The Organic Shapes of Buttermilk Falls

We certainly didn’t plan it, but as it turned out, we saved the best for last on our Ithaca trip. I had loved the deep gorge and high falls of Robert B. Treman, was surprised at every turn by the picturesque beauty of Cascadilla, and found myself awed by the amounts of water at Taughannock and Ithaca Falls, but the utter charm of Buttermilk won me over.

Buttermilk Falls, so named for the froth the water creates as it trickles over the hundreds of ledges on its journey towards Cayuga Lake, is a unique series of cascades. On the mile-plus hike up the gorge we passed dozens of small falls and rapids, picturesquely twisting and cutting through the limestone, and carving the occasional deep blue pool. Before we even reached the trailhead we were able to appreciate one of the largest falls, watching as the foam cascaded over the layers of eroded rock. Once we started up the trail however the gorge tapered and the character of the creek bed changed to a narrow, deep gash in the earth. Though difficult to find an angle from which to view the narrow current at first, we could nonetheless see enough to realize that this gorge would be different from the others we’d hiked. Thankfully for us the canyon bottom opened soon after so that we could get down to water level and get better views of many of the prettiest falls as they tumbled hundreds of feet downstream, sculpting organic shapes from the forest landscape.

What made Buttermilk our favorite as compared to the others we’d visited in the Ithaca area however were the curved routes of erosion and the turquoise blue potholes at the base of some of the falls. It was enchanting, magical, and just plain beautiful the way in which the creek had carved into the rock over time; the varied patterns of erosion combined with the dozens of stone ledges visible above the water making an irresistible combination.

We also had a bit of fun on our return hike here since Abby insisted on walking the rock wall separating the stone path from the creek. Though she is known for taking the high road in order to keep an eye out for happenings, she was so consistent with sticking to the wall no matter the difficulty that we had to laugh. It was doubly cute since we had her on a leash and it thus appeared as though she might be walking us humans instead of the other way around.

After our exploration we headed, as planned, to Ithaca Beer Company for some refreshing drinks and a bite to eat. We thoroughly enjoyed our flights and food; I also ordered a pint of their seasonal juicy and refreshing New England IPA that really hit the spot. It was a shame the brewery was only open the one day of our three day visit – we absolutely would have returned for a pint after another hike.