Rattlesnake Gulf and Adams Eden Camp

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Location / Directions / Maps

Location: On land owned by Adams Eden Camp; Tully Valley; town of Lafayette; Onondaga County; New York

Maps: Google Map; Bing MapMulti (topo); Camp mapInteractive map.

GPS/Locations: Camp entrance: (N 42.87050 / W 76.17738)
Parking: (N 42.86934 / W 76.17688)
Park office: (N 42.86954 / W 76.17658)
Gully Trail-head: (N 42.86561 / W 76.17315)

Directions: From Syracuse and points north: Take I-81 S. to US-20 West, Exit 15; Turn left onto US 20 for 4 miles; Turn left onto Case Hill Rd. for 2.3 miles; Turn left onto South Cook Rd. for 0.6 miles. End at Adams Eden Camp (4812 S. Cook Rd.).

From Cortland and points south: Take 1-81 to EXIT 14 toward Rt-80/Tully; Turn Left onto NY-281 for 0.1 miles; Turn LEFT onto NY-80 for 7.8 miles; Turn RIGHT onto Cook RD. for 2.4 miles. End at Adams Eden Camp (4812 S. Cook Rd.)

Or use Google Directions.

Parking: Large parking area in the front of the camp.

Information / Accessibility / Accommodations

Note
The Blue Hole, a deep pothole pool, is extremely dangerous, on private property and is off-limits to visitors.

Latest Lafayette, New York, weather conditions and forecast

Number of falls: 4, and numerous smaller cascades and plunge basins. From top to bottom are the Blue Hole, Wedding Falls, Great Falls, and Fourth Falls.

Size/Types: The falls here vary, with some reaching 25 feet high. The Blue Hole is a combination ribbon plunge/cascade with a deep aquamarine-colored pothole pool. Wedding Falls is a tiered cascade, while Great Falls is a cascade with a unique bounding plunge where the water shoots down the rock face.

Best time to visit: Spring, early summer, and fall.

Flow: Variable, dependent on rainfall. Maintains a decent flow year-round. Heavy rainfall can cause the creek to become impassable at times.

Waterway: Rattlesnake Gulf Creek, which is a tributary to Onondaga Creek, which passes north through the Onondaga Indian Reservation, then through the city of Syracuse where it joins with the city’s municipal waste-water before it empties into Onondaga Lake.

Time: At least 3 hours for the waterfalls. You can stay the entire weekend at the camp.

Seasons/Hours: Open 6 days a week. 9 AM – Sundown. Closed on Tuesdays.

Admission: One day passes and season passes are available at the camp. One day pass is $4 for individuals, $8 for families. Season passes are $20 for individuals, $40 for families, and $50 for Family Plus Passes (family plus 2 guests).

Handicap accessibility: No.

Pets: Allowed on leash.

Camping: This is a fully-equipped camping facility with a lodge, cabin, and many campsites. Call (315) 677-5121 for reservations.

Accommodations: Restrooms; wash houses; cabins; pavilions; picnic facilities; rope course; zipline; canoe and paddle boat rentals; ponds; indoor games; maze; team-building; fishing.

Contact Information

Description

Rattlesnake Gulf FallsAKA: Rattlesnake Gulch; the Blue Hole; Wedding Falls; Great Falls

Adams Eden Camp approached NYFalls.com about doing a profile on this amazing glen. For one, they were concerned about people trespassing on the land through other means and getting into trouble. The camp wanted to let people know that they can visit this place safely and legally. Walking from the “Blue Hole” down provides a safer, more enjoyable route than the unauthorized access, and the camp offers a host of activities to fill out the rest of your day. For a very reasonable price of $3 per person for a day pass, we found this to be more than worth it.

The camp offers a variety of accommodations on the 340 acres containing Rattlesnake Gulf.  There are ample hiking trails, boating, and fishing, and picnic areas around this picturesque area. The camp also has a ropes course referred to as Goliath’s Challenge which combines high and low adventure elements for team building purposes. Too much to cover in one day? Set up a tent, or book one of the modern cabins for an extended stay.

Rattlesnake Gulf is very typical of the type of glens and gorges in the Finger Lakes region. You will find towering shale stone walls sandwiched with limestone layers. However, Rattlesnake Gulf is unique in the breadth and scope of this characteristic. With a steep grade towards the Tully Valley, the creek speedily rushes downhill, and for centuries has cut a sharp ravine into the bedrock. During this time, when the water reached tougher rock layers, or extended periods of low flow, waterfalls stalled and cut deep potholes into the weaker, soluble rock below. Rattlesnake Gulf is full of these deep blue basins, colored by the minerals from the limestone that the creek passes through.

The gulf alternates between the shale and limestone layers, with the lower falls and plunge pools cutting through limestone, shaping them into multi-tiered cascades. Nearly all of the waterfalls have wonderfully deep pools below, many of which are smooth and moss-lined. The glen is well-shaded with mature forests which provide respite on hot summer days.

In the recent past, Rattlesnake Gulf has suffered from landslides, which are common in the Tully Valley. The glacial till (dirt, sand, stone and clay) make-up of the valley is highly unstable, especially during and shortly after periods of high rain. Landslides are a dangerous reality here. Be careful and check the weather prior to exploring this gully.

Rattlesnake Gulf - Adams Eden Camp

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Hiking / Walking Trails

Note
Please follow all marked paths and note that the Blue Hole is now closed to access. No trespassing.

Rattlesnake Gulf creek-walk and climb

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult depending on how far you go.

Markings: Some signs.

Distance: Over 3 miles to the last falls and back.

Description: Getting to these falls requires first walking down a steep woodland trail to the stream-bed. From there, it is mostly a creek-walk to the numerous falls. The first two falls are relatively easy and straightforward to get to the bottom of, utilizing the rocks to climb down.The third falls (Great Falls) requires skill to use existing ropes to climb up and around the crest, following the ropes through the woods to the bottom of the falls. If you reach a point that is too difficult, don’t risk it. Remember, you will have to climb back up all these falls.

Map: InteractiveCamp map.

Adams Eden Camp and Rattlesnake Gulf Interactive Map

Drag the map or click the arrows to move around and use the +/- to zoom in or out. Click on the icons for more information. This map is not accurate. Caution and common sense should be used when hiking.

View Rattlesnake Gulf in a larger map

History

Rattlesnake Gulf is particularly rife with fossils from the middle Devonian era (380 million years ago). Just walking on the stream-bed you cannot help but step on a variety of types of horn coral, mollusks, and trilobites that are from an era when New York was a warm, tropical ocean. The seas that covered the area 300 million years ago vanished, leaving fossils for us to discover. There was another period of the area being inundated with a sea (or large inland freshwater lake) about 80 million years ago. Due to these seas being here, the area became known for its famous salt deposits that have been mined for years.

The more recent geological history of the area is typical of the surrounding Tully Valley. During the last ice age, the edge of a giant glacier stood at Tully Valley and had built up an enormous end moraine, about 600 feet high across the valley. As the torrents of melt water flowed south, they spread quantities of gravel and sand that now make up much of the valley floor. It is the most extensive area of glacial outwash in Central New York. The ravines above the floor of the valley have gradually eroded, forming steep gorges that make up the numerous waterfalls in the area, consisting of both Tully Limestone and shale. Just south of the moraine and Rattlesnake Gulf, lie the Tully Lakes, pothole and kettle lakes formed from enormous melt-waterfalls and chunks of ice from the receding glacier.

The area has recently been known for landslides that dropped portions of the clay-based hillsides down into the valley, the biggest being in 1993. This area, as well as the whole Onondaga Creek watershed, are often disturbed by farm run off, gravel mining, and denuding of the hillside for housing developments. Just a few years ago there was a large landslide in Rattlesnake Gulf that choked off portions of the creek and formed two small lakes. This activity will no doubt continue in the future, perhaps one day closing off the gully forever under rocks and sediment.

The history of the camp. . .
The camp was owned and operated by the Syracuse Rescue Mission from the late 1960’s to 2003. Previously known as Camp Id Ra Ha Je, which stood for I’d Rather Have Jesus, the camp was a ministry outreach to inner-city youth. The camp’s retreat center was known as the Moosewood Christian Camping Center. After 2003 the camp sat vacant for a few years and is now privately owned and is no longer connected with the Syracuse Rescue Mission. Currently, Paul and Linda Adams along with their children operate the camp which is now called Adams Eden Camp.

Interesting Stuff

Bald Mountain

As the name states. the top of this hill has a few nice openings in the canopy, serving up beautiful views of the valley bellow. It’s well worth the hike up here. Hang gliders take off from a platform near the top.

Mountain Meadow Maze

This 10-acre maze has 30 signs to help you through. It’s a must while you’re here.

Photography Tips

The Falls

  • Great Falls and Wedding Falls are both in rather open areas so shots will have to be composed with this in mind. Bring polarizer and neutral density filters to block out some of the excess light. Try taking shots of the double bouncing cascade of Great Falls as well.
  • On the way to the lower falls, the gully opens up quite spectacularly, affording opportunities to take pictures looking out into the valley from the crest of Wedding and Great Falls. Take a moment to snap some pictures from the tops of the waterfalls.
  • The upper falls are heavily forested, which allows for long exposure photography nearly all the time.

Proper creek-walk footwear

  • Wear the proper footwear for creek walking and climbing. Not only can a quality pair of water shoes prevent blisters and infection, they will help you stick better to the ground and reduce your risk of falling, hurting your self, or your camera gear.

Overcast skies

  • Daylight will cast uneven shadows through the canopy and cause sunspots in your shots. It is best to wait for an overcast sky for this one.

Silky water effect

  • To get that smooth cotton-candy look to the falls, you need to use a Neutral Density (ND) filter on your lens. The ND filter will block some of the light from entering the lens without altering the color, and thus allow your shutter to stay open longer. This blurs the water and creates a soft white gloss to the foamy areas of the falls. You can pick up a Neutral Density (ND) filter relatively cheap on Amazon.
  • Cut down on reflections and help reduce the light entering the lens by utilizing a Circular Polarizer filter. Most of the waterfall scenes shown on this website are captured with this type of filter. It reduces glare and helps us obtain more even exposures.You can pick up a Circular Polarizer filter relatively cheap on Amazon.
  • When shooting slow shutter speeds a sturdy Tripod is a must. Don’t settle for a cheap tripod that wobbles in the wind or can be vibrated by water currents. Amazon has a nice selection of quality Tripods.

More tips

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