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From the February 2013 Conservationist

A multi-level waterfall surrounded by forest

Photo: Scott A. Ensminger,David J. Schryver and Edward M. Smathers

Waterfalls of New York

By Scott A. Ensminger,David J. Schryver and Edward M. Smathers

There is something in the sound and sight of falling water that both refreshes and inspires us. The water's lively, relentless movement draws us closer, and the seemingly infinite flow is almost hypnotic. Perhaps that's why waterfalls have such a powerful effect on many of us.

Waterfalls of New York State celebrates 100 of the state's more than 2,000 waterfalls that range in size from modest, delicate cascades to huge, thundering cataracts. The most famous of these falls is Niagara Falls. Located on the border of Ontario, Canada and New York State, Niagara is ranked as one of the world's top 10 waterfalls, and roughly 20 million people flock to see it annually. But waterfall lovers can choose from a myriad of other falls to visit, such as those featured here, many of which have more secluded settings.

The Falls at Clarendon
(Photo at top)
Clarendon, Orleans County
Trail to falls: grass; easy
Located 200 feet west of the parking lot for the local town park, the Falls at Clarendon has a total height of 26 feet. The waterway that forms the falls is an unnamed tributary of Sandy Creek's East Branch. After going over an initial drop of seven feet, the stream then fans out to a width of about 20 feet. An extremely steep cascade with some free-falling sections makes up the rest of this picturesque falls.

Falls at Thatcher State Park

A tall waterfall viewed from the side on a misty day
Falls at Thatcher State Park
Voorheesville, Albany County

Trail: gravel and dirt with metal stairs; difficult
Located on the Helderberg Escarpment (one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the U.S.), John Boyd Thatcher State Park overlooks the Hudson-Mohawk valleys and the Adirondack and Green mountains. The park features several waterfalls ranging in height from 15 feet to more than 100 feet; Mine Lot Falls (also called "Big Falls" or "Indian Ladder Falls") is one of the most dramatic. Visitors can see this falls from the Indian Ladder Trail, which is accessible via a 60-foot staircase and follows the base of the escarpment.

Falls at Stony Brook State Park

A waterfall flows under a wooden bridge spanning a rocky ravine
Falls at Stony Brook State Park
Dansville, Steuben County

Trail: stone; easy
There are three major waterfalls formed by beautiful Stony Brook as it cascades through the twisting gorge of shale and sandstone in Stony Brook State Park: 36-foot-high Lower Falls, 25-foot-high Middle Falls, and 42-foot-high Upper Falls. All three falls are visible along the path that leads from the lower parking lot to where Stony Brook emerges from the gorge into an enticing cliffside pool.

Falls at Fillmore Glen State Park
Moravia, Cayuga County
Trail: crushed stone and dirt; easy

A three-tiered waterfall down a mossy cliff
Falls at Filmore Glen State Park
Moravia, Cayuga County

Fillmore Glen is a long, narrow gorge with waterfalls, shady woodlands and a variety of rock formations. The park was named for the 13th president of the United States, Millard Fillmore, who was born just east of the park. Thirty-seven foot Lower Falls is accessible via a short side trail on the northern bank of Dry Creek (Fillmore Creek). There are various other waterfalls, including 85-foot high Dalibarda Falls and 14-foot high Upper Pinnacle Falls.

Fitzgerald Falls
Warwick (near Greenwood Lake), Orange County
Trail: dirt and single track; easy
Fitzgerald Falls is a medium-sized waterfall located on the New York segment of the Appalachian Trail. The trail to the base of the falls is well-traveled and easy to follow. There are unimpeded views of the falls from about 180 degrees around its base. The Appalachian Trail system continues up and past the top where you are afforded an excellent view of this beautiful spot.

Dionondahowa Falls

A multi-tiered waterfall with greenary framing it
Dionondahowa Falls
Greenwich, Washington County

Trail: dirt; easy
Located just outside Greenwich, Dionondahowa Falls is an incredible sight. Once nicknamed Devil's Caldron, the plunge pool at the waterfall's base has since been dubbed Hell's Hole by local residents. The land that encompasses the Dionondahowa Falls viewing area and Dionondahowa Park is owned by Dahowa Hydro, but is open to the public from dawn until dusk.

Watkins Glen

A narow ravine with waterfalls, pools and a stone bridge crossing over
Falls at Watkins Glen State Park
Dix, Schuyler County

Trail: stones and steps; moderate
Cutting through sedimentary layers of shale and limestone, the waters of Glen Creek have sculpted a famously scenic gorge that features high cliffs, fantastic carved potholes, sparkling pools and marvelous waterfalls. There are 19 waterfalls in the glen, ranging from vertical drops to twisting cascades confined to narrow chutes. The best way to view the glen's waterfalls is to hike uphill from the main entrance, along the Gorge Trail, to the upper entrance.

A heron standson a flat rock in a stream just below some rocky waterfalls
Jay Falls
Jay, Essex County

Jay Falls

Trail: pavement; easy
While not large, Jay Falls occurs at a section of the riverbed that is effectively a natural rock waterslide. During high water in spring, the water bubbles and churns in a curtain cascade that covers the entire width of the river. At other times of the year, vast slabs of the underlying rock are exposed and the waterfall is reduced to a pair of ribbon cascades emerging from two of the lower openings in the rock. The site is also home to the Jay Covered Bridge with a park alongside that is open to bicyclists, but closed to vehicles.

Artist Falls

A covered bridge over a waterfall and pool
Artist Falls
Cairo, Greene County

Trail: dirt path; easy
Artist Falls flows beneath a handcrafted covered bridge specially built for local hikers and the clientele of nearby Winter Clove Inn. At a mere 15 feet high, the falls rivals the beauty of many of New York's tallest waterfalls. Set in a wooded area, the scenery changes dramatically with each season. The trail is well-maintained, and the short hike can be managed by the whole family. Although located on a private retreat, the falls is open to the public.

A water fall surrounded by fall foliage
Burrville Falls
Watertown, Jefferson County

Burrville Falls
Trail: concrete walk, wooden steps; easy
A popular falls in Jefferson County, Burrville Falls has many visitors, thanks to its location by the Burrville Cider Mill (one of the oldest buildings in the country). Every autumn, people come to taste the landmark mill's legendary cider and cider doughnuts, and to view the falls. Located on private property, the falls are open to visitors when the cider mill is in operation, but can also be seen from a distance off CR 156 in the off-season. Once known as Burr's Mill Falls, the waterfall is technically unnamed today, though it is locally known as Cider Mill Falls.