Descriptive Guide Book to Watkins Glen (published 1874)
The following is a word-for-word reprint of the text, and in some cases, images, of a printed guide-book sold as a souvenir starting in 1874. Any typos or inaccuracies have been left intact, but the document has been re-flowed to fit the webpage. This book is now a part of the public domain. A lot has changed since then, which is why we are publishing this content. It is for educational purposes only. If you want a more recent guide and description, see our Watkins Glen State Park page.
DESCRIPTIVE GUIDE BOOK OF THE WATKINS GLEN
LOCATED AT WATKINS-HEAD OF SENECA LAKE-SCHUYLER CO., N. Y,
the walls of which rise in beetling cliffs on either side. Ahead of us the walls almost meet, and farther passage seems barred, with the exception of a narrow rift in the rocks, as if they had, by some mighty power, been torn asunder. Through this narrow portal the stream issues, and we can already hear the music of falling water. As we try to penetrate the dark recesses with the eye, we notice a wall of rock extending directly across the chasm, and apparently ending it. Before ascending the staircase, however, we pass beneath it, and around the base of the overhanging rocks, where we obtain a fine view of one of the wildest scenes of the Glen—the
rocks, sixty feet above, and dashing into a dark cavernous pool below. At our feet slumbers the Fish Pool, broad, deep, clear, and irregular in form, and so named from the immense number of the finny tribe which sport in its pellucid waters in spring and early summer. We now ascend the staircase, which is strong and secure! and find ourselves in the entrance of what is called
or the first section. As we are climbing the staircase, we see that the channel makes a sharp turn to the left, which accounts for the apparent obstruction. At the head of the staircase is a little bridge spanning the chasm, known as
Here we pause a few moments to rest, and take a look down through the amphitheatre we have just left, out across the smiling valley to the green hills beyond, and down through the jagged edges of rock to the deep blue basin, broken into circling ripples by the falling column of water.
Here, for the first time, the delightful sensation steals over us, produced by the invigorating and inspiring atmosphere. The air, as it draws down through the Glen, is cool, fresh and bracing, and is laden with a thousand sweet odors, the fragrance of a thousand flowers. We look upward into the Glen and realize now the stupendous grandeur of this masterpiece of nature, and seem to draw inspiration from its wild magnificence. We feel new strength, and an eagerness to make the ascent. We seem to have forgotten the outer world that we have left behind us, and to be in a kind of fairy land, the work of some ancient race of giants. One of the sensations usually experienced by those who visit the Glen for the first time, is that of apparent danger, but this rapidly wears away, and we see that what appear to be dangerous places are not so in reality. It may be well here to say that every precaution has been taken to render the tour of the Glen perfectly safe. All that threatened danger has been removed, and every unsafe place guarded. Some passages that seem dangerous are only a little difficult and devoid of any peril.
Looking upward from the point where we now stand, what a sight bursts upon us! Towering and irregular cliffs of dark rock rise one above another till they appear to meet in the clouds, angular and sullen, and seem to forbid approach! A little narrow thread of sky is all that reminds us of the world we have left, and that is barred and spangled by patches of bright green foliage.
“All the air a solemn stillness holds,”
unbroken save by the singing and plashing of some distant cascade, or occasionally the murmuring ripple of the stream as it courses through its rocky channel. At numerous places in the Glen we pause, and wonder how it is possible to go much farther, the way appears so impassable, and the distance so inaccessible; but as we advance, the path always opens, and gives far more interest to the ascent than though we could clearly mark our way before us.
Crossing Sentry Bridge, we ascend a short flight of steps on the south side, and before us lies a pathway cut in the solid rock, leading along under the overhanging cliffs, fifteen to twenty feet above the stream. We are now fairly in
As we gaze down into the pellucid depths of the water, and up at the facade of rock on the opposite side, new beauties strike us at every step. The various hues and tints of the rock, the eccentric combinations of curves and angles, seem as if nature had endeavored to see what wildly grotesque and yet beautiful images she could produce. We now catch a glimpse of the second cascade, called
It is beautiful, irregular, and yet full of grace. The water broken several times in its fall, is dashed into a brilliant contrast to the dark, rocky surroundings. About thirty feet above Minnehaha is the
which with one graceful bound leaps into
Following the path, we come to a rustic seat, from which a charming view is obtained in both directions. The view, looking up from this point, is called
and for wild grandeur is unsurpassed by any in the Glen.
And here it would be well to advise visitors not to press on too eagerly in ascending the Glen, but to proceed deliberately, and frequently look back, as in many cases the views we have passed are the finest. Looking forward at the narrow gorge we are about entering, we see a staircase above us, and beyond that still another, almost perpendicular in its position, and of great height. This portion of the Glen is called
The channel of the stream is here very narrow. We cross by the plank bridge which is thrown over it, and ascending several steps cut in the rock, on the north side, we mount the first staircase, which again brings us to the south bank.
A little farther under the shelving cliffs of rock, and we are at the foot of the Long Staircase leading to the top of the north cliff. Here we are in a strangely wild and interesting place. Before going up the staircase, if we pass by it a little way, we find ourselves in a cavern, directly behind the sheet of water, almost circular in form, dark and damp, but sublimely grand. This is called The Grotto, and no one should fail to visit this weird chamber. Here the
leaps from the rocks above, down forty or fifty feet, into the Stygian Pool.
The cascade is a single column of water, not altogether unlike the Entrance Cascade, but much grander. The rocky walls of the Grotto reverberate the echoes of the falling water until the sound is fairly deafening, and the light of the “outer world” gleaming through the transparent stream in front of you, gives it the appearance of molten silver. Returning to the staircase, the downward view from the foot of which is called Whirlwind Gorge, we ascend fifty feet, and are glad to avail ourselves of the rustic seat at the top, for it is no easy pull up the long flight of steps. This is the head of the first section, Glen Alpha. We look back of us, and do not tire of the charming views presented at every angle. Looking forward, we see a portion of the second section, the peculiar formation of which renders it impassable. It can, however, all be seen from above. It contains very remarkable features, and forms a series of charming bird’s-eye views when seen from the northern cliffs. This section, which we see from the head of the staircase, is called
The effect of this scene is very fine. After emerging from the dark chasm, we see before us silvery cascades, quiet pools and moss garnished walls, overarched by stately forest trees and thick shrubbery, with a broad light flooding the distance ; and far above is seen through the emerald foliage, like a web of gossamer, the beautiful Iron Bridge spanning the Glen.
After a refreshing rest, we again start upon our journey. We turn sharply to the right, by a new path that leads towards the entrance of the Glen for a considerable distance, along the verge of the gorge, and here the wildness of the scene is truly impressive. We ascend a short flight of steps, and stand at
where the path runs out to the top of a high cliff, and commands a beautiful view of Glen Alpha below. We are forcibly impressed with the beauty of the foliage, which appears all the brighter as we emerge from the dark recesses of the Glen. It is a singular fact, that nowhere, perhaps, upon the American Continent, can such a range of vegetation be found within such narrow limits and in such close juxtaposition. On the northern slopes, in sheltered nooks protected from the winds, and in a great measure from frost and snow, and exposed to the warm rays of the sun, the vegetation is almost tropical: Many plants are here found, especially among the lower orders, that are indigenous to Tennessee and the Carolinas. The fern family is largely represented, and some of the most beautiful species are found. Many of the varieties attain a degree of luxuriance that astonishes the student who is familiar with them. High up on the southern cliffs, exposed to the keen north winds, many plants are found that belong far to the north. Stunted firs, mosses and lichens, that are rarely found south of the Hudson’s Bay country, are here represented. The lamented Professor Pickett, who was a botanist of rare merit, had long entertained a plan of preparing a work upon the Botany of this remarkable locality, which he had studied closely. This plan was terminated by his untimely death. Pursuing this delightful path, by a gradual ascent, we come upon the
the old portion of the Glen Mountain House, built in the form of a Swiss chalet, and perched on a sort of natural shelf, 100 feet above the level of the stream, and zoo feet above its level in Glen Alpha, overlooking The Vista, and nestling among the trees and shrubbery. Patience and indefatigable perseverance have surmounted all difficulties. When we reflect upon the difficulty attendant upon getting the timber and lumber used in the construction of buildings, staircases and bridges, to its present position—it being impossible, until recently, to use horses for the purpose—and reflect that thousands of feet of the pathways, and many of the stairs, are cut in the solid rock, and that hundreds of obstructions and threatening masses of stone had to be removed, we then see what has been accomplished. This chalet is by no means an unpretending structure, and always a welcome sight to the tourist. Those who are not fully prepared for the farther ascent of the Glen, can here array themselves suitably. In many places the paths are quite narrow, and are bordered by ferns and mosses that collect moisture, for which long skirts are unsuited. For the convenience of tourists, water-proof suits have been prepared, which can be pro cured at a small expense. From the promenades of this spacious “Cottage on the Cliff,” and from the bridge, we have several fine views of the gorge, the winding stream, and cascades far below.
After ample rest, we again start on our journey with renewed vigor. A few rods above the Mountain House is situated
This gallery, built by Captain J. Hope, late of 82 Fifth Avenue, New York, is beautifully lighted and contains a superb collection of more than one hundred of his finest paintings. Here can be seen the leading scenes in Watkins Glen, and its surroundings; also scenes in New England, Virginia, California, Europe, Sic., chief among which are, his celebrated picture of
also his great historical painting of the
and many others well known in former New York exhibitions.
Guests can spend many a pleasant hour here, and no visitor to the Glen should fail to see this splendid collection. There is an admission fee of 25 cents to this gallery, as it does not belong to the Glen. A short distance beyond the Gallery is a convenient platform, erected for the use of picnic parties.
Our way lies through the woods, by shaded paths. This section, called
until recently inaccessible, but now open to the public by the Sylvan Path, is one of the wildest, most beautiful and interesting portions of the Glen. To enjoy it fully, one should ascend by one path and return by the other. Ascending the Glen, we take the Sylvan Path, turning abruptly to the left near the picnic stand, and follow the path winding down through the stately forest. We pause on Forest Cliff to enjoy the magnificent view down the Vista. From beneath the green sylvan arches we look down into the depths, with picturesque tree-clad cliffs on either hand. To the left, perched on a jutting crag, more than a hundred feet above the bed of the stream, we catch a glimpse of Hope’s Art Gallery, and rustic arbor, mid their emerald surroundings; while far beyond the tasteful structure of the iron bridge spans the chasm, and the view finally dies away and is lost in the shadows of Whirlwind Gorge. Turning, we pursue the path, pausing oft to admire the mossy slopes that crown the chasm, and to gaze down upon Diamond Fall, and all the wild surroundings of forest, rock and stream.
After our walk through the woods, the path gradually descends until we are nearly on a level with the stream. Here in the rocks, in all directions, are found the remains of the same kind of pools that are now seen in the bed of the stream. A word on the formation of these pools may not prove uninteresting to those who are not already familiar with them. In the early spring, when the stream is very high, and the ice breaking up, large quantities of rock, bowlders, gravel and sand are carried down from above, forced along by the tremendous power of the water, and the logs and trees which are uprooted. Sometimes these bowlders lodge in a natural seam in the rock, or in a curve in the bed of the stream, and are there whirled and rolled around, until, aided by the sand and gravel that collects, they gradually grind out these basins or pools in the softer rock beneath. This process, going on for years and years, has worn some of them to an immense size. In many instances, at some succeeding flood, the bowlders have been forced from their resting places at the bottom of the pool and carried away; but in a greater number of cases, especially in the upper Glens, they are still to be seen in the basins they have carved. The remains of these basins are, in many places, to be seen now, where the channel has deepened, or changed and left them. Continuing our journey, our path leads us down toward the water again. We see a succession of little rapids and cascades leaping into Sylvan Gorge, of which this is the upper termination. These are called the
and very beautifully they glide and dance through their irregular rock channel. At the head of the Sylvan Rapids a rustic bridge spans the stream, from which, as we cross to the south side, we have a delightful bird’s-eye view down through Sylvan Gorge, with its many windings and mysterious recesses. Below the bridge is the “Bath Tub,” which will be readily recognized by its perfect resemblance to that necessary article.
Crossing the bridge, and proceeding a few steps, we find ourselves in
which is the third section. Here we obtain the best general view of this masterpiece of Nature’s handiwork. Here all description fails. Mere words are inadequate to paint a picture that would do this subject justice, or convey to the mind an idea of its grandeur. It is true the principal characteristics can be described and measurements given, but what pen can tell the inspiring sensations that crowd upon us as we stand in this mighty presence chamber? We are seized with a reverential awe, and feel an almost irresistible desire to uncover and bow our heads, as if we were, indeed, in the great tabernacle of the Supreme Architect of the Universe, reared with his own hands. The Cathedral is an immense oblong amphitheatre, nearly a quarter of a mile in length. The Glen is here wider than at any other point ; the rocky walls tower to a great height—nearly three hundred feet—and are richly tapestried with mosses and clinging vines, and crowned with lofty pines and other evergreen trees. The floor is composed of a smooth and even surface of rock ; the vaulted arch of the sky forms the dome. In the upper end the
forms the Choir, and, as it dashes from rock to rock, sings continual hymns of praise to the Infinite Power that created this mighty temple. Alluding to the peculiar feelings inspired by this stupendous work of nature, a friend who once visited it, said : ” I have often reflected upon the insignificance of man, but never so fully realized what a mere atom I was in this incomprehensible universe, as when standing in this vast Cathedral and looking up at its towering walls.” Such, indeed, is the sensation produced.
Recrossing the stream, we take the path along the north bank, in the shade of immensely tall forest trees; pausing midway for another look at the amber waters, that spread over the level floor, and at Eagle Cliff that rears its stately head above its fellows.
Situated near the upper end of the Cathedral, is a large and beautiful pool, called the
This is one of the most remarkable of these natural basins, singular for its regularity and the surpassing beauty of its form. We are here struck, more than ever before, by the wonderful clearness and purity of the water. As the sun strikes into it, it sparkles until it is fairly radiant. In pools where the water is ten or fifteen feet deep, the smallest objects upon the bottom are clearly discernible. Its refracting and distorting powers are also very great. We now ascend the
by which we are to ascend into the fourth section. This staircase is in two sections, and is seventy feet in height. Passing along the path on the cliff a few rods, we come to a short flight of stairs leading down to Cliff Platform, descending which, we obtain one of the finest views of the Central Cascade at our feet. This fall, of about 6o feet, is very beautiful, angular and irregular, yet symmetrical ; while far above, projecting through the trees, is seen Pulpit Rock. Re-ascending the staircase we find ourselves in the
so named from the number of rock basins it contains. Pursuing the path on the north bank a short distance to a point directly over Central Cascade, or a few feet beyond, and looking back down through Glen Cathedral, we have the
a truly magnificent scene. We come now to another rustic bridge, below which is the Mermaids’ Pool, and looking up from which we have, what has been appropriately termed, the
This view seems to combine within itself all the manifold beauties of the Glen. It is indescribable. Broken and angular in its formation, rock and water, cascades and deep pools, winding channels and seething rapids, foliage and sky, all combined in a chaotic inter-mingling, yet forming a harmonious and picturesque whole. As we follow the pathway cut in the rock we are never tired of admiring the manifold beauties of the water. The sunlight shimmering down through the foliage strikes into the pools, waking their crystal depths into life; new phases of magical beauty striking us at every step, like the ever varying changes in a kaleidoscope.
We pause here to rest and refresh ourselves. This is indeed an Elysium. All is hushed,
“As though the whole bright summer scene were set
To the unuttered melody of Rest!”
In such a place as this, it seems as if we could dream our life away. Leaving this point we follow the path on the south tank, through this section of the Glen, employing our time in examining the curious structure of the pools, one of which especially will be noticed, called the Horse Shoe Cascade.
We now come to a little staircase on the south bank, whereby we are to ascend to a more elevated path; but before we do so, we pass by it and a little farther up the Glen, and obtain a fine view of the
The Triple Cascade is deemed by many to be the finest in the Glen. As its name indicates, it is composed of three portions, one above another, each different in form from the others, and forming a beautiful combination. Just below the Triple Cascade, on the south side, a little brook leaps over the brow of the high cliff, down into the Glen, trickling over the irregular surface of the rock, until it reaches a point twelve or fifteen feet above the pathway’, here it falls over a projecting shelf, the edge of which is curved outward in a crescent form. The water does not descend in a smooth sheet, but in a myriad of tiny threads and drops, forming a sparkling crystal veil behind which the pathway passes. This novel cascade is known as Rainbow Falls. Beyond and above the Triple Cascade, spanning a narrow pass in the gorge, we see the Platform Staircase, while far above our heads, on the north bank, Castle Cliff is seen through the trees. This section of the Glen of the Pools is called the Giant’s Gorge. We return to the little staircase before mentioned, and ascend to the elevated pathway, and follow it, taking in new views of the Triple Cascade at every step. Finally, we come to the
and pass behind it. The space between the fall and the cliff is narrow, but yet sufficiently wide to allow free passage. While standing behind the fall and looking out through the misty curtain, the effect is beautiful beyond comparison. The novelty of the position, and the peculiar brilliancy that the radiant drops of falling water impart to all viewed through them, fill us with wonder. In the afternoon, when fair weather prevails, and the rays of the sun fall into the gorge from the west, the enraptured visitor, in looking through the veil, beholds two most beautiful rainbows, a primary and secondary; a sight, once enjoyed, that can never -be forgotten. Pausing a few moments to take a backward look at the beautiful Glen of the Pools, and the Matchless Scene, we pass the Triple Cascade, and under overhanging rocks, come to a staircase leading us up to an inclined platform thrown across to the north bank, and from this platform another staircase rises to the south cliff. This structure is the
Here are seats, which we find very welcome after our climb, and enjoy our fine situation. Here we obtain another fine retrospective view of the Glen of the Pools with its ragged gorges, and also a more defined view of the Rainbow Fall, showing its course before it takes its final leap, while below us lies Diana’s Bath, a clear pool, nearly thirty feet deep. We are now to pass through
In this section of the Glen some of the most severe labor had to be performed, and its final accomplishment was the highest compliment to the engineering skill of those who had it in charge. We leave the platform, ascend the second section of the Staircase, and follow the path along the south cliff. The path is narrow and cut in the solid rocky face of the cliff. It winds in and out, following the curves of the gorge, and is high above the water. We now see how appropriately this has been named the Shadow Gorge. The trees on the cliffs above are very high, and in many places almost meet overhead; as the light strikes down through them their shadows are cast upon the cliffs, and their forms reproduced in the pools below, until a combination of beautiful lights and shadows is produced, that surpasses all description. Here the stream seems to be a succession of basins connected by rapids and little falls. Ahead of us is another rustic bridge spanning the stream, and a little beyond it is the Emerald Pool, one of the most beautiful of the basins; it is very regular in form, the bottom covered with gravel, and the water of great purity and brilliance. While upon the bridge we pause for another look down the Shadow Gorge, with its ever varying studies of light and shade. Looking up the Glen, our journey seems about to come to a sudden termination, shut off by a wall as regular as if composed of solid masonry.
Crossing the bridge and following the pathway, we see on approaching nearer, that the Glen makes a sudden turn to the right, around this Frowning Cliff that appeared to obstruct our farther progress. At this place the seams in the rock intersect each other at right angles, giving to the whole the effect of masonry. The corner formed by this cliff on the south side, also conveys the idea of the work of human hands. The mosses and ferns are here very fine, and in fact, this cliff is by far the finest rock in the Glen, and is named the Pillar of Beauty. Directly at the foot of this cliff is a large and very deep pool. The water is from twelve to fifteen feet deep, and as clear as crystal. It passes under the sharp angle of the cliff, and mirrors in its pellucid depths an inverted picture of the frowning rocks and graceful foliage above. These cliffs mark the entrance to section 5, which is called
and it well deserves the name, for a more perfect Elysium cannot be imagined. The scene before us has been called
Here all the beauties of the other Glens, silver cascades and crystal pools, light and shadow, sharp angles and graceful curves, foliage, sky and rock, mingle and produce a picture that more resembles an ecstatic dream than anything that can elsewhere be found. The rocks do not here tower to such immense height, nor is the scenery so sublime as in some of the glens through which we have passed, but what is lost in grandeur, is atoned for in the wild beauty of the scene.
Our path now lies along the north cliff, on a rocky shelf some distance above the stream. The water trickling from above, and running down over the rocks, makes our pathway damp at some places, but not slippery. The gorge below us is known as the
and is full of interest. The walls tower high on either side, and approach near together. After rounding another sharp curve, we are once more obliged to cross the stream by means of a bridge. Having gained the pathway, we proceed along the south side, through the Narrow Pass, under shelving rocks that extend far out over our heads. Passing around an angle, we come in sight of
Into this pass the rays of the sun never shine. It appears like a subterranean gallery. The air is damp and cold, and the dashing and rumbling of the Pluto Fall, as it echoes through the pass, adds to the gloomy sublimity of the spot. As we draw nearer to the Fall, our path ascends a short rock staircase, and we obtain a fine view of it. It is one of singular beauty, and essentially different in form from any we have yet seen. It falls into a dark basin below, which is very deep, and runs for about thirty feet out under the bed of the stream, and might appropriately be called the
We climb the pathway that leads around the Fall, and stop to take a farewell look at the Narrow Pass, or, as it is called when viewed from this point, the Spiral Gorge.
Our pathway now lies along the south side to the head of Glen Arcadia, and the way is clear, though “wondrous crooked,” before us. As we pass through, we are lost in admiration of the manifold beauties that are here crowded together. The rapids are the most beautiful in all the Glen. The channel is tortuous, and as in the Glen of Pools, consists of a succession of curiously carved basins connected by narrow rapids and cascades. The largest of these basins is called the
Passing under shelving rocks, we finally arrive at the head of the section, formed by the Arcadian Fall. This is a beautiful cascade, falling into a kind of natural grotto. At the foot of the Fall is a beautiful basin, and many features of interest. Near the head of this section a staircase leads us up the north cliff, and a few rods of pathway bring us to another rustic bridge, thrown across the chasm direct above or over Arcadian Fall, for the purpose of giving visitors a fine back view of Glen Arcadia, which, viewed from this romantic spot, is called
and is a scene of rare and ‘enchanting beauty. This bridge is the dividing line between sections 5 and 6—the latter of which is known as
because of the comparative ease with which it may be explored, except in times of high water. Very few people go far above this spot, but set down to rest after their weary ascent, for we have passed through two miles of hard climbing, and are eight hundred feet above our starting point, satisfied with an endless change and variety of scenery. Those who wish to move onward, will encounter no serious difficulties, and reach the head of Glen Facility, after passing many a combination that would delight a painter’s eye, and enter the seventh section,
nearly three fourths of a mile above Elfin Gorge. This section consists of a large basin, or amphitheatre, containing some 12 to is acres, with steep and lofty wooded banks, several hundred feet high, broken into curves and promontories, the lower level of which is a barren ” pathway of the floods,” and the whole a picture of commingled grandeur, solitude and desolation, terminating in a winding, rocky gorge, which, followed half a mile, or a little less, opens into -section eighth, called
because of its natural beauties of water, lawn and grove, and its susceptibility of being made one of the most attractive and delightful pleasure grounds imaginable. It is a vast area, nearly a half mile long, and one-fourth of a mile wide, containing within its lofty, sloping banks, not less than fifty acres, filled with cosy, rural retreats, carpeted with grasses and mosses, overlooked by giant trees, graced and adorned with a wondrous variety of foliage. The northern rim of this great basin, excavated by the floods of thousands of years, is not less than 400 feet high, and its towering hemlocks and pines, with the other extraordinary features of the scene, make it one of the most impressive and sublime in the whole panorama of the Glen.
At the head of Glen Elysium, Ave come to Omega Fall—the last—and beyond this Fall, which is one of the most complicated and beautiful in the series, stretches westward section nine, known as
for half a mile or more, till it opens out in the ” hill country ” like a great fan ; and the Glen comes to an end at least four miles, as the stream flows, from its beginning at the entrance of the first section.
After a quiet rest (at the Arcadian Fall, or above them as may he), we start on our return. We take it leisurely, and stop frequently to admire the numberless beauties that escaped us on our ascent. And, we may here say, that the Glen is so extensive and complicated, that one may make many visits, and yet, each time find new features that he had not hitherto seen. Sometimes a difference of a few feet in a position will materially alter the outline of the picture. It is not unfrequently the case that the visitor more fully realizes and appreciates the extent, sublimity and grandeur of the Glen, after he has once or twice accomplished its ascent. We wend our way back, from whatever point we may have reached in the upper sections, to Arcadian Fall, through Glen Arcadia, down the Platform Staircase and through the Glen of the Pools to the Grand Staircase. Here we stop a few minutes to look with wonder, down into the grand old Cathedral, and finally, after descending the staircase, passing through the Cathedral, and retracing the winding path through the woods, we find ourselves again at the Swiss Chalet. It is a most welcome spot, and its refreshments are very acceptable. Here can be obtained the best selection of Stereoscopic Views of Watkins and Havana Glens, by eminent artists. Full sets, or any number in a set, can be procured. All of these views of Watkins Glen are faithful copies of the most striking points of interest, and enable the tourist, on returning home, to keep in vivid remembrance the many pleasant associations connected with his visit. In the Glen Mountain House Bazaar also, which, with its comfortable lounges, is a delightful resting place, visitors can find many a little souvenir to take with them to the eager expecting ones at home, and we advise all to avail themselves of the opportunity of securing some memento of Watkins Glen. Crossing the Iron Suspension Bridge, we come to the new South Glen Mountain House, a large and commodious building, fitted up in a manner to ensure the comfort of guests, whether it be for a day, a week or a month. On the north, or Glen side of this house, visitors will notice a staircase leading down to the Glen ; this has but recently been opened, and it will well repay a visit. As we walk along the path, with the high rocks jutting far over our heads, and under the Suspension Bridge too feet above us, we are struck with wonder at the grandeur of the scene. After loitering here awhile, we retrace our steps, and are once more at the Swiss Chalet, ready to resume our homeward journey, but not by the path we came ; another path is recommended as promising fresh beauties.
LEAVING the Swiss Cottage, instead of following the path that leads to the Long Staircase, we take one that bears to the left, along the slope of the hill, called Cliff Avenue, or one bearing to the north, directly behind the Swiss Cottage, called Lake View Avenue. These paths lead us through beautiful groves, and afford us occasional glimpses down into the dizzy depths of Glen Alpha. The roar of the cascades, and cool vapors arising from them, reach us even at this height.
As we leave the woods by either path, we come out into Glenwood, one of the most beautiful of cemeteries. By taking Monumental Avenue, instead of ” Lake View,” visitors pass the beautiful Magee Monument Grounds on their way through the cemetery. Instead of following the road that leads down into the village, we choose a path that enables us to climb still further up the summit of
as it is called. We sit down to rest beneath the stunted evergreens that grow upon the brow of the mountain, at the little ” Observatory Building,” and gaze with mingled delight and amazement at the scene before us. The valley, for miles, lies spread out, like a map at our feet, forming a perfect picture, not lacking in any particular. It is certainly one of the most magnificent and soul-entrancing scenes that we ever beheld, and leaves a lasting impression on every beholder. Directly below us lies the village of Watkins with its shaded avenues, its beautiful churches, public buildings, etc. At the wharf lie several steamers and a variety of small craft, for Seneca Lake has quite an extensive and increasing commerce. The houses have a substantial and comfortable air, and are surrounded by beautiful grounds, ornamented with fine trees and shrubbery. To the north the lake stretches away as far as the eye can reach, with the sky and clouds mirrored upon its bright blue surface. The hills sweep back from the lake in graceful undulations, the picturesque little hamlets and villages clinging to their sides, and nestling in the valleys. Back from the lake, miles of well-tilled farms meet our view, and on the rising slopes many flourishing vineyards are making their appearance.
Following the track of the Northern Central Railway with the eye, along the southern and western shores of the lake, we see immense coal wharves. Here the coal that is brought down from the Pennsylvania mines by rail, is transferred to barges and conveyed by water. Great trains of these coal cars may be seen at almost every hour of the day, each freighted with its precious cargo of fuel. In transferring the coal from cars to boats, the train is run out upon the inclined platform that we see extending out into the lake, elevated sufficiently to allow the boats to pass under. The coal is then dropped through from the cars into ” pockets,” and then into the boats.
Above Watkins, the valley looks as smooth and level as a floor, while on either side the range of hills rise abruptly from the plain, towering one above the other, far to the south, growing wider and more rugged, until a farther view is finally shut out by “Buck Mountain,” which seems to stand at the head of the valley. About three miles above Watkins lies the village of Havana, which was for some years the county seat of Schuyler county, but recently Watkins was made the county seat. The immense brick building which we see in Havana, looming up above all the others, is the one formerly intended to be used by the People’s College, but upon the failure of that institution, it was closed, but is now open under the charge of the Baptist denomination.
We regret very much to leave our elevated position on Table Mountain, and descend to the lower world, but after a refreshing rest from our wearisome rambles, and reviewing the truly splendid panoramic scene below us, and gaining new strength from the pure breezes that sweep the lake, we start down towards the village, or Mountain House, stopping only to admire the beautiful situation of the “City of the Dead,” through which we pass.
To the lover of the sublime no grander picture can be imagined than to stand upon Table Mountain and watch a storm coming up the lake. The clouds rolling along over the hill-tops, the veils of mist gradually shutting out our view of the distance, the lake lashed into foam by the wind, and the shadows flying over the landscape, produce an effect the grandeur of which cannot be realized until it has been witnessed.
If the visitor has time, there are a number of delightful drives in the neighborhood of Watkins that offer tempting inducements. One, especially, We cannot refrain from mentioning. It is the road leading from Watkins to Havana, and still further up the valley. It lies along the level plain on the west side of the valley, under precipitous hills and frowning cliffs on the one side, and the beautiful plain, with its border of hills, on the other. The road is hard and smooth, and margined with trees and shrubbery. At one point, near Havana, a little brook falls over the edge of the cliff, called Aunt Sarah’s Fall (after an old Indian woman who formerly lived there), making a very fine cascade. There is a little niche in the face of the rock, near the verge of the fall, in which, an ancient legend says, great treasures were hidden. This whole district, lying around the lake, was once the hunting ground of the Senecas. In accordance with the manifest destiny of the race to which they belonged, they have all passed away, leaving naught behind them save their mouldering bones (many of which, with their rude implements of war, clubs, tomahawks, scalping-knives, beads, ancient French coins, jesuistical crosses, little brass camp-kettles, arrow-heads, &c., are annually exhumed on both sides of the Glen creek, a short distance east of the entrance to the amphitheatre), and their strange and poetic legends, preserved and handed down to the present. Almost every spot has Some historical interest, and with very many of the localities are associated some of those wild imaginative tales of the wars, loves or wrongs of that race which is fast becoming extinct. These legends clothe their scenes with a deep interest. We can almost imagine the dusky heroes bending ” at midnight, from the solemn West,” returning to the hunting. ground of their fathers, and once more peopling these charmed shores.
To all who can possibly find time, we would say, do not fail to make a trip on Seneca Lake, from Watkins to Geneva I It will richly repay any one. The after noon trip is usually the pleasantest. The steamers leave Watkins and Geneva daily, passing over the lake three times, and enabling passengers to leave both places morning, noon and evening. Their Captains spare no pains to render their guests comfortable, and the voyage a pleasant one. We have already spoken of the charming scenery of the lake. Glen Excelsior, where the water falls 186 feet, lies nearly east of the head of the lake, possessing some features of interest; and still another Glen, at Peach Orchard Point, twelve miles below Watkins, on the east side of the lake. At Rock Stream and Big Stream on the west shore, cascades leap from the Glens above, into the water. The gorges are spanned by two high bridges, over which pass the , Northern Central Railroad trains. We have also a fine view of Hector Falls, now owned by Gen. G. J. Magee, of Watkins, on the eastern shore. The steamers make a number of landings on both shores of the lake. North Hector Landing, on the east shore, about twelve miles north of Watkins, is a most beautiful spot. A broad, gravelly road sweeps along the beach, shaded by a row of drooping willows, which, reflected in the lake, produce a beautiful effect. The approach to Geneva is very beautiful. The stately mansions and college buildings situated on the hill, command a grand view of the lake, and look beautiful from the water. We would also advise visitors to make a trip to the Havana Glen,. three miles distant, located in the eastern part of that village, as it possesses many curious and remarkable attractions, which, to be appreciated and enjoyed, need only to be seen.
at the head of Lake Keuka, is reached by steamboat over Seneca Lake to Dresden, and thence 7 miles to Penn Yan by stage, or by Northern Central Railroad 23 miles to Penn Yan, and thence 2 2 miles over the lake, which is one of the most beautiful and attractive in Central New York. Hammondsport is in the center of the grape growing region, and the celebrated Urbana Wine Cellars can be visited, and the round trip made in a single day. It is well worth a visit. Having finished our description of the Glen and its surroundings, we will now give a few general hints to those who propose to visit the Glen, and have not yet learned from experience what is necessary to enable them to perform the journey with comfort and pleasure.
GREAT many visitors meet with inconvenience and disappointment by not knowing the kind of dress proper to be worn while going through the Glen. It will be seen that the water-proof suits heretofore mentioned, which can be obtained at the Swiss Cottage, will be a great convenience. It is frequently necessary to use the hands in climbing the stairways and paths, and consequently it is inconvenient to have a long dress to manage. The less there is about the costume to encumber the free use of the feet and arms, the better; long cloaks, shawls, parasols, etc., are inconvenient and superfluous, and should be left at the Swiss Cottage.
The dress should be of woolen material, for even in mid-summer the Glen is cool, and in many places quite damp. Any hat will do, but one that will not be injured by an occasional drop of water is the best. Thick shoes or boots are much safer for walking on the moist paths and stairways than rubbers. In the case of gentlemen, it matters less about suitable dress. Silk hats and fine boots are the only articles liable to suffer much from the trip. A stout cane, which can be obtained either at the entrance to the Glen or at the Swiss Cottage, will be found a valuable assistance in climbing.
In passing through the Glen, it is not well to wander a great way from the regular paths, as many, anxious to explore new localities, or obtain a view from some difficult point, might be in danger before they were aware of it. And here, a word of caution. Visitors will observe placards at several places, warning them not to throw stones into the Glen. Many do this to hear the noise made by the stones, crashing down through the trees and over the rocks. The reasons why it should not be allowed are obvious. We would also like to say a word with regard to those who are ambitious to immortalize themselves by carving their names and the dates of their visitation upon the face of the rocks, staircases, bridges, trees, etc. It is unquestionably a laudable desire to leave some monument behind us in this life, but a serious thought upon the subject will convince any reasonable person, that it is not worth while to mar the beauty and seriously deface the scenery of such pleasant localities by thus executing the said laudable desire, and it is expressly forbidden by the proprietors. Those who wish to record their visit will find a register provided for the purpose on the verandah of the Swiss Cottage.
Pic-nic parties should also be particularly careful not to strew papers, egg-shells, and the remains of their repasts in conspicuous places along the pathways, in the Glen, or where they will mar the beauties of the scenery.
The proper time for visiting the Glen is from the first of June to the first of November. The finest views are to be obtained when the water is moderately high, after the spring freshets, or after heavy rains. However, the water is never low enough to materially injure the beauties of the cascades and rapids. In winter, when the cascades become solid glaciers, and when icicles or icebergs many tons in weight, are pendant from the cliffs, the views are gorgeous beyond all description. The ascent is then exceedingly difficult and perilous; few have ever attempted it. It is almost as difficult as climbing the Alps or exploring the Arctic regions. It has, however, been successfully accomplished, and by the aid of a photographic camera, a series of grand winter views obtained that will give one a distinct idea of the Glen while bound in the fetters of the ice-king. A perfect series of the summer views in the Glen has also been made, presenting a complete panorama of the entire length, and skillfully arranged for the stereoscope, for albums, or for framing. Complete sets of them will be found at the Swiss Cottage.
We would advise visitors going through the Glen to take advantage of all the rustic seats and every convenient place for rest. The scenery fills the visitors with wonder, and causes so much eagerness to press on to the end, the air is so invigorating, and the journey affords so much pleasure that they are apt to entirely forget bodily fatigue, and find upon coming out into the world again, a kind of reaction, and that they arc very much fatigued.
Do not let the cautions we have suggested, or the advice we have given, discourage any from the ascent; for, it is easy, free from danger, and will richly reward all who accomplish it. What we have said has only been to aid those who have not yet visited it.
Before concluding we will give a table of the distances from Watkins to various points. This may be of value to those living at a distance, who wish to visit the Glen :
|Canandaigua, – – – – – – – – – –||47|
|Geneva, via Seneca Lake, – – – – – – – –||40|
|Syracuse, by rail, – – – – – – – – – –||122|
|Rochester, – – – – – – – – – –||76|
|Buffalo, via N.YC.R.R. – – – – – – – –||145|
|” ” ” Erie R. R. – – – – – – – – – –||181|
|Niagara Falls, – – – – – – – – – –||153|
|Elmira, – – – – – – – – – – –||22|
|New York, via N.Y.C.R.R. – – – – – – – –||414|
|” ” ” ” Erie R. R. – – – – – – – – –||296|
|Williamsport, – – – – – – – – – – –||100|
|Philadelphia, via Harrisburg – – – – – – – –||299|
|Baltimore, – – – – – – – – – – –||278|
EN ROUTE the professor lectured on the botany of the Glen, declaring that, except in an artificial conservatory, he had never seen so great a variety in one locality. Many of the plants found here are exotic in this region outside; and the growth embraces a climatic range from Labrador to the Carolinas.
But as we crossed a narrow foot-bridge all eyes were lifted upward, while the handfuls of innocent fresh-gathered flowers were cast carelessly into the rushing current of forgetfulness. We stood at the entrance of the Cathedral ; and from the consideration of microsmic infinity, our minds were suddenly turned to a scene of infinite grandeur.
This is, by common consent, the most striking view in the Glen ; and it is certainly very impressive and emotional, with its towering cliffs, its broad flag-stone flooring, its transparent, glassy pools, reflecting the blue heavens and the overhanging sunlit trees; its flashing water-fall, like a high altar, adorning its upper extremity ; its shelving strata, supported by gigantic caryatides, weird mimicry of the sculptor’s art.
But why waste words? The artist has already pointed his crayons, selected his point of view, and assumed the task of description. He says the view is grand, open, charming ; but not so astounding and impressive nor so picturesque as some others. But this is not the age for new dogmas, even in matters of taste ; and we magnanimously invite each visitor to see for himself, and enjoy his own opinions.
This picture finished, we move on, crossing more streams and climbing more stair-ways. From this bridge, just at the head of the Cathedral Fall, we may pause and look back and have one of the most characteristic views of water-carved rocks and boiling waters in the Glen.
Now forward, and up a few shelving steps in the rock, and we have before us the scene which, in our opinion, climaxes all the beauties and sublimities of the Glen.
The main stream descends in a perspective of sparkling cascades, uniting a succession of circular pools in deep stone basins or wells, grooved and polished like finely wrought marble. On either side the cliffs rise to a towering height, showing rocky entablatures, with architrave, frieze, and cornice, as clean cut and well proportioned as those of a Grecian temple. Over these come pouring adventurous streamlets from the upper world, like a shower of light aqueous meteors darting downward into the gloom.
At every turn there is material for a wonderful picture, and when our time is limited it is difficult to make a selection. Still forward, as we wind around a shelving path that gives a dry passage under the water-fall on the left. Beyond there is still a mile or more to be explored, full of curious and pretty things; but we have climbed so many ladders, steps, and stair-ways that we must be approaching the level of the upper world ; indeed, the diminished height of the cliffs indicates this sufficiently.
I am not going to attempt a minute description of this really wonderful natural curiosity, suddenly become so famous. Scores of tourists are doing it. Porte Crayon has made it his own. And 52 WATKINS GLEN. after all, it is indescribable, “unpaintable.” The word ” Glen ” gives but a faint idea of the gorge. It is a marvelous rift in the mountain, which it seems must have been made by some stupendous earthquake-shock. The Glen, with its dashing, flashing, cascading stream, reminds me of several famous gorges and water-falls. It suggests Vaucluse in the pellucid clearness and sparkle of the water. But, instead of the dreary, blasted heights above Petrarch’s “Fountain,” we have variegated, mossy, ferny rocks, the most lush and lovely foliage, and wild flowers in profusion. It faintly suggests the somber, magnificent Pass of the Finstermunz, in the Tyrol, but is infinitely brighter and more varied. It suggests Trenton Falls, but is wilder and deeper. Most of all it suggests Bash-bish, in old Berk-shire—is, indeed, very like it, but is yet more picturesque and perilous. It is not properly a glen, but a prodigious succession, a full assortment and variety of glens. If one does not satisfy you, another must ; though you be the most rapacious devourer of the sublime and beautiful, “here’s richness” for you. Through the boldest Yankee enterprise, these wild grandeurs and beauties, for centuries barred and buried from the world, have been thrown open to our gaze, and it is no wonder that the tides of travel are setting toward it, from all directions, that hundreds daily climb its dizzy stair-ways, pick their way along its narrow ledges, dodge under its little side cascades, watch for rainbows beside its water-falls, gaze down into its profound mysterious pools, and speculate in its wonderful formation. We go leagues out of our way, in foreign travel, to see things far less worth seeing, like Tivoli and Velino, Lodore, Glencoe, the Killarney cascades, the Vale of Avoca, the Dargle, and the Devil’s Glen of Wicklow. The “Pools” are a great curiosity in themselves. They are smooth, round, regular excavations, gigantic bowls, and are always brimming with crystal clear water. So near to these pools does the narrow path lead in some places, that a single false step would inevitably cost you a cold plunge.
The Glen is one of Nature’s reservoirs of eternal coolness. In its shadowy recesses, beside its emerald waters, you forget even the fierce heats of July and August, hundreds of feet above you. But, I am told it is seen in its utmost beauty in October, when the wild gorge with its wonderful variety of delicate foliage is brimmed with the most gorgeous colors, depth on depth of splendor.
THE highest cliffs in the Glen are those of the third section, known as Glen Cathedral-300 feet high—hut the steep wooded banks, with their towering pines, rise far above the highest cliffs before the upper heights of the table land are reached. And from these a horizontal line across from bank to bank would show that “Mighty Presence Chamber ” to be at least 500 feet deep, and more than an eighth of a mile wide.
In accordance with Nature’s own Divisions, the Watkins Glen has been divided by name, into nine different sections, known as (I) Glen Alpha ; (2) The Vista ; (3) Glen Cathedral ; (4) Glen of the Pools ; (5) Glen Arcadia ; (6) Glen Facility ; (7) Glen Horicon; (8) Glen Elysium ; (9) Glen Omega. These names are all appropriate and significant. “Alpha,” is the beginning. “Cathedral” is one of the Great Architect’s cathedral designs, and impresses the human mind with feelings of deep awe and reverence. “The Glen of the Pools” presents an almost continued succession of pools. “Arcadia” is truly arcading. “Facility” is easy and facile. “Horizon” is bounded by a wide horizon. “Elysium” is, and is to be, one of the most beautiful and delightful groves and pleasure grounds, and “Omega” is the end.
Some of the most noted scenes in the Glen are known as Entrance Amphitheatre, Stillwater Gorge, Min-ne-ha-ha, Fairy Cascade, The Labyrinth, Cavern Cascade, Mystic Gorge, Whirlpool Gorge, Sylvan Rapids, Central Cascade, Matchless Scene, Rainbow Falls, Shadow Gorge, The Narrow Pass, The Artist’s Dream, Elfin Gorge, etc. So great is the variety of the scenery, and so diverse the sections, as compared with each other, that no less than five hundred Stereoscopic Views night be taken without exhausting the subject, or embracing a single “tame picture” in the whole number.
Three miles of wild, beautiful and romantic gorge and canyon scenery, abounding in sublimity and grandeur, replete with towering cliffs, beetling crags, silvery cascades, shadowy grottoes, rainbow hues and crystal pools, and adorned with lovely foliage, mosses, ferns, lichens and flowers, is a description, in brief, of the Watkins Glen, at the head of Seneca Lake, in Central Southern New York, on the route of the Northern Central Railway between Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, &c., and the Falls of Niagara.
AT every bend within its rock-bound walls, new and varied scenery greets the eye, each view unsurpassed of its kind, yet no two alike. Cascade after cascade, set like gems amid the gray old rocks, are continually telling you welcome, if your imagination can interpret the language of ” laughing waters.”
Far above these cascades and rapids, the rock walls tower to the height of from one to three hundred feet, while in many places the branches of the trees above them intermingle across the chasm, through which the autumn sunlight finds its way, filling the rock-bound passages with fantastic shadows.—Elmira Advertiser.
Watkins has a rare natural attraction in the wooded glen of a stream which here falls some four hundred feet in less than a mile (and nearly double that number in two) from the higher level on the west, to the valley of the lake. This fall is made by a succession of leaps or cascades, into pools or basins of varying depth and magnitude, separated by stretches of swift, bright water, and overhung by the dark evergreens which mainly compose the all-embracing forest, which the sun irradiates but few hours per day. We judge this among the finest succession of cataracts in our State. The cool seclusion of the Glen, with the marvels and beauties it reveals, will long he enshrined in the heart of the visitors.—N. Y. Tribune.
Its succession of high bluff walls, its ” towering cliffs and beetling crags,” its clear and crystalline pools, varying in depth, size and form, its many silvery cascades and narrow channels through the solid rock, its labyrinthine passages, shadowy grottoes and miniature caves, its woody margins and ever-changing floral charms, have given us one of the most varied, wild, weird and delightful sights of our lives. We advise all lovers of the beautiful and romantic in natural scenery, to visit the ‘Watkins Glen, believing that they will derive the same pleasure from an acquaintance with its wonderful scenic attractions that we have this day enjoyed.—Watkins Democrat, Oct., 1869.
A writer say’s of one of the views—the Cathedral :
“This grand amphitheatre is truly a master-piece of Nature’s handiwork: It is a vast chamber, with walls of singular regularity, and cliffs of immense height, draped with elaborate tapestries of ivy’, ferns and mosses. The floor is as level and smooth in many places as the finest mosaic pavement. The vaulted canopy of the sky forms the dome ; in the lower end is Pulpit Rock, and in the upper end the Central cascade forms the choir.”
Bayard Taylor, the great traveler, says of it :
“In all my travels I have never met with scenery more beautiful and romantic than that embraced in this wonderful Glen, and the most remarkable thing of all is, that so much magnificence and grandeur should be found in a region where there are no ranges of mountains.”
So much has been written of this Glen, that we shall attempt no description of it whatever, being perfectly satisfied of our utter inability to do it justice by the use of the English language. One must see it to form an adequate idea of its curiosities and attractions. By much labor and expense the Glen has been made navigable to the pedestrian for several miles. The Glen Mountain House, situated above half a mile up the gorge, is finely located, and conducted in the best manner. Its situation half way up the mountain, is like the oasis in the desert, extremely agreeable and refreshing to the wearied and foot-sore pilgrim.—Rochester Express, 1870.
The Glen Mountain House is about 350 feet in altitude above the entrance of the Glen, and about half way up to the highest point, and the view of the scenery from this house is most magnificent and grand. To appreciate it, one must see and pass through all its windings, climb its crags, and go from rock to rock; otherwise description seems commonplace and tame.
This remarkable wonder of nature has now become so widely known and is so highly appreciated that it confessedly ranks among the first-class attractions of the country. The number of people visiting it during this season is literally immense. They come from all parts of the nation, though the States most largely represented are New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Among the names on the register may be found almost daily- those of men of well-known prominence in the country.—Elmira Advertiser, 1870.
The Watkins Glen is one of those strange rifts through the solid rock, like Trenton Falls, which Science says have been worn down in the past ages by the simple action of running water, but which to the unscientific eye look so much as if Nature had seized the great rock in the sudden grasp of some volcanic convulsion, and rent it from crest to base, and then let the water-courses in upon it, to shape and carve and smooth it into all grotesque and beautiful shapes, converting the grim chasm into a wonderful museum of Nature’s choicest gems.—Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.
Compilation / Presentation