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The Wonder of Waterfalls & Wildlife

By Tonya Farber

Picture a beautiful, sunny day with a flawless, cornflower blue sky mixed with fluffy white-cotton clouds having just enough warmth from the hot sun to kiss your cheeks ever so gently. Now, add a light breeze that strolls through your hair gingerly as you are walking on a path leading to the unexpected… all of this is a description of my very first experience at Chittenango Falls State Park.

It was a perfect day for a nice walk and to explore a local treasure. Now, being from out of town, as I had moved to the area in 2019 from Connecticut, I was not familiar with this natural wonder located practically in my now backyard. However, I was about to be taken for a ride into the wonder of waterfalls and wildlife!

When I arrived by car, I found parking easily. I also did not need to pay to get into the park, though I am not sure if that has changed this year. Now, for those who struggle with disability, let me explain that I am somewhat limited in my own mobility and still was able to visit quite a few parts of the location. There is a paved walkway that leads you to one of the views at the top of the upper falls.

So, reflect on these details if you would for a moment: the falls are made up of a 167-foot waterfall that is surrounded by trees and old bedrock. As you are approaching, you see the creek to your right and the sound of rushing water continues to get louder and louder. It is a sweet, rumbling sound of chaos mixed with peace. As you get closer and closer to the top of the falls, not only do you get a mix of crashing waves pouring over the cliff side but at times there are beautiful rainbows that sometimes stretch over the creek. As you are viewing this extraordinary scene, droplets of water are tickling your face.

If by chance, you have mobility issues, going down to where the bridge is located would be very challenging even in the spring or summer times; nevertheless, the view at the top of the falls is quite picturesque! If you can enjoy hiking, then the trails that lead to the bottom of the falls behold their own adventure and are worth checking out. The view from the wooden footbridge overlooking the bottom of the falls may just take your breath away; and there have been quite a few wedding photo shoots taken on that very bridge.

The wildlife, including foliage, is also unique and beautiful! You will see a lot of Hart’s Tongue ferns all over the sides of the trails, along with Rhodiola rosea also known as roseroot. Now, if you make it to the bottom of the falls, please note that swimming or wading is strictly prohibited due to an endangered species known as the ovate amber snail. However, if you are near the footbridge, there are areas where people can, and do, wade in the water. There is even some fishing seen at times; however, there is no camping or overnight ventures.

For those who love picnics or gatherings outside, there are two pavilions located at the park, which can be rented. They will accommodate 25 or up to 100 people, plus there are numerous picnic tables and benches located throughout the park, including a playground. If you also have a canine companion, they, too, are welcome at the park, if they are on a leash. There are restrooms as well but please note I have not seen them open in the off-season and while you can visit year-round, the park does close off the pathways down to the bridge at the bottom of the falls during winter for safety reasons.

Hopefully, now you can see why this place had so much draw and enjoyment when I first visited. It has also brought me back again and again during the few years I have lived in Central New York. Each time I visit, I have a different experience, whether the falls are overflowing massively with loud, rushing water echoing around me, or perhaps trickling just a little bit less such as in the summertime. I would also highly recommend visiting in the fall when the colors of the leaves get mixed with the reflection of sunlight on the water! It is truly a sight to behold; yet I suspect that if you are a lover of nature and the things of beauty, anytime that you choose to visit here will not under any circumstances disappoint.

May you find yourself on a sunny day, walking the path, floating in the breeze on your way to a tempting escapade.

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