Lower Falls of the Genesee River (Letchworth)

Letchworth State Park / Livingston County / Wyoming County, New York, USA

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 2
The Lower Falls of the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Lower Falls of the Genesee River was the last of the three major waterfalls on the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park in Western New York. Although it lacked the height of the other falls we saw in the park, we liked that it had width and character set amidst a rugged gorge backdrop. In fact, I think of the three main Letchworth waterfalls, this one more prominently exhibited the geology of the area given the neighboring cliffs around it.

Julie and I actually visited this waterfall twice. Once during the Summer (as you see in the picture above) and once in the Autumn. Even though our Autumn visit didn't quite have the voluminous flow that its Summer counterpart had (which you can see from the narrower appearance in our Autumn photographs further down this page), the vibrant Autumn colors decorating the falls and the surrounding gorge definitely supported the claim that this area was indeed the Grand Canyon of the East.

Unlike the other two main Letchworth waterfalls, this one required us to engage in a little more exercise. From the car park for the Lower Falls (see directions below), we walked across a wide picnic area sheltered amongst many trees as well as some structures for what appeared to be restrooms as well as accommodations and even what appeared to be a restaurant (which appeared to be seasonal given how they were closed during our October visit). There was even some picnic tables as well as a large slide that our two year-old daughter enjoyed.

Autumn at the Lower Falls of the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park Next, the walking path reached a fork where we had a choice to go down or continue to go straight ahead towards the "easier view." Just a couple minutes further on the upper path took us to a somewhat partial view of the Lower Falls of the Genesee River that left much to be desired. The trail from here looked like it kept going further upstream, but we knew quickly that the way to experience this waterfall was via the lower path.

So back at the fork, we had to descend 127 steps (and ascending them on the way back up) before reaching the lower reaches of the gorge and following a trail that took us closer to the falls. In order to get the various views you see on this page, I recalled having to follow some faint use trails (almost more like scrambling). It got a little bit misty and muddy in spots as I got closer to the waterfall so I had to be careful not to get too close to the slippery edges to avoid falling into the river.

On the way back out, I took a brief out-and-back detour to get deeper into the gorge and try to view the falls from further away from within the gorge itself. There was a bridge offering unusual views up the river towards the falls, and given the foliage flanking the river, the scene here was definitely more colorful and dramatic with the Fall colors, which I was able to capture in our more recent October 2013 visit.

In any case, adding up this out-and-back walking as well as taking in the falls and the short detour, it took roughly a little over a half-mile round trip of hiking and less than 45 minutes away from the car. I recalled it seemed longer than that given the heat and humidity from our first visit here in early Summer, but it felt much more benign during the crisp Autumn morning of our October visit some six years later.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

An Autumn view of the Lower Falls with gorgeous colors but narrower widthAn Autumn view of the Lower Falls with gorgeous colors but narrower width
Another look at the Lower FallsAnother look at the Lower Falls in its wider early Summer state
Looking up the river from the bridgeLooking up the river from the bridge downstream of the Lower Falls
This view of the Genesee River with lots of Autumn foliage was taken from a lookout on the spur road to the Lower FallsThis view of the Genesee River with lots of Autumn foliage was taken from a lookout on the spur road to the Lower Falls
At the car park for the Lower Falls of the Genesee River in Letchworth State ParkAt the car park for the Lower Falls of the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park

Chicken scratch sign pointing way to Lower FallsChicken scratch sign pointing the way to Lower Falls

Walking through the picnic area near the car parkWalking through the picnic area near the car park

Our first glimpse of the gorge carved out by the Genesee RiverOur first glimpse of the gorge carved out by the Genesee River

The fork in the trail where we could choose between the 'easier view' on the right or continue on the main path to the left down the stepsThe fork in the trail where we could choose between the 'easier view' on the right or continue on the main path to the left down the steps

The very limited and partial view of the Lower Falls from the so-called 'easier view'The very limited and partial view of the Lower Falls from the so-called "easier view"

Going down the steps to continue on the trail to get closer to the Lower FallsGoing down the steps to continue on the trail to get closer to the Lower Falls

More signs as we made it to the bottom of the stairsMore signs as we made it to the bottom of the stairs

Approaching the Lower Falls of the Genesee River in Letchworth State ParkApproaching the falls

After enjoying the Lower Falls in Letchworth by myself for a bit, I was then joined by these ladies who went even closer to the falls than I was willing to goAfter enjoying the falls by myself for a bit, I was then joined by these ladies who went even closer to the falls than I was willing to go

The view of Lower Falls was a bit more partial from the end of the main trail higher upThe view of the falls was a bit more partial from the end of the main trail higher up

Looking back towards the falls as we headed to the footbridgeLooking back towards the falls as we headed to the footbridge

Further down the river looking back at the fallsFurther down the river looking back at the falls

Looking downstream from the bridge within the gorgeLooking downstream from the bridge within the gorge

Looking further downstream along the Genesee River flanked by beautiful Autumn colorsLooking further downstream along the Genesee River flanked by beautiful Autumn colors

After having my fill of the Lower Falls, I now had to go back up to the car park, and that meant going back up the stepsAfter having my fill of the falls, I now had to go back up to the car park, and that meant going back up the steps

Looking back at the picnic tables as well as that slide that our daughter was enjoying as they were waiting for me to catch upLooking back at the picnic tables as well as that slide that our daughter was enjoying as they were waiting for me to catch up


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Left to right sweep from a return trip in the Autumn of 2013


Looking directly at the wide lower falls


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We approached this waterfall from the town of Portageville as well as Castile on a separate trip (see the directions for Upper Falls or Middle Falls).

From the seasonal Portageville Entrance, we took the park road for about 2.5 miles towards a fork. We kept right at the fork and continued downhill towards the Lower Falls car park about 1.2 miles later.

From the year-round Castile Entrance, we followed the park road towards the fork about 0.9 miles later. Then, we turned left to go onto the Lower Falls Road to go the remaining 1.2 miles to its car park.

For overall context, we managed to drive to this falls from Ithaca on our first visit and Buffalo on our second visit. In terms of their geographical context, Ithaca was about 156 miles (under 3 hours drive) east of Buffalo, 167 miles (3 hours drive) west of Albany, or 233 miles (4.5 hours drive) northwest of New York City.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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