Berkshire naturalist Thom Smith scales the frozen Wahconah Falls in winter

Berkshire County waterfalls are far more abundant than many visitors realize. Other than downtime during a summer drought, most hold excitement any time, and they are safe if we explore with care — especially when they are frozen over.

Back in my days of discovery, I tried to visit as many falls as I could when they were running highest, during the spring thaw — I thought of those days of thundering water as the most exciting time of year.Then one afternoon I snowshoed down to Wahconah Falls with Scott Jervas of West Stockbridge, who was then the aquarist at the Berkshire Museum’s Aquarium (he is now the owner of Kona’s Pool Care), and he decided to snowshoe up the falls.

It had been a frigid winter with deep snow cover, and silence surprised us where usually heard the crash of the falls tumbling 40 feet over boulders to a deep pool below. That afternoon the temperature was zero, and it had been close or below that all the week before. The falls are a popular walk all year, and today we were alone — it was as quiet there as I have ever heard.

When we reached the base of the falls, following cross country ski tracks, we took a chance and walked across the frozen pool to a frozen wall of icicles.

While I was content to take photographs from below, my friend continued, somehow finding safe footing to scale the falls all the way up. He reached the top safely, and we declared our coffee break a success — and returned to work.

On warm spring days, visitors often come here with camera in hand, or more likely now a cell phone. In warm weather, I would suggest following the path to the right to explore the cascades farther up, but use this path with caution during the winter, or wait for a dry summer’s day.

Watch children carefully, and give a hand to the very old. And take care to stay on solid ground away from the edge, avoiding wet stones.

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