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May 25, 2013

Waterfalls are even better when you keep them to yourself

The Daily Star

---- — Millions of people flock to see the great waterfalls of the world. They watch the millions of gallons of water wash over Niagara Falls or see the water come out of spectacular mountains to fall hundreds of feet into the valleys below. Waterfalls are truly some of nature’s most beautiful sights.

When I moved to the Adirondacks, I found a set of falls not far off Route 8. Griffin Gorge was one of my favorite spots. The water of the Sacandaga River tumbled down through a series of narrow chasms and huge boulders. I could climb down the steep rocks and get to fishing places that few ever reached. Many a beautiful trout were taken by working a night crawler in the deep pools below the various falls.

Auger Falls was another great spot. It was referred to as Hidden Falls for many years. A short hike from Route 30 takes you to another spectacular place in the forest. A series of large waterfalls also held some great fish, but getting into the pools was far more difficult because of the steepness and slipperiness of the terrain.

Many of the better waterfalls are not found along the highways and back roads. To get to places such as T-lake Falls, you have to hike 5-7 miles. T-lake Falls is the highest in Adirondacks. Water comes over the top and falls around 300 feet into the valley below. It’s located a little northwest of Piseco. The trail into the falls has been closed by the state for many years, though.

Approaching the falls from the top is very dangerous. Several people have fallen and died over the years trying to see this spectacular sight. The problem is, you can’t see the falls from the upper approach. The rock curves out and downward away from the mountain, and people would try to walk out to see the falls only to slip and fall to their deaths.

To see the falls, you must enter from the bottom, walking about 7 miles through the woods. Unless you go in the early spring or late fall when the leaves are off the trees, however, you will never see the entirety of this Adirondack wonder.

Recently, the state has acquired the Finch and Pruyn Paper Company lands in the Adirondacks. Hidden away from the public until recently is another of New York’s highest waterfalls. OK Slip Falls cascades down about 250 feet but has been seen by relatively few people because it was on private land. With this region soon opening to the public, we will be able to hike or cross-country ski into this area and see one of the Adirondacks greatest wonders.

If you are into waterfalls, there are a couple of good books available giving you all the details and their locations. “Waterfalls of the Adirondacks and Catskills” is available in bookstores or on Amazon if you’re interested.

Whether you go to fish or just see the beauty of nature, waterfalls are some of the greatest attractions that the world has to offer. Sure I’ve fought the crowds to see Niagara, but I really like my falls a little more secluded. There’s nothing like breaking through the trees and having the mist hit your face when there’s not another soul around.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at