Ripley Falls, Crawford Notch – Located on Avalanche Brook in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire, the 100 foot Ripley Falls is one of the more picturesque waterfalls in the White Mountains. The Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail passes by this waterfall. And while the waterfall is impressive, the history of Ripley Falls and Avalanche Brook is intriguing.
There seems to be some confusion on who first discovered Ripley Falls. Most accounts say Henry W. Ripley and a Mr. Porter first discovered the waterfall in September 1858. But other accounts say a fisherman found the waterfall before Ripley. And another account says Henry W. Ripley was a companion of the legendary Abel Crawford (1766–1851), who discovered the waterfall while out trapping sable.
The one verifiable fact is that Henry W. Ripley of North Conway and Mr. Porter (maybe William D.) of New York did explore Avalanche Brook, called Cow Brook at the time, in September 1858. They discovered two water features and named the lower one Sylvan-Glade Cataract and the upper one Sparkling Cascade.
In the book “The Connecticut by Daylight” by Thursty McQuill, published in 1874, is a copy of an entry made in the Old Crawford House register. Dated September 10th, 1858, the entry verifies Ripley and Porter did find two unique water features on Cow Brook. And though they were aware of the brook’s name (Cow Brook), they call it Ripley’s Brook, and the ravine the brook is in they call Porter’s Ravine.
However, Thomas Starr King didn't like the name Cow Brook. And in his 1859 book, The White Hills: Their Legends, Landscape and Poetry he suggests changing the name of Cow Brook to Avalanche Brook (for the 1826 Willey House disaster). And he also suggests changing the name of Sylvan-Glade Cataract to Ripley Falls in honor of Henry W. Ripley. While the name Ripley Falls seemed to have stuck, the brook would continue to be referred to by its numerous names throughout the mid and late 1800s.
It's unknown who originally named the brook Cow Brook, but it seems possible Abel Crawford named it. Abel Crawford and his family were the first to settle in Crawford Notch, known then as White Mountain Notch. The Crawford family knew the area inside and out. And while Henry W. Ripley is credited for discovering these waterfalls, you can’t help but wonder if Abel Crawford discovered them first.
Today, the brook is called Avalanche Brook, and Ripley Falls is a huge attraction. But Sparkling Cascade, now considered a forgotten waterfall, is no longer the tourist attraction it was during the mid and late 1800s. And the only mention of Cow Brook, Ripley's Brook, and Sylvan-Glade Cataract is in old publications. And Porter Ravine, named in honor of Ripley’s companion on that September 1858 day, has also been forgotten.
Happy image making…
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