Downtown Ithaca is Gorges
Five hundred generations ago where we now stand, mile-high glaciers were slowly melting away to reveal a landscape of crystal lakes, jagged gorges, and thundering waterfalls surrounded by gentle hills. Today, the Ithaca area is energized by people who love the sights, sounds, and flavors of a region still unspoiled. From small babbling cascades to majestic hundred-foot plunges, there are over 100 waterfalls within 10 miles of downtown Ithaca and several that are within easy walking distance of the Ithaca Commons.
A roaring, cascading fall, the Ithaca Falls (pictured) is Fall Creek’s final plunge into Cayuga Lake. With a drop of 150 feet and width of 175 feet, Ithaca Falls is one of the region’s most powerful and impressive waterfalls. In the early 1800s, a half-dozen mills were operating here; their ruins are still visible on the south bank. You can view the falls from the bridge on Lake Street 0.7 miles north of the Commons and access a footpath adjacent to the creek. The footpath is easy, free, open year-round, and open to dogs on leash.
Connecting the Cornell campus to Downtown Ithaca, the Cascadilla Creek Gorge greenway connects town and gown. Along the way, the creek drops 400 feet past nine cascades. The gorge walk is 1.3 miles with many stairs making for an excellent cardio workout. The lower portion of the trail is open but the upper section is currently closed for repairs. You can enter the trail at Linn Street 0.4 miles northeast of the Commons. Hike up to Collegetown and come back down the hill or retrace your steps.
Businessman’s Lunch Falls, so named because it is a popular lunch spot for downtown office workers, is a series of four smaller cascading falls measuring 5 to 30 feet and tumbling against the backdrop of an old millwork. To get there from downtown, follow Route 79 East from the Commons for 1.1 miles and turn right on Giles Street. Then, turn left into the trailhead parking area marked Mulholland Wildflower Preserve. The 0.2 mile footpath to the falls is an easy walk on all but the iciest days in winter.
Other waterfalls within a short drive or a long walk include Taughannock Falls, whose 215-foot drop is three stories taller than Niagara’s; Buttermilk Falls, a series of cascades and rapids with a refreshing swimming hole at the base; Lick Brook Falls, a triple cascade in a hidden nature preserve; Lucifer Falls and eleven other sublime cascades at Robert H. Treman State Park; and the little-known yet picturesque Cliff Park Brook near Pete’s Grocery on the West End.
For more information, go to visitithaca.com or stop by and pick up a waterfall guide at the Downtown Visitors Center at 171 The Commons.
Image courtesy TimberClipse