As I understand, New York state has many waterfalls. But, when most people think of a waterfall in New York, they usually think of Niagara Falls. But we didn’t make it there. Instead, we stayed a little closer to home focusing on the Finger Lakes region.
The landscape of the Finger Lakes was formed at the bottom of a vast sea where, for millions of years, layer upon layer of silt and clay that accumulated and hardened into rock. Then over more than two million years, glacial carving of the old stream valleys, chiseling of large lakes, pushing up rolling hills and cutting grooves for waterfalls to be shaped by time.
The gorges of the Finger Lakes are a result of the erosion over many millennia by the streams that run perpendicular to the lakes. The walls of the gorge are shale, composed of layers of limestone, shale, or sandstone each of which erodes at different rates. The softer layers erode more quickly than harder stone, and as those layers that support the harder stone layers dissolve or weather away, the layers above collapse to be washed away, and over time create the deep gorges, waterfalls, and cascades.
So, with no further ado, a lot of photographs of a few waterfalls.
Taughannock Falls State Park, NY
- This State Park near Ithaca on Cayuga Lake, boasts a spectacular 215-foot waterfall that is the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rockies. We took an easy hike through the forest along the rim of the gorge for some beautiful views.
Buttermilk Falls State Park, NY
- Also located south of Ithaca, this State Park features, just a short walk from the parking lot, the 165-foot tall Buttermilk Falls. The big surprise is the Gorge Trail that zigzags upstream of the main waterfall passing several more beautiful waterfalls as it climbs up and winds its way through an incredibly beautiful landscape.
Robert H. Treman State Park, NY
- Located south of Ithaca, Robert H. Treman State Park features several waterfalls, but we could only make it to one. Enfield Falls, also known as Lower Falls, is only about 30 feet tall but has a rather unique shape.
Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY
- Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park is on a 17-mile stretch of the Genesee River that roars through the park’s scenic gorge. With three major waterfalls, and cliffs as high as 600 feet all surrounded by lush forests, it has been rated as the #1 State Park in the nation by USA Today.
And last, but certainly not least:
Watkins Glen State Park, NY
- USA Today also ranked Watkins Glen State Park as the #3 State Park in the nation. This spectacular park has 19 waterfalls located along the walkable “Gorges Trail,” a hike with over 800 steps, that was wet and steep, but it was so worth it.
Links to the New York State Park pages for each of these beautiful places: