Swimming Hazards in the Lake and Gorges

Walk in the Park episode 173. “Harmful Algal Blooms” or blue-green algae have made swimming and other uses of Cayuga Lake dangerous at particular times and locations this summer. Also, swimmers drown in our gorges every year. Find out why. We conclude with an explanation of great fractures in the walls of the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park.

You can watch the show online here, or on Ithaca NY area cable channel 13 at the following times (to be updated to an expanded schedule soon):

Thursday, August 10, 9:00 PM

Saturday, August 12, 10:00 AM & 8:00 PM

Sunday, August 13, 10:00 AM

Monday, August 14, 8:30 PM

Tuesday, August 15, 8:00 PM

Wednesday, August 16, 9:00 AM & 11:30 PM


Walk in the Park is produced by Tony Ingraham, Owl Gorge Productions, at PEGASYS public access television studio in Ithaca, NY, and is cablecast on Ithaca’s channel 13. See the schedule of this weekly series and others.

Have you seen my award-winning book about Watkins Glen State Park, now celebrating ten years of publication?

Park Minute: Jumping in over your head

A young woman jumps from the trail into a deep pool in the gorge at Buttermilk Falls State Park. This is dangerous and illegal.

A young woman jumps from the trail into a deep pool in the gorge at Buttermilk Falls State Park. This is dangerous and illegal.

Every summer, college students and other people are drawn to Ithaca, NY’s beautiful gorges. And many of them like to jump from cliffs into pools at the bases of waterfalls. The young women in this Park Minute are risking their lives with unseen hazards below the surface in this pool at Buttermilk Falls State Park.

People die every year in our gorges, many of them from drowning. Years ago, an 18-year-old drowned in this very pool. Park rangers and police patrol the trails and the colleges try to educate arriving students about the hazards. Be safe and swim where there are lifeguards.

For more information, see our blog post about gorge safety and the hazards of swimming in our gorges, including a video made by Cornell Plantations on this important subject. You may learn about hazards you did not realize.

This is episode 25 of Park Minute.

Park Minute is produced by Owl Gorge Productions.

Park Minute: High Water at Buttermilk Falls

This week’s Park Minute displays the power of the torrents in our gorges caused by heavy rains on August 9 in the southern Finger Lakes region of New York. We go to Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca and follow the raging water on its way to the big waterfall. Enjoy!

Mill at Buttermilk Falls

There is a beautiful swimming area at the base of Buttermilk Falls in the state park in Ithaca, NY. Once one of the most popular swimming areas in Ithaca, accessible by city bus, this idyllic spot has been open only on weekends during recent summers, due to budget cuts and lifeguard shortages. But in the 19th century, the falls were valued for another use.

Swimming area at the base of the waterfall at Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca, NY

The swimming area at the base of Buttermilk Falls. Photo by Stilfehler

Water power! A mill once stood by the falls, using the height of water in the gorge to power its machinery.

A former mill at the base of Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, NY

In this 19th century photograph, you can see the remnants of a mill once powered by the falls. Image scanned by Bill Hecht.

I’ve seen other photographs of this mill, but I don’t recall exactly what it did, or where the water was conducted from. Upstream from the waterfall, there once was a dam that I understand impounded part of Ithaca’s water supply, at the time privately owned by Robert H. Treman. Perhaps this was also the mill pond.

If anyone has more information about this mill, please let me know with a comment below.