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Location / Directions / Maps
On the south end of Cayuga
Lake; In the city of
Address: 301-399 Lake
St, Ithaca, NY 14850
GPS: Ithaca Falls: (N
42.45282 / W 76.49170 )
Directions: From Rt
13 in Ithaca, take Seneca St east to Stewart Ave.
Take a left (north) on Stewart and follow it into
the Cornell University Campus. Turn left onto
University Ave and cross into Lake St.
Lake turns left, then right. The parking area
will be on your right, just before the Falls.
Information / Accessibility / Accommodations
Size/Types: Ithaca Falls is a massive
jumble of irregular cascades and a few overhanging
drops. It is 105 feet high and 175 feet wide. The
top has a small dam, a remnant from when the falls
was used to generate power. The dam is estimated at
10 ft high.
to visit: Year-round.
Moderate to High. Fall Creek can get nasty during
spring. Swimming, which is prohibited, can be
Fall Creek starts nearly 8 miles northeast near
Fillmore Glen State
Park and Summer Hill State Forest. It begins
cutting into what is called Ithaca Gorge about 3
miles east of here, creating sheer cliff and
diamond-shaped fractures along its stretch. It drops
over several man-made dams on its way to the
Cornell campus where it is dammed to create Beebe
Lake. It then tumbles over 6 natural falls on its
way to Ithaca Falls. It passes through a residential
section of the city, then Stewart Park and into
You can see half of the falls by just driving by,
but if you would like to get the full view, set
aside at least 15 minutes to walk up to the falls.
Natural Area is usually open, but during
unusually high water flow, you may not be able to
get close to the falls.
There are two small lots up on a hill just south of
where Lake St crosses Fall Creek. If those
are full, you can probably park in the lot at the
high school across the street and to the north
(assuming it is not in session).
accessibility: From the sidewalk on the
Lake St bridge.
Allowed if on a leash. For your pet's
safety, and the safety of other hikers, keep your
pet on the leash!
It doesn't matter if your dog is "friendly," it's
the law. Please clean up after.
Pets are not allowed in the water.
Local Activities and Events
here for Ithaca area events
Area Attractions / Places to Stay
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Cascadilla Gorge - Ithaca, NY
Ithaca Falls - Ithaca, NY
Robert H. Treman State Park (Lucifer Falls) - Ithaca, NY
Taughannock Falls - Trumansburg, NY
Ludlowville Falls - Lansing, NY
Bed & Breakfast
Federal House B&B - Lansing, NY
Cayuga Lake Country Inn - Lansing, NY
Touch of Country B & B - Ithaca, NY
Amazing Grace B & B - Ithaca, NY
Besemer Station Inn - Ithaca, NY
Bountiful Blessings B & B - Freeville, NY
Brookton Hollow Farm B&B - Brooktondale, NY
Carriage House Bed & Breakfast - Newfield, NY
Coddington Guest House - Ithaca, NY
Edgewood Guest House - Ithaca, NY
Columbia - Ithaca, NY
William Henry Miller Inn - Ithaca, NY
Noble House Farm Bed & Breakfast - Newfield, NY
Rogue's Harbor B&B - Lansing, NY
Reunion House - Trumansburg, NY
Finger Lakes Cabins at Mill Creek - Lodi, NY
Tourelle Resort & August Moon Spa - Ithaca, NY
Grayhaven Motel - Ithaca, NY
Book a Campsite at this Park
Robert H. Treman State Park - Ithaca, NY
Pine Creek Campground - Newfield, NY
Wineries / Breweries
Long Point Winery
- Aurora, NY
King Ferry Winery - King Ferry, NY
Mile Creek Vineyard-Winery - Ithaca, NY
Hard Cider - Trumansburg, NY
Beer Company - Ithaca, NY
More wineries are listed on the
Cayuga Lake page.
Restaurants / Cafes
Mano's Diner - Ithaca, NY
Lucatelli's Ristorante - Ithaca, NY
Thai Cuisine Restaurant - Ithaca, NY
Rogan's Corner - Ithaca, NY
Over Ithaca - Ithaca, NY
Purity Ice Cream - Ithaca, NY
Ice Cream joints...
Sciencenter - Ithaca, NY
Museum of the Earth at PRI - Ithaca, NY
Tompkins County History Center - Ithaca, NY
Johnson Museum of Art - Ithaca, NY
Center Ithaca - Ithaca, NY
Ithaca Mall - Ithaca, NY
Hangar Theatre - Ithaca, NY
Kitchen Theatre Company - Ithaca, NY
State Theater - Ithaca, NY
Cinemapolis - Ithaca, NY
Tell people about it
Ithaca Falls most definitely is the
symbol of Ithaca, New York, a city settled within
the crossroads of deep gorges, bordered by acclaimed
colleges, and rife with manufacturing history. The
waterfall itself is massive. Towering over 100 feet
tall and stretching nearly 175 ft across at its
base, it can fill the adjacent neighborhood and
Cornell's western flank with a thunderous roar in
spring. By autumn the frothy cascade slows and
students take to the banks to read or practice
photography amongst the turning leaves. This gem,
like most urban waterfalls, was once exploited and
nearly jeopardized by industrial pollution, but is
now protected and open for the public to enjoy.
With towering sheer cliffs bordering
the falls, the recently designated "Natural Area"
that houses Ithaca Falls is an unexpected oasis
within the city limits. Driving for your first time
through Ithaca, and passing the waterfall, you
almost don't believe what you see. In a single day,
easily a hundred drivers will tap their breaks as
they travel down Lake St, doing a double-take as
they pass the falls. Those that have the time, get
out and take the brief walk up to the falls. It's
quick, easy, and can be breathtaking when the water
level is high and the water is violent. Occasionally
the irresistible sound of the plummeting water and
the massive plunge pool below will attract swimmers.
Not a good idea. Fall Creek's nearly 20 miles of
watershed feeds Ithaca Falls with unpredictable
currents that have already claimed the lives of
several. Even when flow is moderate, the foamy water
it stirs up can easily overcome a swimmer, and the
froth makes visibility difficult.
There is a balance that must be
struck at Ithaca Falls. It is accessible; probably
one of the easiest, for its size, to get to in the
Finger Lakes. It is also picturesque and takes on a
new personality every season. In spring it gushes with
power, while summer brings low flow—breaking up the
cascade into sections and enhancing the character
of the rock-face. Fall color is a must-see and the
ice formations in winter can be colossal. It is a
beautiful sight for gazes and cameras year-round,
and it is comforting to be in its presence. But
visitors must keep in mind the dangers and not
underestimate the power held within the falling
waters (or rocks). Ithaca Falls is open to the
public by the City to be seen and experienced with
The settlement that became Ithaca
was founded on the flat at the south end of
a glacial lake formed by the deep gouging of the
limestone bedrock by numerous massive glaciers. The lake's
rock basin actually extends to the face of Ithaca
Falls and the flat, in which the majority of the
present city lies, is within the lake basin. Glacial rock
and mud debris filled the south end thousands of
years ago, creating the flat, and allowing the
lake's rocky outline to surround the city, jutting out
in the landscape and eroding over time to create several
Prior to pioneer settlers, the
Cayuga Indians claimed the Ithaca area as hunting
ground (the most well-known hunting camp being at
the entrance to
Cascadilla Gorge), only to be driven away
during the American Revolution's Sullivan Campaign.
After the American Revolutionary War, much of what
is now Upstate New York was divided up to pay
soldiers for their efforts. The settlement at Ithaca
(then called Ulysses) continued to grow, boosted by
the opening of the Erie Canal and then the Owego
Railroad. As a manufacturing hub of the state,
businesses in Ithaca cranked out industrial and
commercial products, such as transmission hardware,
appliances, and car parts.
In 1865, Cornell University was
founded and the city's shift towards the education
industry began. Many of Ithaca's present day
landmarks are named after prominent Cornell and
Ithaca College scholars, and many of the gorges and
park properties at some point were acquired by these
institutions or their alumni.
For a brief time the silent film
industry began to take hold with at least one studio
taking advantage of the dramatic landscape and
accessibility Ithaca offered. Several films featured
the waterfalls and cliffs of Ithaca's popular
gorges. Eventually filmmakers made their base in
The Ithaca Gun Company began
large-scale manufacturing of sporting shotguns and
rifles in 1880. Their factory was a milling and
machining complex situated over a small ravine next
to Ithaca Falls. The company dammed the top of the
falls and a large raceway diverted flow from Fall
Creek through the factory's turbine, down the
ravine, and back into the creek. In later years, the
factory upgraded from mechanical mills to turbines
that directly generated electricity to power modern
equipment. Ithaca Guns began its life making
inexpensive Remington knock-offs, but soon began
innovating and enhancing the quality of their own
models. Eventually they made quite a name for
themselves with repeat customers and celebrity
endorsements. Through military contracts during WWI
and WWII, they hit it big and expanded their
operations within the city. Milling gun barrels and
gears became big business in Ithaca, and many people
used that expertise in designing transmission
components, which soon became a booming industry
within the city too.
During its heyday, and when owning a
gun in New York was more common than owning a car is
today, models such as the Ithaca 37 Shotgun and
Lefever rifles were household names. Eventually the
need and the demand for household weaponry died down
and the guns became more collector's items than
tools. Ithaca Gun was eventually bought out and
manufacturing was moved to Northern Ohio. The
property, including what is now the Ithaca Falls
Natural area, was donated to Cornell University,
which surveyed the land and found dangerous
contamination of the soil and groundwater. Decades
of ammunition testing and materials dumping on the
factory property resulted in it being designated as a
national Superfund site, primarily because of lead
contamination (older munitions were made of lead).
Cornell then handed the land over to the city. The
EPA cleaned up the site from 2000 to 2004, and in
2006 the City condemned the old factory buildings.
Recently City and State funds have
been allocated to demolish the old factory (although
leaving the characteristic "Ithaca Gun" smokestack)
and make way for townhomes and a small park/viewing
platform (which is supposed to offer views of Cayuga
Lake and Ithaca Falls). The cost of cleanup as well
as the difficult geology of the site has caused many
delays. We have no estimated completion date.
Hiking / Trails / Exploration
From the parking area
to Ithaca Falls
Less than a quarter mile.
From the parking area, follow the dirt path
down to the small park near the creek. A path then
runs through a small wooded area into the creek bed.
You are free to explore the creek bed or continue
along the right side of the gorge towards Ithaca
Falls. This pathway may not be usable in times of
high water flow or when conditions are icy. Proceed
with caution and at your own risk.
You may also view the falls from
downstream at the Lake St bridge.
— Don't just photograph the entire falls at
once. There is so much going on with Ithaca Falls.
It is like hundreds of little unique drops in one.
Zoom in to specific parts to create unique photos.
— Don't limit your photography to one season
or one time of day. Ithaca Falls changes drastically
over time. Come back again later.
Links of Interest
Samponi Tribe History
Who to Contact
Ithaca Department of Public Works
Second Floor of City Hall
108 East Green Street, Room 202
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (607) 274-6527
Avenue Bridge — You cannot see Ithaca Falls
from the Stewart Avenue Bridge, which crosses Fall
Creek just above the falls, but you can see the dam
that caps it, as well as wonderful view across the
Ithaca Valley. It's perfect for catching sunsets as
well. Look upstream to see Forrest Falls.
Fences — The Stewart
Avenue Bridge, as well as many other bridges over
gorges in Ithaca, have been encapsulated in wire
fencing. Why? A strategy in suicide prevention.
Although this makes for more difficult photography,
some holes have been cut through the fences to allow
lenses to poke through.
Raceway — To the
right of the small park near the roadside is the
remains of the Ithaca Gun Factory's raceway that
carried the water that powered the plant. The run is
made from concrete and leads up to the turbine house
up the hill. This whole area is condemned and off
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