Lower Falls (Genesee River), New York

The Genesee River in New York has a wealth of impressive waterfalls. There are two sets of three falls each separated by a pretty significant distance. Three are found in Rochester, while the others are found further south in Letchworth State Park. The three in Letchworth State Park (UpperMiddle, and Lower) are more isolated. The three in Rochester are reminders of the hustle and bustle of humanity.

High Falls is the furthest upstream, and is in my opinion the most impressive of the three falls in Rochester. Lower Falls is a short drive from High Falls, though I have to admit that the surroundings do seem to change somewhat dramatically. High Falls is surrounding by hip restaurants, whereas Lower Falls is surrounded by less impressive factories. It also seems less safe near Lower Falls, but that just means you need to be more aware.

There is a park devoted to Lower and Middle Falls, but the views to be had there are not the most spectacular. You can’t see the whole falls at the park viewpoint. Better views might be had on the bridge downstream from the river, though I don’t remember if there was a path for pedestrians. Still, the falls were flowing pretty intensely, so it was impressive even if the surroundings weren’t.

Directions:

  1. From I-490, take the Rochester Inner Loop Highway to St. Paul Street.
  2. Turn left onto Driving Park Avenue.
  3. You will cross the bridge over the Genesee River.
  4. Just a short distance after crossing the bridge, there will be a parking area for the park on your left. If I remember correctly, the parking area was right near the YMCA. We showed up later in the day, so I don’t think there were parking issues.
  5. Follow the Genesee Riverway Trail to Lower Falls. Middle Falls is on the same trail.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 78′
Length of Hike: 0.6 miles round-trip

Lower Falls of the Genesee River in Rochester in May 2009

Where in the World is Lower Falls?

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Wee Water Willy, New York

Wee Water Willy in May 2009

Wee Water Willy is a fun, little waterfall in Letchworth State Park. It’s actually taller than it appears. It starts above the path, which is at the top of the picture here. It then falls a considerable distance down into the Genesee River below. I’m not sure I’d visit it as the main attraction, but it is literally feet from Middle Falls in the park, if I remember correctly. There are a number of other small falls that can be viewed in the park if you show up at the right time, which is spring and possibly early summer. Some of them are even dry in spring.

Directions:

  1. I can’t remember which entrance we entered from, but those of off NY-39 are the best choices.
  2. When you enter the park, there will be signs leading to different areas. Find the signs leading to Middle and Upper Falls. I believe you will be heading south as you head toward these falls.
  3. The parking area for the falls is very near the southern entrance to the park. You will know you are in the right place when you see a functioning inn.
  4. From the parking area, you’ll have no difficulty finding Middle Falls. Wee Water Willy is right nearby.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 117′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Wee Water Willy?

Shadow Cascade, New York

Shadow Cascade in May 2009

Right next door to Upper Falls in Letchworth Park is this likely overlooked but very beautiful waterfall, Shadow Cascade. Shadow Cascade flows into the Genesee River, and once the waterfall passes below the bridge, it actually combines with Upper Falls, making the two pieces relatively indistinguishable.

The cascade is not that tall, but it is definitely worth visiting. You are only a hundred or so yards from the cascade as your standing next to the base of Upper Falls. If you continue further along this trail, I believe you can reach the railroad track that passes above Upper Falls.

Directions:

  1. I can’t remember which entrance we entered from, but those of off NY-39 are the best choices.
  2. When you enter the park, there will be signs leading to different areas. Find the signs leading to Middle and Upper Falls. I believe you will be heading south as you head toward these falls.
  3. The parking area for the falls is very near the southern entrance to the park. You will know you are in the right place when you see a functioning inn.
  4. From there, you’ll want to find Upper Falls.
  5. To the right of Upper Falls, you’ll notice a trail leading uphill. That trail leads right past Shadow Cascade.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 14′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Shadow Cascade?

Upper Falls (Genesee River), New York

This the furthest upstream of the three major falls on the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park. It’s not as tall as Middle Falls, though size can sometimes be deceiving.

I really think that the waterfall is very pretty, but it’s actually the things surrounding the falls that interested me, or at least made the waterfall more intriguing. First off, there is a railroad track that crosses rather far above the river. At one point, there was actually a train passing 120 feet or so above the river. You can actually walk to the railroad track, though there’s no way I would get on the track.

Also, while most of the snow had melted by the time we arrived in early May, there was some snow that was left over. It looked very odd near the waterfall, and created this intriguing view that I can’t really describe very well. The snow looked sort of dirty, but it was melting and creating its own little “waterfalls”.

There is another waterfall that is directly to the right of Upper Falls that comes from a stream that flows into the Genesee River. It’s the second portion of Shadow Cascade.

Directions:

  1. I can’t remember which entrance we entered from, but those of off NY-39 are the best choices.
  2. When you enter the park, there will be signs leading to different areas. Find the signs leading to Middle and Upper Falls. I believe you will be heading south as you head toward these falls.
  3. The parking area for the falls is very near the southern entrance to the park. You will know you are in the right place when you see a functioning inn.
  4. From the parking area, you’ll have no difficulty finding Upper Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 71′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip

Upper Falls in May 2009

Where in the World is Upper Falls?

Middle Falls (Genesee River), New York

Middle Falls on the Genesee River is a rather popular name. One of the falls is in Rochester, while the other is in Letchworth State Park. This post refers to the larger, more interesting Middle Falls in Letchworth State Park. Middle Falls is a rather grand falls. It’s pretty wide, relatively tall, and really loud! As part of Letchworth State Park, it also has many other waterfalls nearby. Upper Falls is a few hundred yards away.

The waterfall can be viewed up close from the parking area for High and Middle Falls. It can also be viewed from Inspiration Point, if I remember correctly. At that point, you can visit Inspiration Falls, which I was not able to photograph due to the angle. At that viewpoint, you will be able to see both Middle Falls and Upper Falls simultaneously, which is very cool. You may also be able to view Deh-ga-yah-soh Falls to your right, though it might be easier to miss this falls with two much larger falls in your view. Lower Falls is further downstream.

Directions:

  1. I can’t remember which entrance we entered from, but those of off NY-39 are the best choices.
  2. When you enter the park, there will be signs leading to different areas. Find the signs leading to Middle and Upper Falls. I believe you will be heading south as you head toward these falls.
  3. The parking area for the falls is very near the southern entrance to the park. You will know you are in the right place when you see a functioning inn.
  4. From the parking area, you’ll have no difficulty finding Middle Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 107′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Middle Falls on the Genesee River in May 2009

Where in the World is Middle Falls?

Deh-ga-ya-soh Falls, New York

Dehga-ya-soh Falls is in Letchworth State Park in New York, and is a tricky waterfall to view if all of the trails are not yet open. When we visited in early May, I don’t think all of the trails were open yet, so a better view might have come from the other side of the gorge. I had to settle for the same side of the gorge, and am surprised to have gotten at least some view of the falls up close. You can also see De-ga-ya-soh Falls from afar at Inspiration Point, I believe, where you can also see Middle Falls and Upper Falls simultaneously. Even if you can’t find the smaller falls, it’s great to see the two larger falls together.

The falls drops much more than the picture lets on. The total drop is about 150′, though I think I only saw the first forty or fifty feet. On the other side of the gorge, you should be able to see the whole drop.

Directions:

  1. There are multiple entrances to the park, but to see most of the waterfalls it is best to choose one near the center or south of the park.
  2. Once you’ve entered Letchworth State Park, head toward the south for the parking area for Middle and Upper Falls.
  3. In the parking area, you can see Middle Falls as you walk along the Gorge Trail. Near there, you will also see Wee Water Willy. If you continue past Middle Falls (away from Upper Falls), you’ll be heading toward the bridge that crosses over Deh-ga-ya-soh Falls. Follow the Genessee River as closely as possible, and you’ll not have too much trouble finding the falls.

*For an alternate view, try viewing the falls from the eastern side of the gorge. This is probably the better view.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 150′
Length of Hike: 0.3 miles round-trip

Deh-ga-ya-soh Falls in May 2009

Where in the World is Deh-ga-ya-soh Falls?

Lower Falls (Genesee River), New York

The Genesee River takes multiple drops as it heads toward Lake Ontario. These multiple drops occur in different places. Near Rochester, there are three major drops. In Letchworth State Park, some distance from Rochester, there are three more signifcant drops. They are unimaginatively named Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls.

Lower Falls is the furthest downstream in Letchworth State Park. It is the shortest of the drops in the park, but is still very beautiful. All three of the waterfalls are accessible, though Lower Falls does have some uneven parts of trail. Even so, it is easy to access. Along the way to Lower Falls, you will come up to a beautiful brick bridge that crosses the river, and connects multiple trails. When I visited, the trails on the opposite side of the gorge were blocked off.

Directions:

  1. I can’t remember which entrance we entered from, but those of off NY-39 are the best choices.
  2. When you enter the park, there will be signs leading to different areas. Find the signs to the Lower Falls and head toward that area.
  3. You are going to pass the Lower Falls restaurant parking lot and head to the parking lot at the end of the road.
  4. From there, follow the trail that essentially leads straight to the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 70′
Length of Hike: 0.8 miles round-trip

Lower Falls of the Genesee River in May 2009

Where in the World is Lower Falls?