Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Taughannock Falls (Again)

Taughannock Falls, near Trumansburg, NY

Taughannock Falls, near Trumansburg, NY

I’ve posted images of this iconic waterfall before, but thought I’d do it again simply because I haven’t been there for a couple of years.  And I don’t think yesterday’s photograph really does the place justice.  This image is from the observation point high above the amphitheater formed by the falls; it’s the place that most people visit.  I’ve taken this photograph many times and I’ve always wondered why couples seem to gravitate to the left side of the railing.  I don’t even think that that’s the best view.

The falls, by the way, is 215 feet high – the tallest free-falling waterfall in the eastern United States.  Yes, it’s taller than Niagara.  More interesting, too, in my opinion.

The brink of Taughannock Falls

The brink of Taughannock Falls

This is obviously a closeup of the top of the falls (at a focal length of about 300 mm).  You can see that the caprock has been significantly undercut by water and ice.  Eventually it will collapse because of its own weight and there will be a new “brink”.  This is how waterfalls evolve.  In a few millennia Taughannock Falls will no longer exist.

Taughannock Falls from the base of the plunge pool

Taughannock Falls from the base of the plunge pool

Clearly, the rocks in the water didn’t fall from the sky.  They were once part of the amphitheater wall in the background.  Loosened by water and ice, they’ve fallen and wound up here.  Much of the smaller sediment continues to flow the mile and a half or so to Cayuga Lake (one of the Finger Lakes) where a fair sized delta has formed.

The gorge above the falls

The gorge above the falls

One of my favorite spots is the magnificent gorge above Taughannock Falls, especially this time of year.  And yes, it’s as inspiring as most desert canyons. Hard for me to admit, but true.  I should note, however, that this gorge and waterfall is much younger – geologically – than most desert canyons.  All of this was formed during the last glacial period (about 14,000 years ago) while the great canyons of the Colorado Plateau have been forming over millions of years.  But who’s counting.

So if you ever get to western NY, come and visit this place.  I hate to sound like one of New York’s tourism ads, but it’s more than worth it.  The setting is bucolic and the views and trails will calm your soul.

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6 Responses to “Taughannock Falls (Again)”

  1. TomDills

    Except for the shape of the actual waterfall, that gorge looks a lot like Linville Gorge and Linville Falls here in North Carolina. There’s something about fall color and all that rock that makes for a nice view. The tough part of a gorge like that is balancing the light, and you managed to do it well despite the contrast of shade and bright sun in a few of them.

    Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Tom. This is one of those situations where I like strong contrast in a scene. Actually, the sunlight was a little muted and I pretty much kept the sky out of the frame. But there were still some nice long shadows. A hint of things to come, right?

      Reply
  2. Cedric Canard

    This looks like a nice place indeed. I always enjoy your photos of this park and these are no exception. I have to say though, I was surprised when I read that these falls were taller than Niagara. The width of Niagara must cause some sort of optical illusion that translate to height. Anyway, I have a feeling I would prefer this quieter looking place over Niagara, which, while impressive, left me a little flat.

    Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      I know what you mean about Niagara Falls, Cedric. I think the width makes them look taller than they are. The Horseshoe Falls are about 180 feet tall, I think, so Taughannock is about 35 feet taller. We haven’t been to Niagara in years. Like you, I much prefer the quieter spots in the Finger Lakes region.

      Reply
  3. E. Brooks

    The height of these falls is deceptive. On a trip to Alaska in 2008 I’d taken some photos of the calving edge of a rather large glacier in Glacier Bay which was 200 feet tall/thick and that impressive fact didn’t translate at all in the photos. We need a realistic mannequin we can place at the bottom of such scenes to provide a sense of scale. Heck, perhaps I could just rent myself out for this purpose…wearing a Where’s Waldo outfit. 🙂

    But back to sanity…I think the first photo is one of the best you’ve taken of these falls. Nice warm autumn colors as well.

    Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      Yes, sometimes the sense of scale isn’t there when it probably should be. I think that’s why I like a lot of Mark Muench’s photography. One of his “things” is to include a human figure in landscape images, usually in such a way that scale is fairly obvious. But your Where’s Waldo suit might work, too…….

      And thanks for the kind remark.

      Reply

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