Watkins Glen, NY, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, has been known to auto racing fans as a premier NASCAR racing track, having originally opened in 1948 as a Formula 1 track. I know nothing about that, as my interest lies in a much, much older attraction, the 400-foot deep gorge cut by Glen Creek, starting some 12,000 years ago. Lauded by Mark Twain in “Roughing It” as more spectacular than a Hawaiian “ruffled cataract of limpid water leaping from a sheer precipice fifteen hundred feet high”, the 19 Watkins Glen falls find their beauty in the narrow gorge surrounded by high sandstone and shale cliffs.
Public access to the Gorge began in 1863, after completion of wooden stairs and widened access paths. In the early 1900’s, the state took over the park and added concrete paths and iron rails to improve access. This was all washed on in a 1935 flash flood that filled the Gorge. Shortly after, the Civilian Conservation Corp began rebuilding the paths and stairs, all in natural stone and mortar (typical of CCC projects), as you see in these photos.
Learn more about the history of these waterfalls at: http://nyfalls.com/waterfalls/watkins-glen/history-timeline/.
See some of my fall photos of the falls at http://lloydbloom.net/albums/5VKoic/waterfall.