© 1997 Jon Binder
Ratings (ratings explained)
Ease of Access: 9/10
The Genesee Gorge, in Letchworth State Park, is often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the East." While that me be a bit of an exaggeration, the Park is quite impressive, with three major waterfalls on the Genesee River, and countless others on its tributaries.
View of Gorge from Inspiration Point
From I-390 Exit 7, which is approximately 30 miles south of Rochester, take NY route 408 about a quater of a mile into the center of the village of Mount Morris. Turn north onto NY route 36, and drive about a mile further to the northern entrance of Lethcworth State Park.
Follow the paved Park Road south for about 16.5 miles to the Lower Falls parking area. The Middle and Upper Falls are slightly further on; all are clearly marked with large parking areas and overlooks. There are also entrances to the Park in the towns of Portageville, Castile, and Perry. A $5 per vehicle fee is charged in season.
Letchworth State Park is a spectacular place. Because of the magnificent scenery that is pretty easily accessible, Letchworth is a popular place - there are about one million visitors anually. But a visit is still worthwhile, both for the waterfalls and the gorge itself.
On the drive south from Mt. Morris along the Park Road, enjoy the frequent overlooks into the "Grand Canyon of the East." The gorge is up to 600 feet deep at some points. There are no waterfalls on this stretch of the Genesee, but the area is still definitely worth your time.
The Lower Falls is reached first when traveling south on the Park Road. The Genesee River is one of the relatively few major rivers in the eastern U.S. that actually flows north. The parking area is very well marked and hard to miss. This is the only one of the three major waterfalls that requires any walk at all. A brief descent on a set of stone stairs brings you to a bridge over the River. The Lower Falls (not pictured), with a drop of about 55 feet, is just upstream, while a narrow flume with a drop of about 15 feet flows underneath the bridge. While the smallest of the three falls, the Lower Falls is probably the most beautiful.
Continuing the drive south from Lower Falls, Inspiration Point is reached. This overlook has a very impressive view up the gorge, with Middle Falls visible, as well as Upper Falls further in the distance. It is definitely worth the stop.
Middle Falls, which is the falls pictured on this page, is visible from a viewing area near the top of the falls, right next to the parking area. Again, it is difficult to miss the parking area, as it is well marked. This falls is the highest of the three, at 107 feet. It is an impressive sight, although it lacks the subtlety of the Lower Falls.
The Upper Falls, 71 feet high, is not far above the Middle Falls. Directly above Upper Falls is a high railroad trestle known as High Bridge. While interesting and historical, I still feel it takes a little way from the waterfall.
In addition to the three major waterfalls on the Genesee River, Letchworth State Park also contains many other falls on the Genesee's tributaries. Many of these are only intermintent, and dry up during most of the summer. However, some of these falls are over 500 feet high, as the small streams plummet down the gorge walls into the river. These falls are often considered the highest in New York State when they exist.
Overall, the Genesee Gorge in Letchworth State Park is a must-see for anyone who likes waterfalls. It is a very touristy area, but the scenery makes up for this in a big way.
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Page Last Revised: April 2, 2002