Indian Falls (Genesee County)
Location / Directions / Maps
GPS: Indian Falls: (N 43.02646 / W 78.39981)
Directions: Take I-90 toward Pembroke and use exit 28A to Pembroke/Medina. Make a left onto NY-77 (north) and follow that for just under 2 miles. Make a left onto Akron Rd, then the next right onto Gilmore Rd. Look for the log-cabin-styled establishment on the side of the road to your left. Park in their parking lot.
Or just use Google Maps.
Parking: The lot belongs to a private restaurant and gets packed on weekends. The owners probably don’t want the lot filled up with people just there to see the falls. Don’t come just for the falls — plan your trip around a meal here.
Information / Accessibility / Accommodations
Number of falls: 1
Size/Types: A 20 ft high curtain cascade over the Onondaga Escarpment. The rock is broken and jagged, similar to nearby Akron Falls, which is a characteristic of karst topography. The dolomite rock that makes up the face of the falls is relatively easily (in a geologic sense) dissolved by acidic waters, forming underground caves, and drainage.
Best time to visit: Year-round, when the restaurant is open for business. Check hours.
Flow: Moderate. Some hot and dry summers will reduce it to a trickle.
Waterway: Tonawanda Creek, which starts in the southeast in Wyoming County in the hills of Orangeville. From there it flows over 20 miles north through Attica and up to Batavia. There it turns westward, through Indian Falls, and meanders its way past Lockport and over to North Tonawanda where it serves as the border between Niagara and Erie Counties. It empties into the Niagara River upstream from Niagara Falls.
Time: A few minutes to see the falls. 30 minutes to an hour more to enjoy a meal.
Admission: Free to see the falls. Restaurant prices are pretty reasonable.
Handicap Accessibility: The parking lot, from which you can see the falls, is paved. I’m unsure about the accessibility of the restaurant and their deck. It’s best to call them to make sure they can accommodate you.
Pets: Not allowed.
Accommodations: The Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant provides quality American fare at a reasonable cost. Patrons can use their restrooms.
Indian Falls is a wonderfully jagged and irregular looking falls on Tonawanda Creek in the hamlet of Indian Falls, located about halfway between Buffalo and Batavia. Tumbling 20 ft down the gray dolomite stone of the Onondaga Escarpment, when fully flowing it can stretch across the 115 ft width of the gorge and fill the basin below, reducing the fall’s height significantly. When the creek is more dry, the falls takes on a more interesting character, with veils of water sliding down worn fissures, and bouncing from boulder to boulder.
While the land surrounding the falls is all privately owned, you can catch a glimpse from the Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant’s parking lot. The view is from the top and side only, but considering we are fortunate to see it at all, it’s much appreciated. Better yet, dine on their outdoor deck for a mildly better view and some good Western New York eats.
Hiking / Walking Trails
Difficulty: Easy. There’s no hike involved. You can view the falls from the restaurant parking lot. Some people find their way down to the base of the falls, but that it through private property. You cannot go down there.
Description: There are two options for viewing the falls. The parking lot is adjacent to the falls, and I believe the owners keep the brush on the side of the gorge from obstructing the view too much. Those looking for a better angle can grab a bite to eat inside. Ask for deck seating.
Indian Falls Interactive Map
Tonawanda is an Iroquois word for “rapid water.”
This region was the home to the Seneca Tribe of the Iroquois Nation. The Tonawanda Reservation once extended past Indian Falls. In 1828, Ely Samuel Parker was born here in what is present-day Indian Falls. His birth name was Hasanoanda, as his family was prominent Seneca, but he was later baptized by his minister father as Ely Samuel Parker. Ely graduated college and then studied law, eventually applying to take the bar exam, but being rejected for not being considered a true US Citizen.
He met Rochester’s Lewis H. Morgan, at the time a lawyer, in a chance meeting in a bookstore. Lewis was in the process of forming the “The Grand Order of the Iroquois” which was an organization (ironically run by young white scholars) who were fascinated by Native American Culture and sought to model their fraternity after aspects of native culture. They became close friends, with Ely opening the doors of his reservation to Lewis.
Ely and Lewis turned their interest towards anthropology, leveraging Ely’s knowledge and access to reservations to study and document Iroquois history and culture. Lewis aided Parker in being accepted to the white-dominated world outside of the reservation. Oddly enough, but a testament to Ely’s talents, he later attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he studied engineering. He then worked as a civil engineer up until the Civil War. Parker volunteered to serve the Union as a soldier, but was originally turned down. He offered to work for the Union Army as a civil engineer, but was turned down once again. Having previously worked on a civil engineering project with Ulysses S. Grant in Illinois, Ely reached out to Ulysses S. Grant, now a commander, and obtained a position under Brig. Gen. John Eugene Smith.
Ely was there when Robert E. Lee surrendered and signed the documents Ely helped draft. Upon surrendering, General Lee “stared at me for a moment,” said Parker to more than one of his friends and relatives, “He extended his hand and said, ‘I am glad to see one real American here.’ I shook his hand and said, ‘We are all Americans.’
Parker was made Brigadier General of United States Volunteers in 1865, and of the United States Army in 1867. He resigned from the army in 1869 with the rank of Brigadier General of Regulars. He then took on the role of Commissioner of Indian Affairs, under President Ulysses S. Grant.
In 1929, Arthur Parker, grandson of Ely who also took up the field of Anthropology tried to get the state to purchase the land around the falls for a State Park. The state was unable to afford it.
The original village was incorporated as Tonawanda Falls, but was changed after the the US Postal Service felt there would be too much confusion with the city of Tonawanda (near Buffalo).
The Indian Falls Log Cabin was built in 1946, and has served the community and tourists with views of the falls and good WNY-style eats for over 70 years.
North of the falls, near the intersection of Alleghany and Phelps Roads, is the former location of a small amusement park that opened along the north bank of the creek on May 28, 1949. The park was the brainchild of Theo Morrot, who purchased a farm and feedmill on Phelps Rd in 1947 and began building the park with his sister Emily.
Theo and Emily where proprietors of the New Rialto Park in Olcott, but were looking to move locations due to a rent dispute with the landowner.
Boulder Park, as it was known, had a miniature steam train, Ferris wheel, a pool, several rides for small children, concessions, and a Herschell carousel (which was designed by Emily). The carousel was finished years prior to Boulder Park’s construction, and was used at the Olcott Beach location until the park was ready for it. It was considered to be the finest carousel the Herschell company had ever built. Emily died on the very carousel she designed, having dropped a ticket, reached out to retrieve it, and was struck by one of the animals.
In 1960 a mile of track was added for the miniature steam train, which took visitors to the south end of the creek. The park encompassed 14 acres (including the Morrot’s homestead).
The park was sold to Wilbert Strandtman in 1964. It was eventually closed in 1970. Today the property has grown over, with most of the structures fallen into decay. The carousel was dismantled and the animals were sold to various collectors.
Indian Falls Media
Contributor Photos & Art
Devon Vaughn shot this beautiful pic of the falls from below. Thank you, Devon! Looking forward to seeing more of your work.
Anyone with suitable photos or original works of art, that would like to be featured here, please contact me. Photos, paintings, and illustrations would be subject to quality review, and not all will be accepted. Your work can be accompanied by a link to your site/store/instagram.