GPS: Frontenac Falls: (N 42.55472 / W 76.63242)
Directions: From Ithaca, follow route 89 North along the west shore of Cayuga Lake. About a mile after passing Taughannock Falls State Park, there will be a road on the left called Frontenac Point Road. Take the road to the end. Pull into the Ranger Station.
From 5/20 and points north – go until you intersect route 89 South. Take Route 89 south for about 23 miles until you reach Frontenac Road. Turn left at the large brown sign for Camp Barton. Go down the hill, to the right, and the camp will be on your right. Pull into the Ranger Station.
Parking: Adequate, located at the visitor parking lot by the ranger station.
Number of falls: 2. One on Camp Barton property and a second one on a private plot west of the camp (not accessible).
Size/Types: Frontenac Falls is a 95 ft high cascade. The upper falls is just as big, in two tiers with a 45 degree twist.
Best time to visit: Spring and fall. Camp may be in session during the summer.
Flow: Variable, but rarely dries up.
Waterway: Trumansburg Creek, which empties into Cayuga Lake.
Time: 45 minutes.
Seasons/Hours: Daytime hours, during the off-season. Based on permission from the camp ranger. The camp is available for troop and scout family camping and meetings. Details are available here.
Admission: Free, based on permission.
Handicap accessibility: No.
Pets: Not allowed.
Camping: Scouts only, by reservation or summer camp. Details are available here.
Accommodations: Outhouses; first aid is available at the ranger station.
Camp Barton – Boy Scouts of America
Frontenac Falls is less than a mile north of Taughannock Falls State Park, but since the Trumansburg Creek drainage basin is not as massive as Taughannock Creek’s, the gorge at Frontenac is not nearly as long. The falls has a different character – being a randomly stepped cascade instead of one large plunge like its neighbor – most likely due to two factors: the smaller drainage and the difference in rock. Frontenac Falls is only about 1/3 of a mile from Cayuga Lake, while nearby Taughannock Falls is over a mile away. Taughannock Falls was once carving its way through this rock and probably once looked like Frontenac. Perhaps thousands of years from now Frontenac will take on Taughannock’s grandeur. Although not as spectacular as its cousin to the south, Frontenac Falls is an amazing gem that is worth visiting.
Rising to 95 feet, the falls lies in a beautiful amphitheater with peaceful woodlands topping the gorge. Before the waterfall, the creek bed opens up to a nice mix of smooth pebbles that allow you to walk with ease in front of the falls. The cliffs around the Frontenac Falls rise over 200 ft high, over twice the size of the waterfall, making you feel like you are enclosed within a massive canyon. The falls itself is a frothy A-shaped cascade with random drops over chiseled limestone. The surrounding moss-covered rock adds a splash of color. If ever made into a public park, Frontenac could easily become a favorite of many.
Distance: 2/3 mile there and back.
There is a 1/3 mile trail that is well defined through the woods that crosses the creek once on the way to the waterfall. Once at the waterfall, expect to do some creek walking to get to the base. With gorge walls of loose shale and limestone, rock falls are common, and extreme caution must be exercised when walking in the gorge. Since this is private property, we ask that you respect the land and the owners by seeking permission before you visit, follow all the rules and do not interfere with normal operations. Stick to the trails and do not cause any trouble that may lead the owners to close access for others.
View Frontenac Falls – Camp Barton in a larger map
Frontenac Falls is apparently named for Louis de Buade de Frontenac, a governor of New France in the late 1600’s who made incursions into the area to fight with the Iroquois, specifically the Onondagas. Frontenac Island on Cayuga Lake also bears his name, which may be the result of French Jesuit priests who lived in Indian villages in the area and may have named places after the governor.
The waterfalls reside on Frontenac Point, which was an early trading stop for both Native Americans and white settlers in the area who found water routes much easier than trekking over land.
The falls and surrounding 300 acres remained in private hands until it became Camp Barton – once located at present day Taughannock Falls State Park. In 1927, the scout camp moved to its present location and has remained here ever since.
There has been speculation that the state may try to make Frontenac Falls into a state park in the near future. If and when that happens remains to be seen, but the acquisition seems to be a priority.
The gorge to the south is three times bigger with the largest waterfall in the Northeast. Visit the State Parks if you haven’t already.
Silky water effect
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