The long cascade of Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, NY is fun to look at from a number of angles. For more than ten thousand years, Buttermilk Creek has been splashing down the steep east slope of Inlet Valley, just a few miles from the south end of Cayuga Lake, the longest of the eleven Finger Lakes. Over the millennia, the creek has polished out a charming gorge that ends in the long, frothing falls.
Ithacans and visitors have enjoyed the unique, soothing beauty of Buttermilk Falls since the early 1800s. Local businessman and philanthropist Robert H. Treman and his wife Laura Treman donated the falls to the people of the State of New York to become Buttermilk Falls State Park in 1924.
The deep crease in the side of Inlet Valley that is Buttermilk Glen can be seen for miles around.
As it is still early spring, the Gorge Trail has not yet been opened by the state park. Though the huge ice formations that block the gorge in winter are mostly gone (freezing weather could make the trail treacherous again), there are other hazards that must be minimized before it is deemed safe to open the trail. Each winter, water that has penetrated the surface of the shale cliffs freezes and splits the rock, which can crash down onto the trail without warning. A team of “scalers” must systematically rappel down these cliffs and remove loose rock before the trail will be opened, which typically occurs in April.
Buttermilk Falls is said to have gotten its name from the milky appearance of the water as it splashes down hundreds of short ledges.
Buttermilk Falls is one of the grand natural wonders of the Finger Lakes region and New York State.