Fall Creek Gorge Tour

One-hour tour of Fall Creek Gorge's natural and cultural history

Fall Creek Gorge Tour

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Cornell Botanic Gardens

Tour Information

Explore the rich history and remarkable natural beauty of Fall Creek Gorge —all reasons why this gorge is protected as a New York State Recreational River.

Please enjoy this gorge safely by remaining on designated trails.

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Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

Rare Plants of Fall Creek Gorge

Gorges provide conditions for plants not typically found in this area. From where you are standing, there are two uncommon plants growing on the gorge walls. On the north side of this bridge, the hot and dry limestone and shale ledges with ... Read more
Side Trip: Risley Trail

This trail and staircase leads to the gorge valley and a scenic picnic area. An interpretive sign here highlights more plants that grow in the gorge’s sunny and shaded areas.  After your visit, return here to continue the tour.
Old Bridge and Trail

 A low, wooden suspension bridge once spanned the creek here. Look for old steps cut into the bedrock and retaining walls for the trail on the opposite side of the creek. This bridge provided the only access to Cornell’s campus from the ... Read more
South-facing Gorge Rim Forest

This deep and narrow gorge provides a range of growing conditions for plants growing here. Facing south, the forest on this side of the gorge receives direct sunlight, creating warmer and drier conditions suitable for oaks and hickories.  ... Read more
Hydroelectric Power Plant

Look for the historic building in the gorge below from the upstream side of this bridge. The water fed into this hydroelectric power plant comes from a pipe eight feet in diameter that carries water from the Beebe Lake Dam underneath nearby... Read more
Side Trip: Horseshoe Falls Trail

This trail leads to the base of the gorge to an overlook in view of 30-foot high Horseshoe Falls. A sign along the way highlights how Fall Creek has eroded the gorge in a “stair-step” pattern of six waterfalls.  After your visit, retur... Read more
Ecological Restoration

There is an on-going effort to improve the health and biodiversity of the forests on the gorge’s rim and steep slopes. Efforts include removing the invasive Norway maple and planting native trees that will also help stabilize the steep sl... Read more
Horseshoe Falls

Thirty-foot-high Horseshoe Falls is one of six waterfalls in this Gorge. The water of Fall Creek has been eroding away gorge bedrock—shale and sandstone—for over 10,000 years. Waterfalls are formed when water erodes away layers of weak ... Read more
Cayuga Trail

This trail entrance is the western end of the 10 mile Cayuga Trail, which follows the path of Fall Creek through several Cornell Botanic Gardens’ Natural Areas, Gardens around the Nevin Welcome Center and the Newman Arboretum. Visit cayug... Read more
Water Power in Fall Creek

The area below is part of the City of Ithaca’s Ithaca Falls Natural Area.  Ezra Cornell, founder of Cornell University, designed and built dams and mills in this area to harness the power of water. Under Ezra’s recommendation, a tunnel... Read more
Architectural Jointing

Notice the shape of the flat rock faces of the gorge walls in front of you. The rock has fallen away along fractures that intersect at nearly right angles, an effect called architectural jointing. These rock ledges are ideal places for clif... Read more
North-facing Gorge Rim Forest

The eastern hemlock trees in front of you cover most of this north-facing side of the gorge and are threatened by a very small insect known as the hemlock woolly adelgid. This invasive insect has decimated stands of hemlock trees in forests... Read more
Cayuga Lake View

This destination was created to enjoy the view of the gorge and Cayuga Lake. Fall Creek has been carving this gorge since the most recent glacier excavated Cayuga Lake over 10,000 years ago—explained in more detail on the sign here. This ... Read more
The Foundry

This is the oldest building remaining at Cornell. It was built in 1883 as a foundry for the Sibley School of Mechanical Engineering where students created custom metal castings. Still known as “The Foundry,” it is now the Department of ... Read more
Thurston Avenue Bridge

To connect the Cornell campus to the new and growing community across Fall Creek from here, this bridge was built in 1897, followed by the Stewart Avenue Bridge in 1899, and the nearby suspension footbridge in 1901. In 1900, a line of the I... Read more


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