Salmon River Falls
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Within the Salmon River Falls Unique Area; Town of Orwell;
Oswego County; New York
Present Assets Map;
GPS: Salmon River Falls : N 43.54761 / W 75.94027
Directions: From Syracuse area and points south head
north on Route 81 to exit 36 for the village of Pulaski.
Turn right off the exit onto Route 13. Travel for 6 miles
until you reach a Cemetery Street (County Route 22) in the
village of Altmar. Make a left and follow Route 22 for 4
miles past the reservoir until you reach Falls Road where
you will see a sign for Salmon River Falls. Follow the road
1.5 miles to the parking space on your right.
Number of falls:
1; although most of the time there are three
separate ribbons of water that plunge over the cliff face.
The general height of the water flow over the cliff face is
Size/Types: 100 ft plunge, usually in three parallel
sections, often a raging torrent in spring thaw. The water
cascades a bit at the base.
Best time to visit: Year round. Best water flow will
be after rain and in the Spring and Fall. Winter will give
you opportunity to see the falls frozen over and people ice
climbing in the cliffs below.
Flow: Variable as it is controlled by water releases
from the hydroelectric dam a mile upstream from the falls.
Best bet would be to check the water flow forecast site on
http://www.h2oline.com/365123.asp Generally speaking,
750cfs and above is best for a decent water flow, amd when
releases are very high, the entire falls will be one roaring
torrent, and when they are low, the falls will be reduced to
a trickle on the extreme right side of the face of the
Waterway: The Salmon River.
Time: 15 minutes to view the waterfall from the main
trail, a couple of hours to walk to the river bed and hike
the other trails in the 110 acre area.
Year round; dawn to dusk.
Main parking area off of Falls Road. Room for 25 cars.
Admission: No fees.
Handicap accessibility: The main Falls Trail is
handicap accessible, the gorge and upper falls trails are
Pets: Yes, on leash.
Accommodations: Informational kiosks; viewing area.
The Salmon River Unique Area is managed by the
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and
was created to protect a very popular tourist destination
along with a wide variety of plant and animal life that is
unique to this
shale talus-based geology. Rare species such as the
bird's-eye primrose and the
yellow mountain saxifrage grow
here. The goal of this unique area is to recognize and begin
to protect its unique habitats as well as provide a basis
for building a network of trails that follow the river all the way to the
village of Pulaski to the west. Its designation as a "unique area" takes into
account a number of regular activities that the land is used for,
such as hiking, ice climbing, fishing, trapping, hunting,
and limited logging.
Salmon River Falls
is a spectacularly huge waterfall that plunges 110 feet over a
steep cliff of shale and limestone as it makes its way
westward to Lake
Ontario. Unfortunately, before the state enacted rules that
required the power companies to have minimal water release
from their dams, Salmon River Falls was dry throughout most
of the summer. That all changed in 1996 when the state
mandated a minimal flow rate over the
falls, enhancing its natural beauty year-round.
The character of the
falls is constantly changing not only with the seasons but
also with the activity at the power plant (located just a
mile upstream). While the creation of the reservoirs above
the falls has changed the Salmon River drastically, it is
still possible to get visions of its grandeur when you visit
the falls during peak water flow (750 cfs and higher).
At the mean
water flow, the falls plunges in three distinct ribbons with uniquely
characteristics. The right-most ribbon is the “primary” falls and thus has the highest
and most consistent water flow year-round. The ribbons on the
left and center are closest to the viewer and may be either dry or
a slight trickle during low flow.
Easy to moderate.
DEC Assets Map (pdf)
Details: The Falls Trail – The Falls Trail is
a very easy gravel trail that leads only 1100 ft from the
parking area to the final overlook of Salmon River Falls.
There are two overlook platforms from the top of the gorge
that supply excellent vantage points to view the falls from
above. Glance through the trees when you can to get other viewpoints.
The Gorge Trail – The Gorge Trail is a short but
steep hike down to the river bed. It drops 100 ft in
elevation and has a length of 600 ft. The gorge trail is
accessible about halfway along the Falls Trail along the
right-hand side. Use extreme caution as there are very rough, steep stairways and drops along the
way. If you want to
view the falls from head on – then this is the trail to do.
It's best to make sure you have enough daylight for the
climb back up.
The Riverbed Trail – Not much of a trail as it is
only 66 feet in length, this pathway is found at the end of
the Falls Trail and gives you excellent access to the
riverbed at the crest of Salmon River Falls.
Trail – The longest of the trails, this travels 1 mile one
way to the base of the dam at the Salmon River hydroelectric
power plant upstream from the falls. It travels nicely through
woods and small pockets of marshy areas.
Salmon River Falls was an important place throughout history
– although not necessarily for the beauty of such a large
volume of water plunging over the cliff. Back when the
Iroquois frequented the area, it was an important fishing
spot as the falls were the final barrier to the huge runs
of Atlantic Salmon that made their way upriver from Lake
Ontario. Taking advantage of this, the Native
Americans could collect ample amounts of Salmon for smoking
and drying, giving them stock for the rest of the season and
As the area became developed in the 1800s and roads began
to crisscross the area, the falls in its natural state
became a destination for sightseers even after the fishery
had died out due to the numerous mills and dams downstream. Sportfishing above the falls for brook
trout rose in popularity in the 1860’s and by the 1890’s,
picnicking along the creek bed
above the falls was extremely popular. To this day, you can still
find carvings in the rock faces dated all the way back to
By the 1900’s, development of the area was driven
principally by hydroelectric power creation. A dam above the
falls was finished in 1912 and most of the water was
diverted around the falls, reducing it to nothing more than
a trickle, sometimes running completely dry (averaging
3-5 cfs). Public use of the area declined during this time
and the area became known for drinking, vandalism, and
people falling to their death over the cliff. The area was eventually closed to the public
In 1993 the state mandated that the power company sell its
holdings that were not used in hydroelectric power creation
– thus the DEC obtained the area. Many public hearings were
held (and will be continued in the future) to take input
from the public about the land and its potential. In 1996,
the state mandated that there must be a minimal flow to
make the falls have characteristics of a "waterfall" and the
area has been slowly gaining popularity with visitors once
more. The DEC values input and encourages the marketing of
The first place you can photograph the waterfalls is from
the overlook trails above. There are many opportunities to
catch one or all of the falls through the lush forests
lining the cliff tops. The final overlooks give you an
opportunity to actually shoot the falls looking down at them
as they plunge 110 ft into the gorge below.
Taking the gorge trail down to the creek bed gives you the
best opportunity to get unfettered views of the falls. There
is a nice overlook halfway down the trail that gives an
excellent vantage point and you can get the surrounding
cliff faces in one shot. At the bottom, try experimenting
with catching the left most water flow and the bend in the
shale face that it takes to the left. It’s quite
spectacular. Often, you can get shots when people are at the
top of the falls to get a sense of size. You are going to
want to shoot during overcast days especially.
▪ The area that the water covers is quite large and in the
open so sometimes it’s hard to get everything in one shot. A
lot of light enters the area, so shoot on rainy or overcast
days to get good exposure values. Try shooting the streams
of water individually as they all have their charms and
▪ See the Articles section
for more waterfall photography tips.
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Brenda's Motel & Campground - Altmar, NY
Fox Hollow Salmon River Lodge - Altmar, NY
Salmon Heaven Lodge - Altmar, NY
Schoolhouse Inn - Altmar, NY
Reservoir Inn - Redfield, NY
Brenda's Motel & Campground - Altmar, NY
Stoney's Pineville Campground - Pulaski, NY
Streamside RV Park and Golf - Pulaski, NY
Angler's Lodge - Altmar, NY
Bed & Breakfast
CrossRoads Inn & Cabins - Redfield, NY
Woodlawn Bed & Breakfast - Pulaski, NY
House Bed & Breakfast - Pulaski, NY
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Town Theater - Lowville, NY
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Salmon River Guide - Pulaski, NY
Fish the Salmon River - Pulaski, NY
Salmon River Falls Unique Area (DEC)
Salmon River Falls Unique Area Unit Management Plan
Salmon River Falls a unique area to visit
Salmon River Steward Program
200 Waterfalls in Central and Western NY
Lands and Forests
State Land Mgmt
625 Broadway FL 5
Albany, NY 12233
Phone: (518) 402-9428
Do not miss...
Take some time to walk the creek bed and look at all the old
and modern engravings and paintings in the rock. Somewhere
you can find an entire Boy Scout Troop engraving from 1920!
Fishing above the falls all year, fishing for migratory
Pacific Salmon and Steelhead in the river from Almar to
Pulaski in the fall and winter. The Salmon River through
those towns is full of public access and full of fish.
This web page lists
access points and maps to the river, or visit our
forum for more information
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