017 Watkins Glen
Located at the southern end of Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen State Park is a spectacular 1,000-acre park in the Village of Watkins Glen. It has an erosion-sculptured chasm, craggy rock formations, and the cascading water of nineteen waterfalls. All of the nineteen waterfalls are within two miles, as the glen's stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade and Rainbow Falls. Rim trails overlook the gorge. Initially, the gorge was privately owned and operated as a tourist attraction. The State of New York established a State Park in 1906.
An interesting feature of area geology is "cross-bedding." Water waves cause sand particles to move along the bottom into ripples. Fossil ripples can be seen in many rocks in gorge walls, seen both in Watkins Glen and in nearby Enfield Glen (Treman State Park). Cross-bedding is the pattern visible in cross sections along the cliffs, in which the particles in the ripples are oriented in thin tilted layers.
Walking along the main trail at Watkins Glen State Park allows one to see the geology of the Finger Lakes in all its glory. The main entrance tunnel, hand-cut through the rock, begins the scenic hike through the gorge. Other highlights along the trail include the Spiral Tunnel, leading up to a suspension bridge, eighty-five feet above the creek. The sixty-foot high Central Cascade, the highest waterfall in the gorge, leads to the Glen of Pools with its many plunge pools and pot holes.
Upon reaching the Mile Point Bridge the path splits, offering a couple possible choices. Continuing another half mile along the main trail leads one to the steep, stone staircase of Jacob's Ladder. This trail then continues on to the Upper Entrance of the park. It is also possible to cross the Mile Point bridge and return to the Main Entrance via the South Rim Trail. Whichever routes are chosen, they are sure to offer a pleasing view of Finger Lakes geology and natural history.