Finding the Waterfalls of New York State!
by Donna McCabe
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There’s a saying about making a trip you take being as much about the journey as it is about the destination. I’ve really taken that to heart since my son is now in college in Andover, Massachusetts while I live in northern Niagara County in Western New York – think Niagara Falls area – with my husband and our other two sons. We find ourselves traveling across New York State more lately and I realized that if we added on a day or two to our trips, we could explore some of the areas along the way and turn our trips in more of an adventure. There are so many areas we wouldn’t typically see! Photography is a growing interest of mine so these stops give me the opportunity to practice and sharpen my skills, too.
Initially, my interests started with exploring New York State Parks. My family & I would plan day trips into central New York based on a park I chose that offered something fun to photograph. That quickly expanded once I got my copy of Waterfalls of New York State. I usually check in there to see what we will be near or what could be a reasonable detour. As I’m making my list of places to visit, I’ll hop on Google Maps to see how far apart the stops are so I have an idea of travel time and I’ll also look at the book to see what walking/hiking time to expect. That’s just me being a travel nerd.
In mid-February, our son had a track meet in western Massachusetts and, on the trip out, we decided to stop at four different waterfalls in the general area of Albany, NY … Buttermilk Falls in Schaghticoke, Cohoes Falls, Mount Ida Falls aka Poestenkill Falls in Rensselaer and finally, Barberville Falls.
Buttermilk Falls in Schaghticoke is right next to the road so no hiking required. We found a safe place to park and walked back so I could take some pictures. Previous visitors attached a rope to the guardrail to help others climb down & back up the embankment but I was able to climb down on my own thanks to the snow. While smaller than some other falls, the bit of gorge surrounding this one and its accessibility hold a lot of appeal. The water flow was great on the day we went. I’ve seen some pictures where this one can get dry during the summer so our timing worked out really well. There is some privately owned land around this one so just be aware of where you go and be respectful of the “no trespassing” signs.
Up next and about 15 minutes away from Buttermilk Falls is Cohoes Falls. This one is quite the stunner. Magnificent is the word that came to my mind when I saw this one. We weren’t able to access the lower portion of the falls but I’m planning on revisiting this one so hopefully that will be an option next time. There is a viewing area/little park designed for visitors to view the falls and that’s where I stood to capture this image. I think this is my favorite one of the entire day.
Our third stop was at Mount Ida Falls aka Poestenkill Falls in Rensselaer. Since we were visiting in February, our choices to see the falls were to either walk down an ice covered trail or walk down the snow covered hill typically used for sledding. Since the hill looked less icy, we opted to take that way down. There are a couple of overlooks built into the fencing along the gorge and the remains of a viewing platform down at the end. I could tell the platform was long gone but hopefully it will be replaced in the not too distant future so visitors have a safe vantage point.
The last stop on our list was in Barberville to view the falls that are part of the Barberville Falls Nature Preserve. I read up on this one beforehand and noted that the neighbors around this area have had quite a bit of trouble with visitors who choose to ignore the posted signs of private property, no swimming, no glass containers, and other issues. Because of this, access to the falls is prohibited from Memorial Day until after Labor Day. All the private property is posted so please make note of the signs and be respectful of their land.
We took the short but very steep trail to the base of the falls. There was plenty of snow and ice to contend with but we made it down and back up in one piece. Although I slipped a few times on the way down, the view from the bottom was totally worth it.
This side trip to see four waterfalls was well worth our time and it made for a great day out & about with my husband. We both love being outdoors and we’re using the #NYSwaterfallchallenge as our incentive to get out and explore more. Winter can be a long one in New York, but finding something we are both enjoying makes it all the better … plus each season add something unique. One of the benefits we are enjoying the most is that we are seeing so many areas of New York State that we would not normally see and traveling on roads that we definitely wouldn’t have taken. Just goes to show that if you get off the thruway you never know what you’ll find!
For more information on New York State waterfalls, please visit our New York waterfall map.