GPS/Locations: New Hope Mills Falls: (N 42.79909 / W 76.34619)
Directions: Take Route 20 towards Skaneateles until you reach Route 41A (west lake road). Travel south down West Lake Road 12 miles until you see a green sign for ‘New Hope’. Shortly thereafter, there will be a sign on the left for New Hope Mills. Take a left, and pull down a rough gravel road towards the mill.
Or use Google Directions.
Parking: Park in the mill lot or on the side of the road leading up to the mill.
Number of falls: 2 dammed falls in the vicinity and a few cascades downstream.
Size/Types: The falls here are the result of the two mill ponds that power the mills. There is an upper mill pond with a twenty-four-foot waterfall before the sawmill. The lower mill pond before the flour mill has a twenty-eight-foot waterfall. Water can be stored overnight in the upper pond to run the mill the following day. There is also a small seasonal waterfall downstream from the mill, and numerous smaller cascades downstream (although they may be on private property).
Best time to visit: Spring, summer and fall.
Flow: Relatively constant – regulated by the mill pond.
Waterway: Bear Swamp Creek, which begins 5 miles southeast in Bear Swamp, a four mile long wetland in a narrow valley. After flowing through the village, it plunges over Carpenter Falls and through the Bahar Nature Preserve and finally into Skaneateles Lake.
Time: 30 minutes to see both falls.
Seasons/Hours: June 1st – Labor Day, 9am-4pm, although the mill isn’t open all year, you may be able to park at the end of the parking lot off-season/ off hours and walk down around the mill and photograph it. Keep in mind that the mill is on private property and that the owners may consider some activities loitering. Please be respectful of their establishment, obey all signs, and if asked to leave, do so.
Handicap accessibility: Yes.
Pets: Not allowed at all.
New Hope Mills Inc.
New Hope Mills operated on this creek since 1823 and only recently relocated to a new production facility in Auburn. The old red mill, covered bridge, water wheel (and hidden power turbine under the mill) is still capable of operating today, although the mill has been decommissioned and New Hope Mills Inc. intends on preserving the site as an historic monument to mill manufacturing in New York. They kindly allow visitors, and can help in arranging group tours.
The mill’s characteristic rustic red color, massive iron waterwheel, and tiny covered bridge make it a prime subject for photography as well as a study in the history of water power in this region. Although the waterwheel prominently hovers over the creek, and is capable of functioning, the mill’s real power comes from the water turbine underneath the mill. The turbine can run all year round provided there is sufficient water.
Just upstream, another historic water-powered facility, once a saw mill, sits by a large pond created by damming the Bear Swamp Creek. Its rustic appearance is true to its age. Although dilapidated, no longer working, and will probably not be standing for long, it is no doubt a beautiful step back to the days when mills dominated the creeks and waterfalls of upstate New York waters.
For those itching to try New Hope Mill’s awesome pancake mixes and flours (all made in the Finger Lakes) check local shops and grocers, or head 20 miles northwest to their outlet store in Auburn for the full selection, fresh out of the mill. Not in town, Amazon has your fix.
New Hope Mills Products
Distance: Several hundred feet to see both mills.
Description: From the parking lot, cross the covered bridge over Bear Swamp Creek (and a small cascade) and view the mill from the side, along with the waterwheel and the 28 foot plunge. If you continue on the well defined path, you can walk further on about 50 yards or so and you’ll come to the seasonal waterfall and a unique area where you can view the mill and the waterfalls directly through the trees.
To access the upper falls, either walk or drive back up the road you came down until you reach the old sawmill that is right next to the bridge. Walk across the bridge, and down the hill on the opposite side of the first mill pond. You can get various views of the other waterfall from this area.
View New Hope Mills Falls in a larger map
The flour mill was built by Judge Charles Kellogg. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (1808-09, 1821-22) and later reelected to Congress (1825). Judge Kellogg sold the mill to Horace Rounds in 1851. The mill remained in the Rounds family until 1947. The mill was then sold to Howard Weed, Hubert Latta, and Leland Weed; the mill became New Hope Mills at this time. Dale Weed became the sole owner in 2001 when David entered the presence of his Lord and Savior in Heaven.
The flour mill and a saw mill a short distance upstream are known as New Hope Mills Inc. There were 15 water powered industries along the banks of Bear Swamp Creek in the 1850′s. Now, only these two mills remain as a tribute to New Hope Mills’ unique past.
Local history contends that the community of New Hope was given its name from the top of its new flour mill in 1823. After the mill’s forty-foot, five-sided ridge pole was put in place, a man climbed to the top and threw a gallon jug of whiskey over his shoulder declaring the town of Sodom to be renamed to New Hope.
The mill originally contained three runs of stone and had a capacity of 200 bushels a day. In 1892, the mill began grinding with roller mills which are still in the mill today.
New Hope Mills has been a water powered industry from its beginning. The most visible item for water power is the overshot waterwheel. In 1972, the wheel was purchased from New Jersey. The wheel was about 100 years old and very rusted which made it necessary for the buckets to be rebuilt of wood. In 1978, the buckets were rebuilt of sheet-metal that would have been used in making Brockway fenders. It is jokingly known as the only Brockway waterwheel in the world.
In today’s modern, complex, and industrial society, the old fashioned way used here consistently produces quality without pollution! In fact, at New Hope Mills, the water is improved by its use; it is aerated as it passes over the waterwheel or through the turbine. The wheel does not put a drop of petroleum into the water because the wheel bearing is made of the rare wood Lignum vitae that has its own lubricant.
Bahar Nature Preserve and Carpenter Falls
A few miles north along the creek lies one of the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s most prized treasures. This 25-acre woodland contains Carpenter Falls, the Bear Swamp Creek Ravine, and a 65-foot natural beach.
Silky water effect
Photography / Writing
Contributor / Maps