GPS/Locations: Bucktail Falls: (N 42.82214 / W 76.24121)
Directions: Take Otisco Valley Rd to Sawmill Rd and make a right onto Moon Hill Rd. The falls is close to the turn uphill (left). After the falls, the stream runs under Moon Hill Rd. Park on the side of the road. The gorge opens to the right of the road and it’s only a few steps before you are there.
Or use Google Directions.
Parking: Park along the road near the intersection of Moon Hill Road and Sawmill Road.
Number of falls: 1.
Size/Types: A 35 foot drop over a mossy V-shaped cliff. It fans out as it plunges the first half of the way, and then cascades the rest of the way down.
Best time to visit: Year-round.
Waterway: An unnamed tributary to Spafford Creek, which is the inlet to Otisco Lake.
Time: Just a few minutes.
Seasons/Hours: All day/night; year-round.
Handicap accessibility: No.
Pets: Pets allowed when on leash. Carry proof of inoculation.
No contact information for this area.
AKA: Bucktail Gulf, Lower Bucktail Falls, The Bucktail
Set within a small green gorge, Otisco Creek freefalls 30 feet and tumbles over rock for the last 5. From there it passes under Moon Hill Road on its way to Spafford Creek and Otisco Lake. The dense forest canopy and continual spray of the falls keep the area moist and ideal for vegetation. Ferns and moss are abundant here and because of the greenery, insects thrive. This small sliver of a glen is a nice hidden gem. No traces of the old mill that once stood here remain, and its current overgrown state is a testament to the natural beauty of this area. Upstream, which is on private property and off-limits, there is a larger, overhanging waterfall.
As the site has become more popular, visitors have been leaving large quantities of trash. If you visit, please help this site remain beautiful: bring a bag and pick up a few pieces of junk on your way out.
Distance: Less than 50 ft.
Description: From the intersection of Moon Hill Road and Sawmill Road head into the wooded area across from Sawmill Road. The falls is right there after a short walk.
View Bucktail Falls in a larger map
How did Bucktail Falls get its name?
From the book “Spafford, Onondaga County, New York” published in 1917, by George Knapp Collins:
“Captain Roundy at an early date purchased lands in the eastern part of the town, and laid out and built the road known as the Bucktail. Any one who has ever passed over this road will be likely to remember that its ruggedness is equal to its picturesqueness, which is saying a good deal. In early times this road has been and is now a subject of jest. At that time the two principal political parties in this State were known as Bucktails and Clintonians. Of the former he was at that time a prominent member, so much so that the people dubbed the road the “Bucktail,” in recognition of that fact, and it has borne the name until the present time.”
About the mills…
“At an early date Captain Roundy built a sawmill, on the upper falls of the stream, near the Bucktail road, with a flume running over the precipice, and subsequently built a carding mill a little higher up stream. About this time a supposed distant relative of his came to town and claimed to have knowledge of carding, fulling and making cloth. He put him in charge of the mill. After he had been in possession for a time, Captain Roundy thought it time to go over and investigate, and count up the profits of his venture. To his mute astonishment he found the building entirely empty and his carding machinery carried away. This he subsequently found hid under a straw stack near the Village of Cardiff.”
April 19, 1806, Dr. Archibald Farr purchased fifty acres of land on Lot 12, Tully, at the foot of the Bucktail Gulf, on the west side of Spafford Hollow, of Judge William Cooper, the father of James Fenimore Cooper, the great American novelist, and author of the Leather Stocking Tales, for the expressed consideration of one hundred silver dollars. At the foot of the lower Falls Dr. Farr, on this purchase, erected the same year a grist mill ; being the first of its kind in the original town of Spafford. This mill went out of existence soon after its erection, probaby destroyed by a Spring- freshet. Uriah Roundy, born in Spafford July 24, 1819, in speaking of this mill says : ” The Archibald Farr mill was built and out of existence before I can remember. A man by the name of Earl Barrows built a second mill at the lower end of the Bucktail Gulf about 1848, or 1850. This was a feed mill only, and was destroyed by a Spring freshet.”
In a deed dated May 11, 1844, by Mathew Morse (Moss) of Spafford, to Ebenezer Morse of Homer, mention is made of a furnace once existing on the Dr. Farr land, at the foot of the lower Falls, at the mouth of the Bucktail Gulf. Uriah Round- says this furnace was out of existence before he had any memory on the subject; and no one seems to be able to tell who ran it, if not Dr. Farr, on whose land it was built.
On the top of the upper Falls, in the Bucktail Gulf, Capt. Asahel Roundy built a sawmill about 1840 ; a few feet south of this mill, Dr. Zachariah Derbyshire, at an earlier date erected and carried on a furnace; and a hundred rods or more further up stream, near the upper end of the Bucktail Gulf and road, Capt. Asahel Roundy, before 1828, erected a carding mill and clothing works. The latter is the same mill from which the machinery was stolen and carried away, as related in a prior paragraph of this work, under the title, “Early Settlers.” Uriah Roundy, in a letter dated January 9, 1899, in speaking of this carding mill, furnace and saw- mill says : ” The carding mill at the top of the Bucktail must have been built about 1820. I helped tear it down and move the building to Spafford Corners before I was married, and that was fifty-six years ago. I remember when it was doing business, I have carried wool and cloth there to be finished. Somev/here betv/een 1828 and 1830 a man by the name of Worthington ran it. ” The Furnace above the upper Falls of the Bucktail was built soon after the carding mill ; I have nothing to show when it was built. I think Dr. Derbyshire built it. I remember that John Beeler, a one-legged soldier, had a cannon cast there to celebrate the Fourth of July ; I was probably eight or nine years old at the time. It was loaded on the morning of the Fourth of July, and William Bell, a boy living with Sumner Allen, touched it off; it burst and broke his arm, and killed a cow for James Knapp. This must have been in 1828 or 1830. I have no recollection of having been to the furnace when in operation. About the furnace at the foot of the Bucktail Gulf, I know nothing, except I have been told there was one there. There was a grist mill built there since I can remember ; a man by the name of Barrows built it, but it did not run long ; it was only a feed mill.
“The sawmill at the upper Falls on the Bucktail was built by my father, Asahel Roundy, about 1840. My brother Charles and myself did most of the blasting of rocks, necessary to fix a place for the mill and flume. This was in 1840 just before Charles left home. Father owned the land where the sawmill, furnace and carding mill stood, ever since I can remember.” This saw mill, like all the other early mills in town, had an upright saw, standing in a wooden frame, which was raised up or down when sawing a log or board, the power came from an undershot wheel, which in this instance was suspended at the mouth of the flume, several feet down and over the edge of the Falls, which were seventy-five or more feet in height. The process of sawing was not a very rapid one and there was much waste of power; it required a freshet to make the mill an available one. This mill went out of use when the writer was a small boy; he can re- member it when in operation, a man by the name of Darius Plummer acted as sawyer at that time.
This lush, damp, and dark wooded area is a haven for insects.
This waterfall seems to change shape depending on the angle you view it from.
Silky water effect