much of a deterrent. If I had to guess, this might have been the only way to view the falls without a house boat before the trail to the alternate overlook was built. Of course, I’m just guessing here, but it would make sense considering the quantity of fatalities that we imagined must have happened here.
Anyways, the moral of the story is that if you’re intending to view the falls safely, don’t do it from the side where the picnic tables are. You’ll get good views of the southern end of Lake Cumberland (which I believe is a manmade lake filling in gorges in the same way Lake Powell inundated Glen Canyon in Arizona), but not of the falls.
Instead, take the stairs that parallel the road a short distance before going up more steps towards a lookout with a flat concrete railing. This path deviates from the path to the picnic area without you needing to cross the bridge over the waterfall’s feeding creek.
At the lookout railing, we found that we could get a decent view of the falls though there was always some foliage blocking part of the falls. At least most of the falls should be satisfactorily seen from here. However, it looked like the trail continued beyond the overlook. Unfortunately, we didn’t go further to see where it went so we can’t say more about it.
I’d imagine that if there was enough water on Lake Cumberland, you could boat your way towards the side arm that led to Seventy Six Falls in order to get a good frontal look at it. However, I have yet to see in the literature any frontal views of the falls so I’m not sure how feasible the boating option is nor if there even exists a safe way to get to the base of the falls by foot.
I’ve read in the literature that this waterfall got its name from the numerical value given to the survey area that encompassed it. It is related to neither the height of the falls nor anything to do with the 76ers.
We came here from Williamsburg, KY en route to Mammoth Cave National Park. I’m sure there are many ways of getting here, but we’ll just describe our route so at least you have a sense of how long it took us and the directions when you get close to the falls itself.
From Williamsburg, we went about 20 miles west on Hwy 92. Then, we turned right onto US27 (going north) and drove for about 3.5 miles before the Hwy 92 continued on the left. We then went about 31 miles on Hwy 92 towards the town of Monticello.
Within Monticello (the nearest town to the falls, I believe), we turned left onto Hwy 90, headed west and left town as we continued for another 18.6 miles. We then turned right onto Hwy 734 and then an immediate right at the fork onto Hwy 3062 (Seventy Six Falls Rd according to my map). We continued on route 3062 for another 1.7 miles to the car park on the left side of the road.
Oddly enough there was an absence of signage for the Seventy Six Falls when we pursued it in our Appalachians 2012 trip. We’re not sure if signs were taken down (to discourage visitation due to the tragedies possibly) or if they were never there to begin with. But given our experience with most of the Southern waterfalls being well signposted, the absence of such signage during our visit was definitely noticeable.
If you are on the I-65 going northeast of Bowling Green, then at about 20 miles, take the Louis B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway exit towards Glasgow (Hwy 90 I believe) and follow the Hwy 90 for about 66 miles. The KY734/KY3062 turnoff would be on the left.
Finally, for some additional geographical context, Williamsburg (the nearest town where we stayed) was 70 miles (over an hour drive) north of Knoxville, Tennessee, 183 miles (3 hours drive) northwest of Asheville, North Carolina, and 103 miles (over 90 minutes drive) south of Lexington.
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