Watkins Glen State Park

Following the shore of Lake Erie into Dunkirk, NY, we headed down into the Fingerlakes Region of New York.

Watkins Glen and Montour Falls were the destination and are a good place to spend a day or two if you are a waterfall photographer. Watkins Glen State Park, by itself, is worth the trip, but Montour Falls (right next door) has a number of nice falls and autumn would be your best time to visit. We enjoyed a number of nice restaurants and some great daytime hiking and shooting experiences here. Seneca Harbor Station is definitely a good bet for dinner, with Curly’s as our go to for breakfast and lunches. Both were reasonable and I really liked the food and service at both places.

Most notable reason to stop here, is, of course, Watkins Glen. We were advised to park one car at the bottom near the visitor center and drive another to the top, hike down, then drive back up to get the other car. That was good advice and we were able to take advantage of that advice as well as getting there early to avoid crowds. There is normally a shuttle bus (fee required), but it was not running when we were there. If you are photographing, get there very early to avoid crowds and high in the sky sun as well. While the glen is deep and will shade the early and late day sun from the water, it does have an east/west orientation (basically – more like WSW to ENE) but it’s best to go early in order to avoid the crowds. It does get very busy and there is not much room to shoot to start with, so being able to avoid crowds will help you with good compositions.

As I said before, it’s difficult to shoot in this gorge. It’s very narrow and there isn’t any access to the creek itself, so you are obliged to shoot from the trail, which is narrow and full of tourists, just like you. Fortunately, most use phones to photograph, so not so many tripods when we were there.

We stayed in Mountour Falls and were able to visit Watkins Glen State Park and also visit 3 additional locations in Montour Falls itself in one day. I have to say, it was a very rewarding side trip on our way to Maine. I recommend it. We had no reservations, and as you can expect, the place was somewhat crowded, but we found lodging at The Falls Motel on N. Genesse St. in Montour Falls. Nothing fancy, but reasonable and clean.

This is the lower falls at Havana Glen Park. This is a nice park with picnic areas and lots of parking. You might be captivated by these lower falls and not even realize that the show is upstream. Just follow a not so obvious trail up the left side of the creek to see the main falls. It’s not difficult.

Havana Glen
Havana Glen

Deckertown Falls is kind of dangerous to get to the main falls. There are minor falls as you get to the creek from the small parking area, but the best is upstream. However, the approach is very steep and slippery with lots of mud and loose shale to obstruct good footing. There are several ways down into the grotto, with tree root hand holds, but not much good footing on the way down. Just be careful here. You could really get hurt if you’re not careful as it’s about a 50′ decent.

Deckertown Falls

We also visited a roadside fall on NY 414 called Hector Falls. It’s north out of town, up 414 on the east side of Seneca Lake just north of Watkins Glen. Unfortunately, it was in full sun, so not the best shot and also the only view is from the roadside bridge overlook. Parking is nasty and tight and the traffic seems to be pretty fast going by. So be careful.

Hector Creek Falls

We also visited Montour Falls and Shequaga Falls. Shequaga was under construction with heavy equipment in the way and was basically closed, but there was not much water trickling over the falls anyway. Montour Falls was basically dry. The images below are from Google Earth and just for reference.

Montour Falls
Shequaga Falls

All in all, a worthwhile diversion on our way to Maine. I always like to break things up on this trip, so as not to be in a hurry and try to have a bit of fun along the way. I think I might be going this way again sometime. It’s quite pretty.