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Salmon River Falls Unique Area

Salmon River Falls Unique Area locator map

hikingfishingsnowshoeingcross country skiingWildlife Watchingaccessible trailaccessible trailicon key

Due to deteriorating conditions, the Gorge Trail is CLOSED for the foreseeable future. Please check back for updates.

Salmon River Falls Unique Area encompasses 112 acres of land. The 110-foot Salmon River Falls and the scenic gorge are the popular attractions on this wonderful parcel of state land.

Please take note of the special restrictions below, which exist both for your safety and for the protection of the property.

During winter months, ice climbing is a popular activity at Salmon River Falls. Each individual climber must register daily by depositing a registration form in the kiosk box prior to entering the gorge.

Featured Activities

Hiking

hiking

General information on hiking includes how-to, safety tips, and links to rules and regulations.

Salmon River Falls

Trails Currently CLOSED as of 8/7/19 - The 600-foot Gorge Trail leads from the Falls Trail to the bottom of the gorge. Though it contains two sections of stairs, the Gorge Trail is steep and demanding, suited only for the physically fit. The trail was built in 2000 by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) trail crew under contract with DEC. ADK provided maintenance and improvements on the site again in 2008. See seasonal restrictions below.

Extending upstream from the Falls Trail is the Upper Falls Trail, which is approximately one mile long and runs along the north side of the river to Dam Road. The trail was built with the help of the Oswego County Youth Bureau in 1995.

The River Bed Trail leads from the end of the Falls Trail to the river bed upstream of the falls. This short, steep trail was upgraded to stairs in 2008 by the ADK trail crew. See seasonal restrictions below.

Additional hiking is available on the old abandoned Wolliver Road traveling south of the west end of the parking area.

Fishing

fishing

General information on fishing includes how-to, safety tips, and links to rules and regulations.

Fishing easement maps for nearby properties are available.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

snowshoeing
cross country skiing

General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to, safety tips, and links to rules and regulations.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails.

Wildlife

Wildlife Watching

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

Accessible Features

Salmon River Falls Accessible Trail

General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

The 1,100-foot wheelchair accessible trail provides an enjoyable hiking experience within the beautiful scenery of the 110-foot falls. There is designated accessible parking. The tree-shaded hardened-surface trail runs along the northern edge of a deep gorge, with the Salmon River below. There are handrails at the overlook and a guardrail along the edge of the trail. There is no port-a-john at this location.

Directions

From Route 81 take the Pulaski exit and head east on State Route 13 to Altmar. Turn onto County Route 22 at Altmar and go past the Salmon River Fish Hatchery, to Bennett's Bridge. Continue north on County Route 22 and take a right turn heading east on Falls Road .The parking area is on the right, about one mile up the road.

Falls Road Parking (43.549161°N, 75.942301°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.

All users of Salmon River Unique Area must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Salmon River Falls Unique Area Site-Specific Rules and Regulations

For your safety and protection of the resource, the following regulations are in place:

  • A restricted area exists around and including the cliff face, plunge pool and falling rock zone. All public access is prohibited within the restricted area including swimming and wading in the plunge pool. Access is prohibited within 15 feet of the falls edge and all cliff edges.
  • The throwing or causing of anything to fall over into the gorge is prohibited.
  • The River Bed Trail is closed from November 15th to May 1st and during high water events.
  • The Gorge Trail is closed from November 15th to May 1st and during high water events. Only registered ice climbers may use the Gorge Trail during winter months.
  • The Salmon River Unique Area is closed to the public from sunset to sunrise.
  • It is illegal to possess alcoholic beverages, glass containers or paint while on the property.
  • Open camp fires are prohibited.
  • Camping is prohibited.
  • Rock climbing is prohibited on Salmon River Falls Unique Area.
  • Ice climbing is prohibited on the falls and restricted use area, but is allowed on the gorge cliff face down river of the falls restricted area. All ice climbers must register each day of use.
  • Keep pets under control and on a leash while other forest users are around.
  • Horses are prohibited on the hiking trails of the unique area.
  • Unauthorized use of motor vehicles is prohibited. This includes snowmobiles, cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs.
  • All State Forests are carry-in, carry-out facilities.
  • Unauthorized cutting of live trees or new trail building is prohibited.

How We Manage Salmon River Falls Unique Area

Salmon River Falls Unique Area is managed through the Salmon River Falls Unit Management Plan. A unit management plan (UMP) guides the DEC's land management activities on several geographically-related forests for a 10-year period, although a number of goals and objectives in the plan focus on a much longer time period. Each UMP addresses specific objectives and actions for public use and forest management. If you have questions and/or comments about this UMP, please email R7Forestry@dec.ny.gov.

The 110-foot waterfalls and the 3,000-foot long gorge are the key attributes of Salmon River Falls Unique Area. Within the gorge, there are sheer cliffs and steep slopes as high as 120 feet. There are four plant communities located on this property. Most of the upland forest acreage is a northern hardwood plant community dominated by deciduous hardwood species. Major species include sugar maple, red maple, American beech, yellow birch, black cherry, white ash and red oak. There is also a hemlock plant community dominated by conifer species mixed with northern hardwoods. Major species include eastern hemlock, white pine, red maple, American Beech and yellow birch.

Additionally, a shale talus slope woodland community (leaves DEC website) is found on the banks of the gorge. The shale cliff and talus community is characterized by sheer cliffs and loose or fallen rocks with a sloping bottom of rock debris. Cliff faces offer ledges that may contain some soil and plant growth. The overstory consists of mainly hemlock and northern hardwoods, and most of the plant cover is herbs.

History

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Salmon River Falls was part of lands occupied by the Five Nations of the Iroquois Indians. The Salmon River Falls, located 19 miles upstream from the mouth of where the Salmon River enters Lake Ontario, was an upstream barrier to fish migration, including native Atlantic salmon. The Onondaga, Oneida and Cayuga tribes of the Iroquois Nation used the falls as fishing ground where they annually harvested salmon. European settlement of the Salmon River area started in the early 1800s. Atlantic salmon runs ceased by the 1860s as development of dams in the lower river blocked fish migration.

The history and use of the Salmon River and Salmon River Falls from the early to late 1900s was driven by development of hydroelectric power facilities. In 1912, the Salmon River Reservoir was created to harness hydropower by diverting water from the falls through a 10,000-foot pipeline from the Salmon River Reservoir to the power station at Bennett's Bridge. Summer flows were diverted to practically only leakage, and the falls lost its tourist appeal.

During the 1960s, public use increased along with camping, drinking and drug use, graffiti and cliff diving. Accidents resulted in injuries and deaths at the site. In 1993, Niagara Mohawk Power Company (now owned by National Grid) was directed by the New York Power Authority to divest all the lands they owned along the Salmon River which were not essential to their core business of hydroelectric generation. In 1993 Niagara Mohawk developed a comprehensive plan which guided the sale of land. As part of the plan, Niagara Mohawk sold 1,700 acres of land and 13 miles of conservation easements and fishing rights along the Salmon River to DEC. Salmon River Falls was included in that transaction.

In 1996, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission renewed Niagara Mohawk's operating license, a new requirement directed Niagara Mohawk to ensure minimum flow releases to enhance aesthetic beauty of the falls.

Nearby Amenities and Attractions

Oswego County Tourism (Leaves DEC website)

Gas, food, dining and lodging may be found in the nearby community of Pulaski.

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and online booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search online for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.