Fairmount Falls is an eight-acre park located at 9800 Thixton Lane. While such pocket parks are not unusual in Louisville, this one trades the usual basketball courts and playgrounds for a 40-foot waterfall!
Just minutes from the Gene Snyder and Bardstown Road interchange, Fairmount Falls displays its uniqueness the moment you step out of your car. The sound of falling water is clearly audible and six and seven-foot high boulders are strewn about the hillside trail that leads down to the falls. In the spring, this is an excellent area for viewing wildflowers.
The 1.1 mile trail is earth-packed with a few stone steps along the way. It crosses the stream at the top of the falls. Be careful on the slippery rocks and of your own curiosity which will draw you to peek over the fall's edge. It's 40 feet to the bottom. I'll claim this as the largest waterfall in Louisville, but will be happily proven wrong if you find one taller.
The falls drop into a shallow pool, which drains out a valley and eventually flows into Floyds Fork. A huge maple lifts out of the valley floor near the falls, well over a 100 feet tall. The valley is edged in rock around its upper lip. Waterfalls erode the rock over which they flow, forming valleys as they recede. In a few thousand years, the road department may need to move Thixton Lane.
Once past the waterfall, the trail dives into a thick grove of mature cedars, then slowly descends as the valley spreads out further from the waterfall. A .10 mile loop at the end of the trail walks you past another small stream, then you retrace your steps. On a windy day with temps in the 30s, I saw a few deer tracks and saw several finches and titmice flittering among the cedars. With frequent picture-taking pauses and stops to soak up the silence, I finished my Fairmount Falls visit in about an hour.
Timing your visit is important. Winter and spring are generally good times to go. Water flow at other times can be quite unimpressive and, in fact, completely dry.
Access to the Falls is by permit only. Call Jefferson Memorial Forest/Natural Areas Division at 368-5404. You'll have to fill out an application and pick a specific day you want to visit. Applications and a trail map are also available at memorialforest.com.
Photo: Shawn Nevins