Watkins Glen Then and Now: Frowning Cliff

When the gorge now known as Watkins Glen first opened to the public in the 1860s, it was known as Freer’s Glen. Local judge George Freer acquired the glen when he married Samuel Watkins’s widow. It was renamed Watkins Glen by new owners by the 1870s. Photographer G. F. Gates began making stereographic photo cards of the glen even in those early days. In this photo from one such stereograph, we are looking at what is now known as the Frowning Cliff and Pluto Falls area, but had a number of names in the 1800s, including the Narrow Pass, Glen Difficulty, Spiral Gorge, and then ¬†Glen Arcadia, which seems to have persisted for a long time.

Watkins Glen State Park, historic photo

Notice the narrow footpath along the cliff on the right; and in the center is a log footbridge across Pluto Falls, only the top of which is barely visible. Image courtesy of Bill Hecht

Today, the viewing bridge over Pluto Falls is long gone, and a safe walled path and steps long ago replaced the narrow, treacherous route.

Watkins Glen State Park, Gorge Trail

The same part of the glen today