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Waterfalls of Western New York

By Sue Freeman

Mention New York and people automatically think of New York City. It conjures up images of skyscrapers and more recently, terrorism. But, skip the city and head northwest in New York State to a region called the Finger Lakes where you'll find natural beauty in lakes, hillsides covered in vineyards and hundreds of waterfalls.

The abundance of waterfalls is due to the region's geologic history of shallow seas and glaciers. The seas deposited shelled creatures to form three major limestone escarpments or rock cliffs. The glaciers scrapped deep gouges and produced massive volumes of water as they melted creating gorges filled with waterfalls including Taughannock, Silver Thread, Buttermilk, Montour, Hector, Stony Brook, and Watkins Glen.

The escarpments interrupted the flow of water and created additional waterfalls. The Onondaga Escarpment is responsible for Akron Falls and Serenity Falls. The Niagara Escarpment is responsible for Niagara Falls and the Upper Falls of the Genesee River in Rochester.

Visiting the many waterfalls can be an easy car trip, an invigorating hike or a fun summer creekwalk. There's plenty of waterfall adventures for every age and ability. On a hot summer day the best place to be is walking up a stony creekbed, lying in a rush of cooling water, and sitting in the spray of a waterfall. Creekwalking is a sport anyone who can walk can enjoy. All you need are some non-slip Teva-like sandals or a old pair of sneakers, a willingness to get your feet wet, and a guidebook showing where to go.

Waterfall discovery can be a year round sport. Each waterfall changes with the seasons. A spring torrent becomes a wisp in summer and a wonderland of ice sculpture in winter. And, waterfall sleuthing leads to a trove of history. Early settlers used the waterfalls to power their mills throughout the region. Dams and millponds still dot the countryside. You can see remains of old mills and mills that still operate at Gasport, Williamsville, Littleville, and New Hope. Today we use the waterfalls mainly for their aesthetic beauty and for the soothing effects that waterfalls provide. Waterfalls offer magical sounds and mesmerizing sights to anyone willing to sit for a moment.

Here's a sampling of the special adventures that await you in Western New York:

- Walk behind a wall of water at Tinkers Falls.

- Hike a mile and cross an 80-foot suspension bridge to reach Royalton Falls where women's history was made.

- See small flames dance behind a waterfall from natural gas leaks at Eternal Flame Falls.

- Visit Letchworth State Park on a quest to find all 28 waterfalls.

- Creekwalk up Chautauqua Creek to sit naked in the spray of Skinny Dip Falls.

- Bicycle the Keuka Lake Outlet Trail to enjoy Seneca Mill and Cascade Mill Falls.

- Strap on instep crampons and walk up frozen waterfalls in Conklin Gully.

- Load the wee ones into the stroller and follow an easy 0.7-mile trail to see Taughannock Falls plummet 215 feet from a high rock notch.

- Follow a new 0.4-mile paved path in Rochester to stand at the crest of Lower Falls and at the base of Middle Falls of the Genesee River.

- Splash up Grimes Glen to enjoy two 60-feet high waterfalls.

Details on New York's waterfalls can be found in the guidebook "200 Waterfalls in Central and Western New York - A Finders Guide." FTo order call 1-800-431-1579.

About The Author
Sue Freeman's expertise is fun in the outdoors. She's the author of 11 guidebooks and 1 travel narrative, all aimed at enticing others to explore the outdoors. Sue escaped a corporate executive job in 1997 after 25 years, to follow her passion and has been spreading the word ever since. With a background in Medical Technology and a MBA in Marketing, writing would seem to be an unlikely career change. But, years of business writing combined with a love of the subject matter can be a powerful combination.

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