GPS: Park entrance: (N 42.33709 / W 76.83316)
Directions: Take Rt. 14 to the south end of Montour Falls and turn onto Havana Glen Rd. Turn where you see the Havana Glen Park sign on the right. Adjacent to the trailer park is Havana Glen Park. Follow the loop around the park to the parking lot on the far end.
Or use Google Directions.
Parking: Parking for roughly 15 cars is available in the lot near the trail head. Additional parking is also available along the park loop. Try not to interfere with campsites.
Number of falls: Several small waterfalls and one large one.
Size/Types: Eagle Cliff Falls is 41 feet high with a 16 ft wide plunge in a nearly enclosed amphitheater of rock. Numerous small cascades can be encountered along the way including a staircase-like falls that parallels the trail.
Best time to visit: Spring, summer, fall. The park is closed after mid-October, so visit early in the fall.
Flow: Moderate; consistent. It may have less dramatic flow in the dry summer, but it is rarely completely dry.
Waterway: McClure Creek, a tributary to Catharine Creek, which is the main inlet into Seneca Lake.
Time: 20 minutes for the Havana Glen trail. We feel one can easily spend several hours photographing around the glen and park.
Seasons/Hours: Park open in season only – approximately from mid May through mid October. Dawn to dusk.
Admission: $2 per car. Free in the off-season.
Handicap accessibility: The main park and facilities are. The view of the first set of falls is. The glen trail is not.
Pets: Allowed in the park on leash. Not allowed on the gorge trail for safety reasons.
Camping: Campsites are available. 14 electric sites and 10 tent sites. Call for more information: (607) 535-9476.
Accommodations: Restrooms; showers; pavilions; picnic tables; playgrounds; informational signs; trails; playing fields.
Havana Glen Park
Havana Glen Park, which includes Eagle Cliff Falls, is a well-developed town park at the south end of the village of Montour Falls. It provides for excellent recreational opportunities as it has ball fields, playgrounds, camping facilities, and a beautiful (but short) hike through Havana Glen. We found this to be an excellent location to spend the day, but one may want to avoid hot summer weekends as the place can get very busy.
The park contains various species of rare native New York State plants, and has been classified as an important area for birding, as over 100 species have been documented here. McClure Creek, the source of Eagle Cliff Falls, has been designated a trout stream, and is thus protected to allow for migratory fish from Seneca Lake to safely spawn.
Eagle Cliff Falls is interesting in that it pours down from a deep gouge cut by the stream halfway into the gorge. Currently it sits in a hanging valley at least 60 ft below the towering cliffs on each side. The narrow notch cut by the creek above the falls propels the water at a formidable speed, keeping this falls strong year-round. The crest spans 15 feet across, and more than half the water that passes it rebounds off a smaller ledge a few feet below. The water then plunges out into the creek bed 40 ft below.
Surrounding the falls area is a seemingly enclosed cathedral of vertical rock, complete with towering spires, moss covered limestone and Eagle Cliff, a spread-wing eagle profile naturally carved into the rock face. The amphitheatre is so large, it gives the impression of the waterfall being very narrow, but step directly in front of the falls and you’ll see that it is actually quite wide.
Above Eagle Cliff Falls are more large waterfalls and stone chasms, once accessible a century ago when this was a private tourist attraction, but now not only is it off-limits, it is also dangerous to reach. A half mile upstream the gorge widens into Mitchell Hollow, a massive fertile expanse of heavily wooded watershed reaching all the way to Odessa. It too is off-limits.
Markings: Marked trail with gravel and wood deck walkways.
Distance: A few hundred feet at most.
The Glen Trail is very short and only climbs 5 modest flights of stairs. It starts from the parking area, proceeds up the left side of the creek, past numerous small falls and ends at the entrance to the Eagle Cliff amphitheater. Once there, you can creek walk closer to the falls.
Once there, feel free to walk behind the falls and in the shallow pool below it. We highly recommend you do not scale any walls, and that you keep a look out for falling rocks.
View Havana Glen and Eagle Cliff Falls in a larger map
Havana Glen and the surrounding area were shaped by the advance and retreat of numerous glaciers during the last ice age. At one time, Seneca Lake was at a higher level than it is today, and the whole of Havana Glen Park was under the lake.
The area has a rich human history. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) flourished in the area, utilizing the glen’s medicinal and edible plants, such as Goldenrod and Mayapple. 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 development of Havana Glen as a scenic destination began with nearby Watkins Glen’s growing popularity. A long-standing administrative rivalry between the village of Watkins Glen and Montour Falls (then Havana) extended to their natural wonders. As Watkins Glen brought in upwards of 60,000 visitors a year, entrepreneurs began developing Havana Glen to be an attraction of its own.
Catharine Valley Trail
Catharine Valley Trail, when completed, 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.
Shooting the falls
Silky water effect
Photography / Writing
Photography / Writing / Maps