My wife, Jennifer, and I recently made our second excursion to Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands of Southwest Penn., and a few days later she relayed to me an interesting tidbit about Cucumber Falls.
We’re both photographers who have enjoyed exploring the many beautiful places nearby our new home in Morgantown, West Virginia.
One new place we explored during our May 2018 visit to Ohiopyle was Cucumber Falls.
As there had been plenty of rain prior to our springtime visit, the steps and trail down to the falls made me happy that we both had good Keen hiking boots instead of the sandals that I saw some people maneuvering around in.
We spent an hour or so photographing — me with my Nikon 810, Jennifer with her iPhone — before going on our main hike on the Ferncliff Trail.
A couple of days later Jennifer told me something one of her co-workers had told her. He had asked her, do you know why Cucumber Falls is named that, and then told Jennifer it’s because rattlesnakes smell like cucumbers. Interesting.
Yes, there are rattlesnakes and other poisonous vipers at Ohiopyle, and yes, they sometimes emit a strong musky odor when threatened or touched that smells like cucumbers. Snakes are as scared of people as we are of them, and tend to be out early in the morning, and then go into hiding when the heavy foot traffic gets underway. It is advisable to always look over a log that you are stepping over just to make sure that a surprise does not await you on the other side.
Joanne Klimovich Harrop writes for the TribLive: “If you cross paths with a venomous snake, back away and give it some room to move away, he said. The snake will move along when it feels it is not at risk.”
So, does the falls get its name because of the rumor passed on to me by my wife?According to Carolyn Holland, the “Cucumber Run is named for the abundance of one species of magnolia tree, the cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminate), that still is found in the watershed. Another explanation for its name came from a friend: the surface of the Youghiogheny River, from where Cucumber Run enters it, had the appearance of cucumbers from the way the water flowed downstream.”
This explanation is also offered by Paul Wiegman in an interesting article he wrote about the falls for TribLive.
An excellent overview of snakes in the area — Snakes out and about in Ohiopyle, region — is offered by Olivia Goudy of the Herald-Standard in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
The indie rock band Califone has even written a song appropriately titled “Rattlesnakes Smell Like Split Cucumber.”