Glen Falls, Williamsville
Location: A few minutes outside of Buffalo, in the village of Williamsville, Town of Amherst, Erie County, New York.
- Glen Falls: N 42.96401 / W 78.74396
- Red Mill: N 42.96380 / W 78.74468
- Noll Nature Center: N 42.96566 / W 78.74481
Directions: Take I90 to I290 and take exit 7A east to Williamsville (Rt 5, Glen Ave). Continue through the village and turn left onto Rock St. At the end of Rock St, turn right onto Glen Ave and look for the parking lots on either side of the street, just past the bridge. Or use Google Maps.
Parking: There are two parking lots off of Glen Ave. The northern lot has room for 20 cars, while the southern lot has room for 6. Additional parking can be found off of E. Spring St, near the Red Mill.
Information / Accessibility / Accommodations
Number of falls: 1
Size/Types: A 27 ft tall cascade with a few free-falling segments.
Best time to visit: Year-round.
Waterway: Ellicott Creek, which flows northwest and joins with Tonawanda Creek just before it empties into the Tonawanda Channel of the Niagara River by Grand Island.
Time: Visible from the roadside or via a short walk through the park to the falls.
Seasons/Hours: Year-round; sunrise to 10pm.
Handicap accessibility: Yes, paved walkways make this park very accessible.
Pets: Not allowed.
Accommodations: Restrooms; paved trails; trash bins; nature center; benches, shops in the neighborhood.
Ellicott Creek descends nearly 50 ft as is passes through Williamsville; with a 27 ft section where Glen Falls tumbles over the Onondaga Escarpment. What was once a hotspot for water-powered mills and factories is now a chain of beautiful parks (and one golf course).
Winding trails, interconnected ponds, and superb landscaping please the eye, while the sound of the water rushing over the falls relaxes the mind. It was no surprise that even when we visited on a dull, dreary day in September numerous couples were enjoying a quiet walk, while a small wedding ceremony took place in front of the falls.
Glen Falls is not an overly spectacular falls. What really shines is the park it is within; certainly making it one of the more enjoyable ones to visit. The park’s open spaces and paved walkways offer easy viewing (and listening) of the multi-tiered cascade. Ellicott Creek’s waters are strong and even in mid-summer the falls will roar. The water drops about a third of the way from its crest, cascades down the midsection, and then drops the rest of the way. There are several small ledges above and below the falls, but nothing of significance.
The remnants of an old mill race can be explored along the south west corner of the park, near the red mill. Explore the northern end of the park and the neighboring Amherst State Park to find the ruins of various mills past. Williamsville itself is a wonderful neighborhood in itself, and it’s definitely worth a walk down adjacent Main St to check out such awesome places as Sweet Jenny’s and Dessert Deli.
Hiking / Walking Trails
Markings: Paved walkways.
Distance: a few hundred feet at most.
You can’t get lost in this park if you stick to the paved trails. In the southern end, the trails loop around the ponds and throughout the park with one branch leading to the top of the falls towards Main St. A trail at the northern end leads through a wooded area and leads to Amherst State Park.
Glen Falls Interactive Map
Ellicott Creek descends the Onondaga Escarpment at Williamsville; creating a lot of potential for water power. Pioneers began building mills along the creek here as early as 1801. John Thompson and Ben Ellicott (after whom the creek was named) of the Holland Land Company acquired 300 acres around the falls in Williamsville in 1799 and built the first saw mill there in 1801. In 1803, much of their land was leased to other settlers, many of which constructed their own mills along the creek rapids. Jonas Williams and Evan Thomas acquired the mill property in 1804 and Williams proceeded to build three additional mills as well as a tannery and distillery. Because of his entrepreneurial dominance in the settlement, it was often referred to as “William’s Mills.”
The village was incorporated in 1850, and named “Williamsville,” after its predominant citizen (who was then also serving as Postmaster). The village quickly grew over the years thanks to the water-powered manufacturing industry. Williamsville Glen shifted towards an entertainment district once electricity allowed factories and mills to break the tether to the creek. The Harry Altman Glen Park Casino complex was built at the current site of the park. In addition to a casino and dance hall, it featured a children’s amusement park and small zoo. In the 1940s a theater and restaurant were added, showcasing such talent as Sammy Davis Jr. In 1968 the complex’s dance club, ironically named “Inferno,” burned to the ground in a massive fire still talked about to this day. Four years later, the Glen Casino Theater and Restaurant was also burned in another large fire. Numerous structures in the area were leveled. The property was sold to the town and through a joint venture with the village, was developed into a park in 1973.
The Williamsville Water Mill, located on Spring St. above the falls, was built by Jonas Williams in 1811 and changed ownership at least a half a dozen times. It is still in operation today and features a storefront to buy fresh-pressed cider. A mill race, also built in 1811 still exists today, now hidden under Main St.
Rotary Park, a small garden park above the falls, was donated by the Rotary Club in 1976.
Glen Falls Media
Glen Falls Video
More coming soon…
Island Park, on Ellicott Creek south of Glen Park, was created when the creek was dammed in the early 1800s to create a reservoir pond for mills. Those dams still exist today, blocking the original flow of the creek (west side of the island) and diverting the flow along the eastern side of the island. The park hosts a variety of village events as well as small community picnics. There is a large pavilion, small gazebo, playground, and picnic facilities. Map, More info.
1882 Stone Bridge
Downstream from the falls, at the edge of the park is a stone bridge built across the creek in 1882. Prior to this, wood was typically used for bridges across Ellicott creek, and flooding often destroyed them.
Amherst State Park
Amherst State Park, is on Ellicott Creek to the north of Glen Park. Formerly a convent of the Franciscan Sisters, this small park offers 77 acres of nature trails along the creek and excellent birding and fishing opportunities. You can enter the park from the trail at the northern end of Glen Park, or through the primary entrance on Mill St. Map.
- You can photograph this falls from alongside the fence that runs along the creek or from the parking lot.
- The various ponds and interesting landscaping in the park offer several photo opportunities.
- When the weather is good, people flock to this park. Get there early to beat the crowds.
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. Check out the article for the all the details.
- See the Articles for more photography tips.