Chasing Waterfalls of the Capital Region – West & Southwest of Albany
by Donna McCabe @bookgirll911 on Instagram
The first weekend of November my husband & I had plans to visit five waterfalls in the Capital Region so I could finish the region as listed in my copy of New York State Waterfalls and my total visits would be 80 towards the goal of 100 in the NYS Waterfall Challenge. The locations we had left are pretty much to the west and south of Albany which would mean a weekend road trip. Our son ended up coming home from college that weekend so we postponed the trip to the second weekend of November but we also shortened it due to the fall clock change which makes for early sunsets.
Our first stop required driving just over 3 ½ hours which means hitting the road early in the morning as we headed towards the Robert Woodruff Outdoor Learning Center which is located on the grounds of Owen D. Young Central School. This 50-acre site is open to public use thanks to the efforts of work crews made up of students and community volunteers who built bridges, cleared paths, installed signs and made the entire area accessible. You’ll find picnic tables with grills for guests to use as well. There is a basic map as you first walk into the learning center although the trails are well defined so it’s not hard to find your way around. There are also additional signs indicating points of interest such as Saw Mill Site, Creamery Falls and the Caves.
We kept mostly to the main trail until we got to Cheese Box Factory Falls. After a scramble down to the creek bed, we climbed around the rocks a bit to get a view of this waterfall and were rewarded with a view full of drama thanks to the ice and snow. After making sure we had safe footing, we walked downstream to see a bit more of the gorge. Including some of the smaller cascades, there several waterfalls along Otsquago Creek in addition to small tributaries the drop down the steep hillsides.
The next main point of interest we headed for was the caves and right behind them is Creamery Falls. The caves are made from a type of limestone known as tufa which forms from the hardened calcium deposits of streams and springs. While I’m not quite small enough to go into the caves, no doubt most kids will love exploring here. A beautiful platform and stairs have been constructed which lead you down to the creek. From here, you’ll be looking up at Creamery Falls as it slides down the stone and then crashes through the rock. As we walked around, all I could think of was how other-worldly everything looked with trees growing out of the massive rock formations and icicles hanging everywhere.
Back up on the main trail, we continued on and crossed a small footbridge over one of the streams that feed the creek. A set of manmade stairs leads to the top of the ridge so you can finish the hiking loop. Overall, the trail itself is under .75 mile but adding in side trips, you should expect to walk about a mile in total.
Once we got back to our van, we shed the cold weather gear and got the directions for our next stop – Mine Kill Falls. It’s just over an hour away and that will give us plenty of time to warm up.
Mine Kill State Park is located on Rt. 30 in the town of North Blenheim. About a quarter-mile beyond the main entrance to the park there is a short driveway & parking area indicating the trail to Mine Kill Falls. We chose to park here and take advantage of the picnic tables and grills available to heat up our lunch. I brought a pot of chili and all the fixings with us knowing we would be outside most of the day and it was going to be cold. There is just something about getting a fire going in the grill that I love and knowing we’d have a warm meal waiting for us made it all the better. With the fire going well and the pot heating up, it was time to go see the falls.
Mine Kill Falls is made up of three sections. The first two are easily seen from a set of stairs & platforms not too far from the parking area while the third requires a walk down an easily identified path. Look for the signs directing you to the viewing area or to the trail down to the base of the falls. The walk doesn’t take much time and the views are definitely worth the effort it will take to walk back up. You’ll find a log bench to relax on while you take in the sounds and energy of the falls.
All around you will be evidence of the constant erosion taking place and what a true force nature is. Before heading back up, take a few moments to read the sign about the geology of the falls and the Schoharie Valley; it has some fascinating information about the area and what the future might hold for Mine Kill Falls.
We had been gone from the grill for quite a bit of time so our pot of chili should be nice & warm by now so back up the trail we went. After enjoying our lunch, cleaning up and re-loading the van, we were back on the road to our final destination of the day – Christmas Sanctuary in Delanson.
Acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 1970, this area is home to approximately 2 miles of trails and what many consider to be the main attraction – Bozenkill Falls. There are two main trails to follow – orange and blue – with yellow being a connector between them. Before you head out, take a picture of the map so you know where you’re headed as we found the trail blazes to be somewhat lacking and a bit confusing. Efforts have been made to make the trails easier to walk on with the addition of boardwalks in quite a few locations.
The blue trail leads you out of the parking lot and loops around one half of the sanctuary while the orange trail, which connects to the blue trail at the creek crossing, loops around the other half. Stay on the blue trail and head towards the lean-to if you want to see the falls right away or you can take the blue trail in the opposite direction and meander along Bozenkill Creek to see some of the other cascades the sanctuary has to offer. We chose option #2 and were not disappointed one bit. I really could have spent a lot more time wandering around but sunset was quickly approaching so we picked up our pace and headed for Bozenkill Falls. Seeing the lean-to, the falls, and the creek altogether … wow, what a beautiful place. Swimming and/or wading is prohibited in the sanctuary but visitors will be tempted, no doubt.
We made our way up the ridge intending to get back onto the blue trail that would lead us to the parking lot. There might have been a bit of disorientation at this point but we knew the general direction to go and we eventually – and safely – made it back to the trail. Even though I had a picture of the map with me, the trail blazes were few & far between so just a note for any future visitors, keep the stream to your back and/or right and you’ll be fine.
I’m probably off the road now that winter weather upon us, but you never know, I could get that itch to explore more waterfalls. Until the next road trip!
Find me on Instagram @bookgirll911