Skinny Dip Anyone?

By Sue Freeman

There’s something about waterfalls that brings out our primal instincts. Why else would so many local waterfalls be called Barebutt Falls, Bare Buns Falls and Skinny Dip Falls? It’s hard to stand near one of these tumbling waters and not peel off your clothes to frolic in the froth like one of our cave dwelling ancestors.

One, but not the only, Skinny Dip Falls lured us westward on a warm summer day. My husband had read about this creekwalk to a waterfall in Chautauqua Gorge and put it to the top of his list, as we explored area waterfalls, doing research for our “200 Waterfalls” guidebook. This one was a designated nudist area. He had been immersed lately in the sights of nature, yet he couldn’t wait to enjoy “these” natural sights.

We parked at the end of Taylor Road and walked the winding, steep, rutted old road for the remaining 0.2 mile into the base of Chautauqua Gorge. Before us flowed a shallow creek of crystal clear water over exposed rock and shale ledges. We splashed into the creek and began following it downstream. Rounding the first bend was a vivid reminder of where we were. Before us, a large rock was painted with bright yellow letters: Nudist Area Next One Mile. We were alone, and clothed. We continued downstream.

Picking our way down ledge after ledge through tumbling water, we carefully placed each step to avoid deep holes and crevices in the rocky creekbed. Finally, I couldn’t resist. The water spread over a flat slate bed. This quiet, secluded area was too inviting. Inhibitions gone, I peeled down and lay in the water, letting the coolness wash over me. Ahh, the joy of nature’s full body massage!

Continuing downstream for half a mile we came to Skinny Dip Falls, our intended destination. Here, the water narrowed in a channel then plummeted down a four-foot drop into a deep pool. If we hadn’t been naked by now, this would have inspired us to strip down. We swam in the pool and sat below the waterfall letting its powerful force pummel our backs and shoulders. The spot was idyllic and it felt right to be au natural. I enjoyed the experience thoroughly. Rich however, was a bit disappointed. He had envisioned this place peopled with svelte nudists. We were the only people here today and it’s stretching the truth to call us svelte. Perhaps we should have come on a weekend day rather than mid-week. I wonder if the cave dwellers bathed alone or in groups?

The other local nudism inspired waterfalls (Skinnydip, Barebutt, and Bare Buns Falls) are all in Zoar Valley in Cattaraugus County. You’re more likely to have company at these waterfalls. There are plenty of waterfalls to visit where you’ll have privacy, even if their names weren’t nudism inspired. The ones you have to walk in a creek bed to reach offer the best possibilities. So, go wild this summer and enjoy a refreshing skinny dip.

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