Ithaca's loaded with waterfalls

by Sue Freeman

14850 Magazine > June 2002 Issue > Ithaca's loaded with waterfalls

It's no secret that the Ithaca area is loaded with waterfalls. Pick up any tourist publication and you'll see a picture of one. They're one of the many reasons tourists come to the area. But as residents, have you visited the waterfalls in your own neighborhood? There's something in human nature that pushes us to seek adventure outside our home turf and put less value on the possibilities just outside our door. This spring and summer, consider going on a waterfall quest in Ithaca.

It's impossible to remain stressed as you sit by a waterfall. In these days of busy schedules and hectic lives, it's important to take time out to enjoy the soothing effects that a waterfall can provide. And, walking to a waterfall is good exercise. Who among us doesn't need more exercise?

The majority of Ithaca's waterfalls can be found in the three creekbeds that bisect the city on their way to Cayuga Lake. Fall Creek, as the name implies, is dotted with waterfalls. Closest to the lake is 150-foot-high Ithaca Falls, a prime swim area as well as a mesmerizing waterfall. Take a two-mile round-trip hike east from Stewart Avenue on the Cayuga Trail and you' ll pass Forest Falls, Foaming Falls, Rocky Falls and finally Triphammer Falls in the heart of Cornell University.

Slightly south of Fall Creek is Cascadilla Creek. Begin your climb from the corner of West Court Street and Linn Street for a 1.4-mile round-trip hike up the gorge. You'll pass nine waterfalls with a culmination at 50-foot-high Cascadilla Falls. Further upstream is Judd Falls, where Reuben Judd operated a water powered woolen mill from 1832 to 1858. This waterfall can be viewed from Judd Falls Road where the Ithaca Recreationway Trail crosses the road on an old railroad bridge.

The third waterfall laden creekbed is Six Mile Creek. A short walk from the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve parking area leads to Wells (or Business Man' s Lunch) Falls which is now capped with Van Nattas Dam. Hike the opposite direction for 4.8 miles round-trip and you'll pass two waterfalls created by dams on your way to Potter's Falls. Potter's Falls is a 25-foot-high, jagged-edged cascade nestled in a deep forest. It's the perfect place to contemplate your existence.

Meet the author!

Free slide show
"Local Trails & Waterfalls"
Sunday, June 9th, 2002 at 4pm
Borders Books & Music
Pyramid Mall, Ithaca

Learn where to go to enjoy the outdoors near Ithaca. Rich & Sue Freeman, authors of 7 guidebooks to area trails, will present a slide show on local trails for hiking, dog walking, bicycling, skiing, and waterfall discovery. This is part of the grand-opening events for this new Borders store.
Even now, you're far from done exploring the waterfalls of Ithaca. Head south to explore Buttermilk Falls in Buttermilk Falls State Park and Lucifer and Lower Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park, and hike a segment of the Finger Lakes Trail to see three waterfalls in Lick Brook. Then change to Teva-type sandals or old sneakers and get your feet wet creekwalking up VanBuskirk Gorge to enjoy two more impressive waterfalls.

You're still not done. North of Ithaca you'll find Taughannock Falls on the west side of Cayuga Lake and Ludlowville Falls on the east side. Head over to Dryden and follow the Finger Lakes Trail to Bud Brook where twelve waterfalls are your reward.

Whew, I'm out of breath just talking about exploring the waterfalls around Ithaca. Your quest won't be easy. Reaching many of these waterfalls requires long hikes, steep climbs or the mastery of many steps. But, oh the rewards. Your heart will pump healthier and your senses will be enriched with new sights and sounds.

Finding these and hundreds of other waterfalls is now simplified, thanks to the new guidebook "200 Waterfalls in Central and Western New York - A Finders' Guide" (Footprint Press,, 1-800-431-1579). Packed with maps, driving directions, helpful hints, and historical tidbits, this book should be a staple in your car glove box. That way you can pop in for a quick waterfall visit and instant stress relief wherever life takes you, in the Ithaca area or across central and western New York.