Aunt Sarah’s Falls Prints and Gifts for Sale
GPS/Locations: Falls: (N 42.35185 / W 76.85597)
Directions – Take Rt. 14 south towards Montour Falls and the waterfall will be visible on the right (west) just before hitting the village. Pull off into the parking area to the left (across from the falls).
Or use Google Directions.
Parking: There is a small, dedicated parking area across the street from the falls.
Number of falls: 1 .
Size/Types: While Aunt Sarah’s Falls is well over several hundred feet tall from the top of the gorge, the top 2/3rds is not visible or accessible. Here we are concentrating on the bottom 90 ft, which is visible from the road.
Aunt Sarah’s Falls first freefalls about a third of the way, then it fans out on a steep slope of shale for another third. It then freefalls again into a shallow plunge pool where it immediately crosses under Rt 14.
Best time to visit: Spring and after heavy rain.
Waterway: An unnamed tributary that joins with the Barge Canal and then empties into the southern end of Seneca Lake.
Time: A few minutes to view the falls from below.
Seasons/Hours: Year-round. Dawn to dusk.
Handicap accessibility: Yes.
Pets: Allowed on leash.
Accommodations: Informational signage.
Village of Montour Falls
It’s easy to miss Aunt Sarah’s Falls even despite its massive size. Rt 14 is the main road on the west side of Seneca Lake, and when you are driving down the road at 55 mph or more, you can blink and miss it. The key is to look for the parking area to the east first, then quickly turn your head to the west. The falls is the unofficial boundary for the Town of Montour (there’s actually a small granite stone near the falls marking the town border). If you reach the village within, you’ve gone too far.
With cars zooming down Rt 14, it is tough to enjoy this beautifully formed falls without road noise (or the fear of getting hit by a car), but it’s a quick and easy stop, and certainly one of the easier waterfalls to photograph. View the falls from the parking area, or cross the street to the small grassy area near the base of the falls.
One of the more uniquely-shaped waterfalls, Aunt Sarah’s Falls starts out with a thin ribbon freefall. It then hits a slanted portion of the shallow gorge and fans out. It then finishes with a wide freefall. The flow is often minuscule, but the large amount of activity gives this falls a great deal of noise. Upstream, far out of sight, are at least another 100 ft or so of cascades, but the land is not accessible.
The Village of Montour Falls lies within a gorge carved out of the Portage Escarpment by glacial and water erosion. Aunt Sarah’s Falls, as well as SheQuaGa Falls, both tumble down it.
Distance: You can see it right from the road or parking area.
There’s nothing to it. The falls is visible from either the parking area, or you can cross the street and see it from below.
View Aunt Sarah’s Falls in a larger map
Although, the true origin of the falls’ name is not known, local legend states that it is named for the Seneca wife of a pioneer who jumped over the falls to her death.
Montour Falls, like Watkins Glen is nestled within the basin of Seneca Lake. Thousands of years ago, when the lake levels were much higher, this whole region would have been underwater.
Catharine Montour or Queen Catharine, was a matriarch of the Seneca tribe of the Iroquois during the late 1700’s. Known to be the daughter of a native Huron and a French official, she was well versed in both cultures. Since she could speak English in addition to native languages, she was influential in dealing with early white settlers in the area. Montour Falls was previously known as ‘Catharine’s Town,’ but was destroyed during the Sullivan Expedition during the Revolutionary War. Rebuilt by non-native settlers, the town was then called Havana, and renamed Montour Falls in 1890. The village of Catharine and nearby Catharine Creek are also named after Queen Catharine.
Montour Falls was an important trade stop and travel hub in its early years. It played an important role on the Seneca Lake Inlet when the Chemung Canal was built in 1827. The Chemung Canal connected Seneca Lake with the Chemung River.
The Catharine Valley Trail
When completed, the trail will extend 12 miles from Watkins Glen State Park to Mark Twain State Park in Horseheads, NY, passing through Montour Falls along the way. The trail follows the old Northern Central Railroad and the Chemung Canal towpaths with multiple historic sites along the way. Friends of the Catharine Valley Trail website.
Silky water effect
Writing / Photography