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Watkins Glen State Park

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Title: Watkins Glen State Park  
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Subject: List of New York state parks, Catharine Valley Trail, Watkins Glen, Glen, Dix, New York
Collection: Parks in Schuyler County, New York, State Parks of New York
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen
State Park
Rainbow Bridge and Falls
Name origin: Samuel Watkins
Country United States
State New York
Region Finger Lakes
Counties Schuyler
City Watkins Glen
Landmark Rainbow Bridge and Falls
River Glen creek
Management New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Owner State of New York
For public yes
Easiest access car

Watkins Glen State Park is located outside the village of Watkins Glen, New York, south of Seneca Lake in Schuyler County in the Finger Lakes region. The park's lower part is near the village, while the upper part is open woodland. It was opened to the public in 1863 and was privately run as a tourist resort until 1906, when it was purchased by New York State.[1] Since 1924, it has been managed by the Finger Lakes Region of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.[2]

Jacob's Ladder, near the upper entrance to the park, has 180 stone steps, part of the 832 total on the trails
Pleistocene Ice Map
Pleistocene north ice map

The centerpiece of the 1000-acre park is a 400-foot-deep (120 m) narrow hanging when glaciers of the Ice age deepened the Seneca valley, increasing the tributary stream gradient to create rapids and waterfalls wherever there were layers of hard rock. The rocks of the area are sedimentary of Devonian age that are part of a dissected plateau that was uplifted with little faulting or distortion. They consist mostly of soft shales, with some layers of harder sandstone and limestone.

The park features three trails – open mid-May to early November – by which one can climb or descend the gorge. The Southern Rim and Indian Trails run along the wooded rim of the gorge, while the Gorge Trail is closest to the stream and runs over, under and along the park's 19 waterfalls by way of stone bridges and more than 800 stone steps. The trails connect to the Finger Lakes Trail, an 800-mile (1280 km) system of trails throughout New York state.[2]

Activities and services

The park has comfortable camping sites, as well as picnic tables and pavilions, food, playground, a gift shop, pool, dump stations, showers, recreation programs, tent and trailer sites, fishing, hiking, hunting and cross-county skiing. The entrance fee for a day picnic is $8 per car. The park is open year-round, but not all facilities are available at all times.[2]


During the Pleistocene era, a vast area was covered by ice during the maximum extent of glacial ice in the north polar area.[3] The movement of glaciers from the Laurentide and Wisconsin ice sheets shaped the Finger Lakes region. The lakes originated as a series of northward-flowing streams. Around two million years ago the first of many continental glaciers of the Laurentide Ice Sheet moved southward from the Hudson Bay area, initiating the Pleistocene glaciation. These glaciers widened, deepened and accentuated the existing river valleys. Glacial debris, possibly including terminal moraines, left behind by the receding ice acted as dams, allowing lakes to form. Despite the deep erosion of the valleys, the surrounding uplands show little evidence of glaciation, suggesting that the ice was thin, or at least unable to cause much erosion at these higher altitudes. The deep cutting of the valleys by the ice left some tributaries hanging high above the lakes: both Seneca and Cayuga have tributaries hanging as much as 120 m above the valley floors."[4]

One such hanging valley, overlooking the south end of the Seneca Lake valley, evolved into the deep gorge of Watkins Glen. The steep drop of Glen Creek into Seneca Valley created a powerful torrent that eroded the underlying rock, cutting further and further back towards the stream's headwaters. This erosion was not a uniform process: the rock here includes shale, limestone, and sandstone, and these types of rock erode at different rates, leaving behind a staircase of waterfalls, cascades, plunge pools and potholes. Watkins Glen State Park now encompasses nineteen waterfalls spaced along a trail roughly two miles long.[5]

See also



  1. ^ "Watkins Glen Historic Timeline". NY Falls. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Watkins Glen State Park", visitor's guide, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, Finger Lakes Region (2012)
  3. ^ Schlee, J. (2000, 02 15). "Our changing continent"
  4. ^ Sam, E. (02, 2014 24). "Finger lakes"
  5. ^ "Watkins Glen State Park" Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, n.d. Retrieved: February 20, 2014

External links

  • New York State Parks: Watkins Glen State Park
  • Watkins Glen State Park
  • Friends of The Finger Lakes for a bit of history about the region
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. NY-273, "Watkins Glen Iron Foot Bridge, Watkins Glen State Park, near South Pavilion, Watkins Glen, Schuyler County, NY", 10 photos, 3 measured drawings, 1 photo caption page
  • Pickupimage Photo Gallery: Watkins Glen State Park
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