Directions from the south (Niagara Falls): Take the Robert Moses State Parkway north to the State Park.
Directions from the east: It is best to use Google Directions.
Parking: Parking is available in two lots near the park entrance on the Robert Moses State Parkway. There are both northbound and southbound lots. If one is full, pass it, turn around and try the lot for the opposite direction. For the northbound lot, there is a pedestrian bridge allowing pedestrians to easily cross the parkway. There is parking for nearly 80 cars.
Note: Devil’s Hole State Park is adjacent to Whirlpool State Park, and shares many of the same trails and views. Review both locations before visiting.
Seasons: Devil’s Hole State Park is open year-round. Sections of the gorge trail may not be accessible (or safe) during times of heavy rain or snow.
Best season to visit: Autumn for the foliage and fishing. Winter for fishing. Summer to get away from the tourist crowds at the Falls.
Hours: Dawn to dusk. The park and trails are not lit by artificial light. The gorge trail is very hazardous at night.
Admission: Devil’s Hole and Whirlpool State Parks are free to all visitors.
Devil’s Hole State Park
c/o Niagara Frontier Region
PO Box 1132,
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Phone: (716) 284-5778
Handicap accessibility: Yes. The restrooms and overlook. Park in the southbound lot. The gorge is not accessible.
Pets: Household pets are allowed. They must be caged or on a leash not more than 6 feet. They are not allowed in the restroom and it is best not to let them swim in the water.
State Park amenities: Picnic tables; restrooms (seasonal), hiking trails, fishing, historic markers, scenic views.
Swim: Swimming in the Niagara River at this park is not allowed and can be highly dangerous.
Boat launch: This park is not equipped with a boat launch. For launching, visit Fort Niagara State Park or the public marina in Lewiston.
Fishing: Devil’s Hole State Park offers some of the best fishing in the Niagara Region. Fisherman cast from shore or boat down from the northern launches to harvest massive salmon and trout amid the grand sights of the gorge, rapids and power plants. Winter steelhead fishing has become increasingly popular and is probably the reason for most winter visits to this park. The hike down and then up the gorge can be grueling, so pack light and bring a partner for safety.
Devil’s Hole State Park encompasses 42 acres of cleared and wooded land along the Niagara Gorge just north of the Whirlpool. The park is located along the lower reaches of the Whirlpool Rapids, a dangerously turbulent stretch of the Niagara River downstream from Niagara Falls. Here the water starts to calm from the notorious Class V whitewater upstream, creating exhilarating waves for jet-skis and highly oxygenated water for large sport fish. In fact the fishing here, especially for trout and salmon, is so spectacular, major fishing journals and television shows have called this one of the premiere freshwater fishing locations in the country.
From the entrance off of the Robert Moses State Parkway the level lawns and scattered picnic tables overlook the tree-covered gorge, white water, and the massive power plant below. A single stone stairway, in dreadful condition, leads 300 feet down into Devil’s Hole. Intimidating? Only if you are out of shape. Take the journey. Devil’s Hole is filled with beautiful sights all the way down.
Devil’s Hole refers to an interesting, but certainly not unique geological formation. After the last ice age a large creek once poured over the gorge here joining the Niagara River. For the geologically brief time this happened not only did it create a large waterfall, separate from the great Niagara Falls, it also began to erode a semicircular notch perpendicular to the gorge. Since then the creek (named Bloody Run for a horrifying battle that once took place here) has diminished to a seasonal trickle. In recent years almost all of the flow has been blocked by masonry upstream from the park. During the wet season, the small tributary seeps through the bedrock, and even emerges halfway down the gorge. Catch it right after heavy rain and you’ll even see a small waterfall.
Not only left are the clues to this ancient tributary, but the mighty Niagara Falls, which are now several miles to the south, once resided here roughly 12,000 years ago. Here they left geological footprints of their passage within the gorge. Numerous pothole formations, gouged out by stones in the swirling waters below the Falls, can be found within the bedrock at the river bed. Other evidence can be found in the water-eroded stones seen high up on the gorge. Walking along the Niagara River and seeing these clues help us to imagine what this section of the Gorge looked like when the Falls were cutting their way through here.
The porous limestone rock layers that make up a great portion of the cliff wall here have also formed caves as seeping water froze, expanded, and split rocks from the inside. One such cave, the Cave of Evil Spirits, is a 4 ft tall, 30 ft deep fissure in a large block of dolostone just to the north of Devil’s Hole. Although many legends claim that the cave will bring misfortune to all who enter it, it is most often used as a hangout and drinking spot for locals and students at the nearby Niagara University.
The moisture that Bloody Run saturates Devil’s Hole with, along with the shaded cliff-sides and limited development within the Niagara Gorge, have created a haven for a variety of plants and animals. Rare mosses and ferns adorn the forest floors of the gorge, while trees and their inhabitants flourish from the adjacent and plentiful water and earth. Although many of the plant species that inhabit the cove can be spotted from the 410 crumbling steps that wind down it, those that are out to see more can explore the cliff sides as long as they are careful not to trample what they find.
The rock outcroppings, slower water, and abundance of fish in the Niagara at Devil’s Hole make this a frequented spot for birds, especially gulls, who constantly shuffle for the best rocks in the river. Waterfowl and other migratory species also make a stop here to take advantage of the food and warmer waters below the dam, making this an excellent bird-watching location. The best seasons are in spring for large raptors and waterfowl and in autumn for more migratory species. Gulls seem to be around all-year.
An old rail-bed, that seems dangerously close to the rapids, now serves as a trail that connects the Devil’s Hole steps to Whirlpool State Park to the south, and creates an excellent looping trail. When hiking this trail, imagine the renaissance of Niagara tourism in the 1920′s when passengers would brave the dangers of the rockslides and deadly water, as they paid less than a dollar to ride this close on a steel trolley. (Not only did rockslides kill passengers and some crew on this line, but the resulting damage led to its demise).
Despite the intimidating name, and proximity to certain death, the park is harmless for those that play safe, and certainly should not be avoided. The small sense of danger, coupled with the tragic history that occurred here, add a little more adventure to the typical Niagara attraction. Bring a picnic, take your time enjoying the sights and sounds of the river, and you can easily make a day of it.
Markings: Trails are well established, but not labeled.
Distance: A 300 ft winding stone stairway down into the gorge, which connects with the several mile long gorge trail. A loop from Devil’s Hole Parking area, down into the gorge, back up at Whirlpool State Park and back to Devil’s Hole is roughly 2.5 miles.
Description: The Ongiara Trail is an excellent opportunity to experience Devil’s Hole and neighboring Whirlpool State Parks and get a good workout at the same time. For a longer hike through these two parks, view the trail guide on the Whirlpool State Park page.
Map: Click here.
View Devil’s Hole State Park in a larger map
The Niagara Power Project, just north of Devil’s Hole State Park, harnesses the power of the Niagara river as it tumbles over the gorge wall and through the plant’s massive turbines. The “Project” is a combination of underground canals that usher water from the Niagara River upstream and stores it in a 1,900-acre reservoir. Water from the reservoir is then sent through the Lewiston Pump-Generating Plant’s 12 pump-turbines.
After the Lewiston Plant, water is held in a 740-gallon bay where it awaits the massive Robert Moses Power Plant’s 13 turbines as it takes water down to the river below.
When it first opened in 1961, it was the largest hydropower plant in the western world. It currently has a generating capacity of 2.4 million Kilowatts.
Writing / Photography