GPS/Locations: Medina Falls: (N 43.22245 / W 78.38286)
Directions: Take Rt 104 to Horan Rd and head south towards Medina. Horan Rd. will meet with the canal in the village. Follow Horan until it turns into Lauren Street.
Or use Google Directions.
Parking: You can park in the gravel lot right above the falls where Horan Road meets Laurel St. The canal trail parking area is off of Horan Rd. It has space for about 20 cars. Alternative parking can be found along the loop in the State Street Park, which is across the canal from the falls. (map).
Number of falls: 1.
Size/Types: Medina Falls is a 40 plunge from a shelf of limestone. The creek emerges from under the Erie Canal shortly before going over Media Falls.
Best time to visit: Spring through early fall.
Waterway: Oak Orchard Creek, which begins in Oak Orchard Swamp, near Oakfield in Genesee County. After crossing the Erie Canal and pouring over Media Falls, it expands into Greenwood Lake, created by a small hydroelectric dam. It then becomes another small lake in Waterport, flows over another dam, before it reaches Lake Ontario at Point Breeze near Lakeside Beach State Park.
Time: A few minutes to see it from the canal towpath. Up to a half-hour to get to the base of the falls.
Handicap accessibility: Yes, the Erie Canal towpath in Media is handicap accessible.
Seasons/Hours: Erie Canal trail is open from dawn until dusk.
Pets: Allowed, on a leash. Not allowed to swim in the canal.
New York State Canal Corporation
Although not very pleasing to the eye, Medina Falls is a part of an engineering triumph. Oak Orchard Creek flows from south to north through the village of Medina, while the Erie Canal passes east-west over the creek just above the falls. The engineers constructed a huge aqueduct to carry the canal over the creek along with a wastewater system to control overflow (which empties into the creek).
After passing under the canal aqueduct, the creek drops an almost vertical 40 feet. A broken man-made dam at the crest of the falls, meant to maintain a few feet of water for mill power, squeezes the water down to half of the crest’s length. At times of high flow, water may flow over the dam wall, doubling the width of the falls.
The water flowing over the falls looks dirty from the canal towpath above, and a trip down to the creek bed below confirms it. Litter is everywhere, and where there aren’t bottles and socks, the water leaves behind a smelly grime that coats everything. Just upstream is a wastewater station that dumps excess canal water into the creek—and that’s probably the reason. But even though this isn’t the prettiest waterfall in the county, it’s worth a stop to see how the canal engineers tackled crossing a natural body of water while building an artificial one.
Viewing from the towpath
Markings: Paved towpath.
Distance: Less than 50 ft from the parking area above the falls.
From the parking area above the falls (off of Laurel St), head towards the canal, and follow the paved towpath south towards the roar of the falls.
Getting to the base of the falls
Distance: Less than 30 ft from the towpath.
From the towpath above the falls, look for a clearing in the wooded area and a makeshift ladder someone built further down the towpath from the falls. A careful descent will get you to a series of trails. Each one will get you closer to the creek and then the falls.
View Medina Falls in a larger map
In 1805 the Holland Company operated a sawmill on the falls, but because only a few settlers lived in the area no roads were built and people couldn’t get their wood to the mill without great difficulty. The mill failed years later. Numerous other mills would spring up along the creek (and subsequently burn down) for years to come. Although eventually several settlers were utilizing the creek for power, infrastructure and government did not grab hold and the area remained primarily wilderness until the canal came along.
In 1823, after the Erie canal was surveyed and construction began for this area, officials noted this small settlement as a village. Ebeneezer Mix was called in to help plan the village around the canal and dubbed the settlement Medina. When digging began in the area, workers uncovered colorful red rock called Medina Sandstone. Quarries have since sprung up all over and Medina rock can be found all over the world, including Buckingham Palace. For the original canal aqueduct, stone was quarried from the creek banks to the north as well as from Lockport. A local mason, Artemas Allen, was recruited as master mason for the construction.
In 1840, the Weld and Hill Flour Mill was constructed on this site and because of its easy access to the canal, did very well until it burned down in 1899. It was replaced by a electrical power plant, which is most likely the source of the dam at the crest of the falls.
Medina thrived from the traffic brought by the canal. Two factors made it the perfect stopover for passing boats. For one, Medina is the halfway point between Buffalo and Rochester. In addition, the southerly bend in the canal allowed for a widening just past the aqueduct. This was the perfect spot for boaters to pull over and dock to let other traffic by. Many hotels and other accommodations for passers-by sprang up due to the stopover traffic.
1913 saw a lot of developments for the Erie Canal system. The aqueduct that now carries the canal over Oak Orchard Creek was built then, replacing and earlier one. The expansion also erased all traces of the mill race that once powered the mills and plants that lined the canal.
The church in the middle of the street
St. Johns Episcopal Church is located in the middle of Church Street in the village of Medina. Featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Map
The only tunnel allowing motorists to drive under the Erie Canal. This unique feat of engineering was built to avoid a very expensive and time-consuming construction of a bridge and approach roads on both sides of the canal that would have been needed to carry traffic over the waterway. Listed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Located northeast of Medina. Map
Rail fans should check out the huge museum of Western NY trains and artifacts at the Medina Railroad Museum.
Silky water effect
Writing / Photography