Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Finger Lakes Gorges in Winter - Taughannock Falls

This is not my favorite time of year.  Day after day of gray skies and snow showers, single digit temperatures, layers of clothes, short days...  But Ithaca is within easy driving distance of a number of spectacular gorges, some of which are well worth a visit even in winter.  Most trails are closed this time of year due to icy conditions but for the next few entries here I'll detail 3 gorges where a photographer can safely get some unsual winter gorge shots without putting themselves in danger.

First on the list is Taughannock Falls. At 215 feet, Taughannock is one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Rockies, and presents an awesome sight. Where most Finger Lakes gorges are quite narrow, Taughannock is wider than a super highway, and the bottom is very flat (although the sides are extremely steep, with 400 foot cliffs in some places.)  This makes the 3/4 mile hike into the falls accessible all year round, a boon for winter nature photographers.  The trail can be a bit slippery, so hiking boots are highly recommended, and even snowshoes or skis wouldn't be amiss.  The view is always different each time, but here's what we found at the end of our trip last Saturday.  Note that for those who do not wish to hike in, there is an overlook along the rim trail on the north side that can be driven to for a slightly different but no less dramatic view.  A few parking spots are kept plowed in winter, but the road going to the overlook is steep and winding, and right after a snowstorm may be slippery.

In these photos, bear in mind that normally the waterfall goes straight into the stream.  In winter though, a tremendous ice dome develops beneath the falls.  This year it seems to be at least 50 feet high!  For scale, note my wife along the trail at the lower right!

Next time, a little further afield - Watkins Glen, an amazing sight in winter!

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