Something's in the air and it ain't love, but it's almost as good

Tangle Creek Falls, © Curt Given/Given Photography 2011The falling water was mesmerizing. Never-ending as it tumbled down the basalt rocks to a pool that was a couple of hundred feet below. Thunderous, gushing water. Its powerful splashes sending waves of swirling water and mist everywhere, covering the rocks, stone path, ferns, moss and my face. I took a deep breath.  

Moss covered trees, lush green ground cover and nearly fluorescent yellow-green lichen surrounded the waterfall. Wispy fingers of fog added an element of mysteriousness to the striking scene. I took another deep breath.

It was magnificent. 

I was totally entranced and feeling darn good.   

What is it about these gushing beauties that lift our mood? Is it the gorgeous surroundings or the soothing white noise of the falling water? Or is it something else? 

Well...a scientist will tell you it's something else--something in the air.

Winter Falls, Oregon, © Curt Given/Given Photography 2011She'll use technical terms to talk about the tiny invisible negative ions swirling about, doing their magic to make us feel better. 

But, in simple terms, these ions are negatively charged air molecules that are abundantly generated in places with falling water such as a waterfall or the ocean surf. The negatively charged part of the water droplet breaks lose and combines with oxygen atoms in the air to create negative ions. If we are nearby, we inhale the ions and once they are in our bloodstream, they have a positive effect on our health.

Your mood will lighten. You'll feel a boost in your energy. And you'll feel stronger.  

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, © Curt Given/Given Photography2010Most outdoor places have negative ions, but the levels are estimated to be 50 times higher near large bodies of water that generate water droplets. 

So next time you're needing a boost, think waterfall.

It's a small thing to do with a big benefit. 

Two places with multiple, easy-access outstanding waterfalls are near Portland, Oregon.

East of Portland, the Columbia Gorge area along the Historic Columbia River Highway has a spectacular group of waterfalls. The stone walkways and bridges that were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp only add to the charm. The most famous is Multnomah Falls, but I particularly like Shepherd's Dell with its cascading, frothing water that pools in natural tiers as it falls.  

Just southeast of Portland is Silver Falls State Park. Here you can find the Trail of Ten Falls/Canyon trail that offers views of all kinds and sizes of waterfalls. The trail even winds under some of the falls for a very different perspective and mega-dose of negative ions. Access points are along the way, so you don't need to walk the entire trail to see some pretty gorgeous waterfalls.

And then there's the most famous of them all. Niagara Falls. Although I've yet to visit them, they must be spectacular. 3,160 tons of water flows over the falls every second. Hmmm...maybe negative ions are behind the large numbers of people who honeymoon there. Should we call them love ions?

Do you have a favorite waterfall? Have you noticed your mood lift when near a waterfall or ocean surf? Tell us about your experience. 

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You might also enjoy reading a related article, The Science Behind Nature and Emotional Well-being

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