“As long as I live, I’ll hear the waterfalls and birds and winds sing.” — John Muir, American naturalist
If John Muir found himself in Schenectady on a sticky summer day, the famous nature writer and co-founder of the Sierra Club would not sit indoors next to the air conditioner. He would probably chill out at a nearby waterfall.
There are more than a dozen cool and refreshing cascades that you can visit in Schenectady County, Montgomery and Albany counties, according to Iloveny.com. If you’re up for a road trip, there are more than 60 to explore in the Adirondacks and another 60 in the Catskills.
“There are so many. And for waterfall fans, it’s a banner year,” says Mark King, executive director of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. “If you pick the right day, and go right after one of the more significant rainfalls, you can get some good flow, which most summers you’d never say that.”
The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has protected 5,000 acres in Schenectady, Albany and Montgomery counties, and three of its 17 nature preserves — Bozen Kill in Altamont, Wolf Creek Falls in Knox, Albany County, and Schoharie Creek, near Duanesburg in Montgomery County — have trails that lead to waterfalls.
But you don’t have to be an experienced hiker to visit them.
“The trails are fairly short and easy. They are all walks. We don’t have anything that’s a really rugged climb,” King says. “And there’s a downloadable map for every preserve.”
A veteran waterfall walker, King says the most popular ones in the region, like Kaaterskill Falls in Greene County, are awe-inspiring but “so many people go there.”
Smaller waterfalls are beautiful and really peaceful places to visit, he says.
“I always tell people the beauty of a waterfall goes well beyond the size of the stream or the fall. That’s one of the selling points of our preserves. It’s a good chance that you’re the only one there.”
One of his favorites is the rippling falls in the Bozen Kill Preserve, a scenic spot only 1,000 feet from the parking lot. “It’s quite small, probably three feet, but it’s got these triangular rocks in it. For some reason, that always attracts me.”
Wolf Creek Falls has multiple cascades that are dependent on rainfall and the flow of the creek. “It’s a pretty little preserve,” King says. Schoharie Creek Preserve is “a lovely walk. It’s a little more rugged, a little steeper. It’s a very under-utilized spot.”
Another fun way to visit local waterfalls is to do the Seven Preserve Challenge. Launched last year by the Niskayuna-based Environmental Clearinghouse of New York, also known as ECOS, the program gives a patch to people who visit six nature preserves in Schenectady County and one in Albany County.
Five of the seven places in the challenge have waterfalls: Sanders Preserve in Glenville; Plotterkill Preserve in Rotterdam; Christman Sanctuary in Duanesburg and Indiankill in Glenville, which are all Nature Conservancy sites; and the aforementioned Bozen Kill Preserve.
Saratoga Springs artist Anne Diggory is enchanted by waterfalls, and images of water flowing over rocks have appeared in her paintings for decades.
“I am inspired by the contrast of moving forms with static ones,” she says. “The light colors of cascading waters set up a great contrast with darker shores.”
Toting a sketch book or oil paints, Diggory has trekked to many waterfalls in the Capital Region and Adirondacks. Five of her waterfall paintings are currently on exhibit through Sunday, July 28, at Corscaden Barn Gallery in the Adirondack village of Keene Valley.
In 2001, a New York Times reporter accompanied Diggory and her friend Catherine Minnery, also an artist, as they hiked in the High Peaks Wilderness to The Flume, a canyon of waterfalls and rapids that forms the headwaters of the Hudson River.
Her favorite waterfall subject?
“Buttermilk Falls near Long Lake … I have painted or sketched at least 12 versions at various water levels, times of day and seasons.”
Closer to home, she’s fond of a hidden waterfall on the Snook Kill, a stream in Greenfield Center, five miles from Saratoga Springs.
Ready to go waterfall walking? Here are a few places:
-- Plotterkill Nature Preserve (Rotterdam, Schenectady County): A ledge-filled gorge, 60 and 40 foot falls and several smaller ones. Some easy trails, some that are steep and difficult. Safety improvements, including viewing platforms, are in the works but use caution. (Nature Conservancy, www.nature.org)
-- Bozen Kill Preserve, Schoharie Creek Preserve and Wolf Creek Falls Preserve. (Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, mohawkhudson.org)
-- Mine Kill Falls (Gilboa, Schoharie): A three-part cascade in Mine Kill State Park. Five-minute walk to the upper section, 15 minutes to the lower.
-- Rensselaerville Falls (Rensselaerville, Albany County): Hundred-foot falls in a ravine formed by Tenmile Creek; in the Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve and Biological Research Station, which offers programs for visitors.
-- Cohoes Falls (Cohoes, Albany County): This monster waterfall, just past the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers, is 65 feet high and more than 600 feet wide. Short paved path to viewing area, picnic tables.
-- Christman Sanctuary (Delanson, Albany County): Fifteen-minute walk to the waterfall and the big pool at its base. (Nature Conservancy, www.nature.org)
-- Dionondahowa Falls (Greenwich, Washington County): Off Route 29, a 15-minute walk to upper and lower views of a 55-foot waterfall on the Battenkill.
-- Tenant Creek Falls (Hope Falls, Hamilton County): Easy half-mile hike to 40-foot waterfall. If you go farther upstream, there’s another 20-foot waterfall.
-- Rockwell Falls (Lake Luzerne, Warren County): Park your car and walk over the Route 4 bridge to see this 10-footer on the Hudson River, upstream from where the Sacandaga River meets the Hudson. The falls is on the way to Hadley Mountain, a popular hiking trail.
-- Augur Falls (Wells, Hamilton County): Easy, 10-minute walk to views of gorge carved by Sacandaga River and a misty waterfall with a 40-foot drop. Keep a safe distance from edge, as there is no guard rail and trail can be slippery.
More info ...
At the library, in your bookstore and online, you’ll find everything you need to explore waterfalls.
Russell Dunn, an Albany author and licensed hiking guide, has written nine books about Northeast waterfalls, including the Mohawk Valley, Catskills, Berkshires and Adirondacks.
On Facebook, there’s Dig the Falls.
On www.iloveny.com, click on “Adventures” and then “Waterfalls.”
Other websites: alltrails.com, newyorkupstate.com, world-of-waterfalls.com and onlyin yourstate.com.