Gravity’s genius

Photo by Robert Every

Paul McCartney advised against chasing waterfalls in a 1980 single, and TLC did the same 15 years later. But in spite of the best intentions of pop stars across the span of recent time, people in theHudsonValleyseem to enjoy chasing waterfalls. Lucky for us, there’s some pretty spectacular waterfalls right in our own backyard.

Truth is, the region is crawling with waterfalls, though few of them approach the majestic standard set by the ones in theCatskill Mountains. But even the smallest waterfall near a backwoods swimming hole means something to someone — an ecstatic and transfixing shock of energy in the quiet of nature.

For waterfall enthusiasts, though, theHudsonValleyis also terrific, with numerous possibilities to see and experience one of the great thrills a meandering flow of water can provide.


WitnessMinnewaskaState ParkPreserve in Kerhonkson, a 21,106-acre parcel along the Shawangunk Ridge. In addition to a rich history that extends back into the era of 19th-century luxury resorts, it also boasts three lakes and seven different waterfalls.

Among the waterfalls at Minnewaska isAwostingFalls, a 60-foot high-sheet of cascading water fed from the Peter’s Kill stream originating atLakeAwosting. A single flow of water into a deep chasm, the falls can be appreciated from a nearby path through the preserve.

Also in Kerhonkson is theVernooyKillFalls, a smaller series of falls that descends in stages almost like a small staircase in some areas, drops off completely like a scale model of the continental shelf in others.VernooyKillFallsis located in theSundownWildForestunder the direction of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A Facebook photo album on a Waterfalls fan page shows some photographs of the falls as viewed beneath the expanse of a manmade bridge, with one caption stating, “roughly 2mile hike to get to falls, but worth it!”

Lisa Berger, director of Marketing and Group Sales with Ulster County Tourism, is a fan of waterfalls, especially those seen in the area.

“There’s nothing more breathtaking or romantic than waterfalls,” Berger said. “There’s something about water people are drawn to. And even if you never stick a toe in, it’s nice to just sit on a rock and listen to the water fall over the cliff.”

Berger added that part of the beauty of local waterfalls is their opportunities to be observed in some semblance of solitude.

“The nicest thing aboutUlsterCounty’s waterfalls is that they’re set deep into the woods,” she said. “A lot of times, people can experience them privately. I think people are attracted to discovery. Walking through the woods, you can discover so much, even if there are other people around.”

If you’re looking for a bit more structure in your appreciation of local waterfalls, the Mountaintop Historical Society is running a summer program focusing on Catskill waterfalls that might be right up your alley.

Beginning back in April, the Mountaintop Historical Society began a series of hiking events that while scheduled to run through early October, actually picks up the most steam during the summer months.

On Saturday, June 25, the group will visit Poet’s Ledge, passing three waterfalls and taking in views of Kaaterskill Clove. Two weeks later, the waterfalls of Palenville will be the focus. Other bi-weekly hikes will follow through August, with a degree of difficulty based on the planned route.

The Mountaintop Historical Society will also host an open house on Saturday, August 27, with its emphasis on the cultural and geologic history of waterfalls throughoutGreeneCounty. (More information can be found at


Cool spots in warm weather

Another popular waterfall is Split Rock, one of Mohonk Preserve’s most popular sites that can be accessed from the Coxing Trailhead onClove Road. Located in Gardiner, Split Rock derives its name from its unique topography.

“It’s pretty unique,” said Eric Gullickson, a former park ranger who serves on the preserve’s board of directors. “The water actually comes down under a bridge and goes between two large rock formations on either side, so you can observe it from either direction.”

Gretchen Reed, Mohonk Preserve’s director of communications, elaborated.

“It’s smaller maybe than some of the others, but it’s in a really interesting spot,” Reed said. “At Split Rock, the Coxing spills over a deep crevice that has been carved into the bedrock over centuries. Once the site of a water-powered sawmill, today Split Rock is a favorite place for Preserve visitors to cool off on hot summer days.”

While not all the waterfalls in the area provide opportunities to swim nearby, that’s one of the most popular things about Split Rock, and Reed noted that the Coxing Trailhead has the Preserve’s smallest parking lot, which fills up quickly during summer months.

“Visitors should arrive early and consider carpooling to ensure a parking space,” Reed said.

Berger added that the water by the falls can sometimes be a bit of a shock to the system earlier in the summer when its temperature is still rising, she also recommends Split Rock. So does Gullickson, not just for swimming but for the other ways the falls appeal to the senses.

“It’s pretty accessible,” he said. “I think primarily it’s the feeling of being near water and especially a stream where there’s flowing water and a waterfall it’s quite beautiful. In that respect it’s dynamic. You can wade in up to your ankles, and it’s sort of a crevasse, and it’s dramatic that way.”

Split Rock is also something that can be appreciated even if you stay completely dry.

“The sound is beautiful,” Gullickson said. “It takes away some of the sounds from the day.”