Buttermilk Falls (LeRoy)
Note: This waterfall is on private property and is POSTED and patrolled. The owners have asked people not to visit. People still visit and accidents have happened, bringing in unwanted attention and police presence. This page is provided with loose details, for informational purposes and to help people make proper choices before hitting the road, and avoid finding these things out after arrival.
Location: North of the village of LeRoy; in the town of LeRoy; Genesee County; New York.
GPS: Buttermilk Falls: (N 43.00479 / W 77.97343)
Directions: Directions to this waterfall are generally stated as “the one just past the Ace Hardware.” The road it’s on doesn’t seem to have a name. This may be a private drive built to service the quarry on the eastern end. It was at one point a railroad track, and part of the Lehigh Valley line.
Parking: A lot of people use a dirt pullover on the service road and walk to the bridge and falls. Obviously if this service road is private, this could be trespassing.
Information / Accessibility / Accommodations
Note: This waterfall is on private property and is POSTED and patrolled. The owners, have asked people not to visit. People still visit and some accidents have happened, bringing in unwanted attention and police presence. This page is provided with loose details, for informational purposes and to help people make proper choices before hitting the road, and avoid finding these things out after arrival..
Number of falls: 1.
Size/Types: A cascade, approximately 70 ft high, over the Onondaga escarpment. Part of Oatka Creek flows under the porous limestone here, so in low flow, the waterfall appears more complex, with a few cascades coming out of the middle of the escarpment to the left and right of the main falls (similar to Akron Falls).
Best time to visit: N/A.
Waterway: Oatka Creek, which begins in the hills above Warsaw, Wyoming County, in an old settlement called Oatka. It flows north through Warsaw, through the Wyoming Valley, through Pavilion and LeRoy, going over the Onondaga Escarpment a mile north of the village. After the escarpment, it turns eastward, heading 11 miles to the village of Scottsville. It empties into the Genesee just east of Scottsville. The Genesee heads north, through the city of Rochester and over Lower and High Falls, and makes it to Lake Ontario at Charlotte Beach, 16 miles north of here.
Time: Not applicable.
Seasons/Hours: Not applicable.
Admission: Private property. Not open to the public.
Handicap Accessibility: Not applicable.
Pets: Not applicable.
Buttermilk Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in New York State. A massive 70-ft U-shaped cascade of porous limestone on Oatka Creek, impresses not only with its size, but its ever-changing nature in all seasons and a variety of water levels. Like with Akron Falls, LeRoy’s Buttermilk Falls’ karst-like geology carries the creek not just above the rock, but through it. The result: water bursting out from the green-speckled, arena-like cliff-face from all angles. Below the falls is a giant pool, just begging for swimmers. Above the falls is an open spandrel arch bridge that perfectly frames the falls for the photographer. The site is such a gem, the state DEC has had it on their Open Space Conservation Plan, essentially a “Wish List for Parks” for over 15 years.
It’s no wonder that despite the numerous warnings about trespassing, POSTED signs plastering the place, and regular patrols from local authorities, people continue to ignore all of that and make this a regular stop for swimming and yes… cliff jumping. Over the last decade, a number of incidents resulting in injuries and rescues have only proven to strengthen the restrictions and penalties for trespass.
The access road leading in, a former route of the Lehigh Valley Line, and the east side of the creek and falls is owned by The Dolomite Group, a Rochester-based gravel company. They operate a quarry just east of here and use this road for operations. Below the falls, the east and west side of the creek belong to private farms.
Should you visit Buttermilk Falls in LeRoy?
Signs are up. They tell you what the property owners want. They don’t want you to visit.
Local habits continue to persist, trails and parking areas have been blazed and I believe, short of fencing the whole area off, people are going to continue to visit, attempt to swim, fly their drones, and bring more people. That’s their decision and their risk.
I visited well over a decade ago as a part of an environmental study and the place was packed and rowdy. I could totally see owners wanting to reduce their liability and conservationists wanting to reduce that impact on this unique area, but I also understand the allure of such an awesome place.
My recommendation is to obey the law and respect the landowners. If you come across a “No Trespassing” sign, you turn back, no matter what others are doing. That’s what makes you a better person.
Buttermilk Falls Potential
If the town of LeRoy or the state could acquire this land and develop it as a park, it could very well be an attraction that pulls in tourists from afar. While LeRoy has some historic locations of interest in the quaint village, it lacks any public nature parks that can compete or complement the tourism industry in neighboring Letchworth State Park and the Finger Lakes region. It could be a huge boon for the area and a source of pride for the village.
Oatka comes from a Seneca word meaning “Opening.”
Early settlers arrived in the town as early as the 1780s. At the time it was known as Northampton. Oatka Creek was originally called Allen’s Creek, after Ebenezer Allen, who was quite the interesting “Genesee pioneer.“
Buttermilk Falls was originally the name given to the 11 ft tall (at the time) waterfall south of here in the village. Holland Land Company surveyors are said to have recommended settlement on that smaller Oatka Creek falls rather than the 70 ft falls, because harnessing water power on the former was more “probable” given the available technology. The smaller falls was named “Buttermilk” during the first town meeting in 1798. While the larger falls does not seem to have been given the “Buttermilk” moniker in any official records, it took on the name as early as the 1850s on some maps.
The name LeRoy comes from the Jacob Le Roy (of New York City) who purchased the land from the Holland Land Company in 1835 and settled, with his family, in the present-day village.
The Dolomite Group was originally founded as Dolomite Products Company, of Rochester, NY in 1920. John H. Odenbach was the founder, president, and “explosive expert.” The company opened quarries in LeRoy in the 1850s to supply railroads with aggregate for laying track.
Buttermilk Falls, LeRoy Media
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