Mariaville Falls Preserve, Mariaville
The main reason to visit the 123-acre preserve is to check out the step falls and walk along the pretty West Branch of the Union River. People recommend going in early to mid-spring, when the river is high and fast. The secondary reason is to consider the fact that a now vanished settlement was once located here, in the early 1800s. According to the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, which protects the preserve, “William Bingham of Philadelphia established a thriving village at Mariaville Falls. There is no longer any trace of the dam, the two timber mills, the tannery or the boardinghouse and homes that once comprised a village of fifty families.” There really is no obvious trace left!
Once you reach the step falls (stair falls?), and if you don’t want to make the steep scramble down the bank to the river, you can sit on a high bench overlooking the view. But if you do want to descend to the water, there is a rope slung alongside the path to help you out.
The easiest way to walk to the falls is to take the 0.3-mile upper trail from the upper parking lot to the riverside trail and follow it to the falls. It keeps going a short ways past the falls to a bend in the river. An unofficial trail continues up the river from this point. The only section that is somewhat tough on the preserve is the lower leg along the river that brings you back to the lower parking lot.
Directions: The access road to the parking areas and trailheads is marked by a large preserve sign off of Route 181, 9.7 miles north from the junction with Route 180. The road to the trailheads is unpaved and a bit bumpy, but overall in good condition.