“Glen Alpha” is the name given in the 1800s to the first interior section of gorge in what is now Watkins Glen State Park, the section beyond the Main Entrance, or Entrance Amphitheatre as it was once known. Watkins Glen State Park is the most popular state park in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
See all of my Park Minutes. Also see my weekly Ithaca, NY public access television series, Walk in the Park, watchable on TV and online. Both Park Minute and Walk in the Park are cablecast on Ithaca, NY public access television PEGASYS channel 13.
Enjoy this 28-second video of Hector Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in New York State. It can be seen on Rte. 414 on the east side of Seneca Lake a few miles north of Watkins Glen.
Here is a description of Hector Falls from Upstate New York Waterfalls: “Although most commonly recorded as 165 ft high, Hector Falls, can be considered a lot taller, if you begin counting the series of cascading drops from the top. Over 250 feet of waterfalls cascade down this hill from near the top. The first third is a sequence of small and narrow, foamy cascades, one right after the other. As the falls approaches Rt 414, it spreads out over one wide triangular cascade that dips under the highway, and down another wide cascade, and then another, past some cottages.The final stretch is yet another fanning cascade, the widest of all. From the road, you can see just the segment above. From the lake and across it, you can see most of the falls, except the upper chain of cascades.”
The first full section of the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park, called Glen Alpha in the old days, is a dramatic chasm with high cliffs, bisected by Glen Creek and its waterfalls. Huge joint fractures crease the cliffs and leave smooth, flat walls towering above you. Watkins Glen State Park is the oldest state park in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
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.
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.