The Waterfalls of Stony Brook State Park

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Location / Directions / Maps

Location: South of the village of Dansville, in the town of Dansville, Steuben County, New York.

Maps: Google MapBing Map; Multi-map (topo); Park MapCampground MapInteractive.

GPS/Locations: Park office/Entrance: (N 42.52506 / W 77.69584)
Swimming area dam: (N 42.52119 / W 77.69345)
First major falls: (N 42.51828 / W 77.69242)
Second major falls: (N 42.51578 / W 77.69295)
Third major falls: (N 42.51350 / W 77.69128)

Directions: Take I-390 to Rt. 36 (exit 4) Dansville/Hornell. Turn south onto Rt. 36 and follow it for about a mile. The park entrance will be on your left.

Parking: After passing through the main gate, follow the park road until it ends at the main lot near the picnic area and playgrounds. Additional parking can be found in a smaller lot near the tennis courts, which can be found along the park road more towards the park entrance.

Information / Accessibility / Accommodations

Latest Dansville, New York, weather conditions and forecast

Number of falls: 3 large waterfalls and at least 6 smaller ones.

Size/Types: Ranging from 1 to 40 feet high. Including classic cascades, narrow channels, staircases, chutes, overhanging and newborn falls.

Best time to visit: Spring, summer, fall. Gets crowded on hot weekends and holidays.

Flow: Consistent medium to high flow.

Waterway: Stony Brook, which begins about two miles south, and after flowing through the park, empties into Canaseraga Creek. Canaseraga Creek is a major tributary to the Genesee River. It meets the Genesee just north of Mount Morris.

Time: 2 hours.

Seasons/Hours: The park is open from dawn to dusk, closing at dark, year round. The park office is open 7 am to 5 pm. Day use fees are charged between 9 am to 5 pm. The Gorge and East Rim Trails close for winter.

Parking: Parking lots for over 60 cars.

Admission: $7 vehicle fee.

Handicap accessibility: Much of the park is handicap accessible, including the swimming area. The trails are not.

Pets: Allowed on leash. Not allowed on the Gorge Trail. For the safety of everyone, including your pet, do not bring your pet on the Gorge Trail.

Swimming: From Memorial Day through Labor Day the creek is dammed to form a swimming and wading pool. Swimming is allowed when lifeguards are on duty. Visitors also enjoy bathing in the creek along the gorge trail. This is officially not allowed, but everyone does it.

Camping: The fully-equipped campgrounds are located in the south end of the park (separate entrance). It features 112 campsites and 8 cabins. Camping season begins the first week in May and lasts through the second week in October.  Book a campsite at this park.

Accommodations: Restrooms; changing rooms; showers; snack bar; gift shop; picnic tables; playground; activity fields; grills; tennis courts.

Contact Information

Description

Although often crowded and loud, Stony Brook State Park is a gem of a park. With a history of private resorts and a natural playground for many generations, its current incarnation is an adventurous creek walk with towering waterfalls, refreshingly cool water and remnants of its historic past.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built the stone trails and bridges that carry you over the creek and up the falls, but you’ll find most visitors leave the trail to wade in the cool waters. Unfortunately this isn’t very healthy for the natural state of the creek. Often you will find floating trash, and the constant activity disrupts the natural fauna, as well as kicking up sediment that is then carried downstream.

The main attractions are three falls, Lower, Middle and Upper Falls, each with notable plunge pools. Lower falls, the first large falls you will come across, is a picturesque 40 ft sparkling cascade that seems to fan out as it falls. The Middle Falls drops only 20 ft, but is large at the crest and drops in more gradual steps. The Upper Falls is the largest cascade, at 45 ft, and seems to have the deepest plunge pool.

Speaking of pools, bring your suit. The park sports a natural swimming area created by damming the creek in two areas. The pools are filled every morning and are constantly fed by the creek. The water is cool, sparkling and a great way to end a hike.

Along the way you’ll see plenty more small falls, as well as many people. Get there early to beat the crowds.

Stony Brook State Park

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Hiking / Walking Trails

Gorge Trail

Difficulty: Moderate (due to the numerous uneven steps).

Markings: Stone walkway; labeled trail-head.

Distance: About a mile one way.

Description: The official gorge trails are clearly defined as a dirt and stone trail with steps and bridges, but most visitors wet their shoes and walk the creek, falling back to the trail steps to get above the falls. The trail occasionally winds in and out of wooded areas. The trail ends just short of the campground area where it ascends the gorge . At this point you can creek-walk to one more large waterfall.

Maps: Park MapInteractive map.

Stony Brook 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 Stony Brook State Park in a larger map

History

Stony Brook Upper Falls c.1928

Stony Brook Upper Falls c.1928

Before white settlers, this area was the Seneca village of Ganosgago and the site of a great battle of the Canisteo and Seneca Indians.

Dansville was named for Captain Daniel P. Faulker, an early pioneer in the village and prominent citizen. Rufus Fuller built the first sawmill in town on Stony Brook in April of 1816 and a gristmill just downstream in 1820. The gristmill was destroyed by flood 3 years later.

It wasn’t until after the Civil War that landowners opened Stony Brook to the public, charging a nominal admission fee. In 1883 a railroad bridge was constructed over the gorge (the trestle, in ruins, still found in the creek today) and a station in Dansville, brought tourists by the thousands. In the 1920s, the 250 acre park saw its largest crowds.

Eventually the Great Depression hit and the private park struggled to operate. The state took ownership in 1928 and in the 1930s, a major effort by the Civilian Conservation Corps, rebuilt the park infrastructure and expanded it to nearly 600 acres.

Interesting Stuff

Plunge Pools

The pools at the base of the larger falls are deep enough for a refreshing dip. If you can fit, some of the narrow channels can be slid down.

Old Rail Bridge

Stone pillars mark the location of an old railroad that brought tourists into the park during the late 1800s. The station was located where the campground office is today.

Natural Gas

In the lower park, bubbles can often be seen coming up from the water. These are natural gas bubbles. The gas was used for lighting and cooking.

Sawmill site

The park offers a swimming area by damming off the creek bed near the snack bar and changing rooms. This is near the site of a colonial saw and grist mill.

Photography Tips

Photographing the Falls

  • Don’t be afraid to get soaked standing in a plunge-pool to get a better angle on the falls.
  • People in the creek doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot shoot. Include people for scale.
  • The Upper Falls sports a small ledge on the right side. It’s a perfect spot for someone to stand for an intimate portrait in front of the falls.

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

  • This frothy waterfall sparkles in sunlight which will cause exposure problems. 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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