Location / Directions / Maps
GPS/Locations: Waterfall: (N 42.54695 / W 76.54334)
Park Gazebo: (N 42.55396 / W 76.53743)
Parking area: (N 42.55370 / W 76.53724)
Directions: Located northeast of Ithaca. Take 34B to the southeast end of Cayuga Lake and turn down Ludlowvile Rd. Ludlowville Town Park will be on your left, just past Salmon Creek Rd.
Parking: Park in the small lot in front of the park. There is enough room for about 5 cars. If that lot is full, park alongside the road in front of the park.
Information / Accessibility / Accommodations
Number of falls: 1.
Size/Types: A wide creek bed and thick caprock lead to a combination plunge and bouncing cascade. Ludlowville Falls is 35 ft high with a massive cave under its caprock. Scattered about the creek are large boulders.
Best time to visit: Year-round. Flow can get very low during dry summers.
Flow: Varies. Although this is a large tributary to Cayuga Lake, it can be dry in summer.
Time: A few minutes to see this falls from the park. A few more minutes to climb down into the creek bed.
Seasons/Hours: Open year-round from dawn until dusk.
Handicap accessibility: Not really, there are no paved walkways.
Pets: Allowed on a leash. For the safety of your pet and other hikers, do not bring your pet on any trails near or in the gorge. Use some common sense.
Swimming: People often enjoy the pool below the falls, but the boulders lying in the creek bed are a testament to the stability of the caprock above. Use caution.
Accommodations: Memorial; benches; gazebo; playground; picnic area.
There are two very interesting characteristics about this falls. The limestone caprock is over 4 feet thick, and is not very easily eroded. The softer rock underneath has dissolved and broken away forming a massive grotto underneath the southern end of the falls. On this half the rushing waters of Salmon Creek lunge directly over the cave. When water levels are high, the cave is barely detectable because a huge curtain of foaming water masks it. On the other side, the caprock has caught up the erosion of the softer rock underneath where a more classical cascade has formed. The water here is powerful and has sculpted the surrounding rock into unique shapes. The deep pool below the falls and into the cave is tinted an aquamarine, a trait common in waterways that cut through limestone bedrock. The creek bed below the falls is littered with numerous large boulders, those that broke away from the massive caprock layer and are too large to be washed downstream.
The falls are accessible through a small town park, which is not only a gem for the local community, but an excellent reason for passers-by to make a stop in Ludlowville. Perfect for picnics or a break from a long drive, this beautifully maintained park is the perfect vantage point to see this interesting waterfall.
The land here was recently private property, but a generous donation has allowed us all to enjoy these beautiful falls.
Hiking / Walking Trails
Viewing the Falls from the park lawn
Distance: Less than 100 ft.
Description: From the parking area, head past the gazebo and towards the chain-link fence and the roar of the falls. You can view the falls from the fence.
Getting to the base of the falls
Distance: A scramble down into the gorge. Less than 50 ft.
Description: From the fence near the falls, head downstream (right) to the small wooded area. There will be a small trail heading into the wooded area and then down into the creek bed below the falls.
Maps: Interactive map.
Ludlowville Falls Interactive Map
In March of 1791, the Ludlows, owners of a dry goods store in Ithaca, led by Silas Ludlow, his brother Henry, Henry’s son Thomas, and their families, migrated to Lansing (then known as Milton). Appreciating this segment of Salmon Creek for its water power, they settled, and later in the year, they opened the first log tavern, the Ludlow Inn, the following year on military lot 76, which cost a total of $60 the time. In 1795 Thomas Ludlow constructed a gristmill near the falls, and a log tannery to the west of the settlement. The gristmill’s grain was shipped from the outlet of Salmon Creek at Meyer’s Point across the lake to Goodwin’s Point (now a part of Taughannock Falls State Park), where it was sold to Abner Treman’s Mill in Trumansburg. The Town of Lansing was founded on April 7th, 1817. The Ludlows have been prominent members of the community for generations and the Ludlow Inn still stands today and serves as a private residence.
De Witt Clinton, US Senator and naturalist, documented Ludlowville in 1810:
“Nine miles from Ithaca we pass Salmon Creek, a considerable stream, on which are a mill, built by one Ludlow; and a mile farther we ascended a very elevated hill, from which we had a prospect of Ithaca, the lake, and a great part of Seneca county. Here are some houses and a postoffice.”
In the book “Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York” by D. Mason & Company (Publishers) and John H. Selkreg (Editor), 1894 :
“The village now contains 300 inhabitants, and has two churches, six stores, two blacksmith shops, one drug store, kept Fred Moore, a hardware store and tin shop by Charles E. Wood, two shoe stores by Millman Smith and John Bailey respectively, a meat market by Frank Lobdell, a millinery store by Margaret Van Auken, an Odd Fellows Hall and the public hall owned by Nelson E. Lyon, a flouring mill, feed mill and saw mill. The old hotel and premises are now owned and occupied by Nelson E. Lyon. The village is the principal place in the town, with enterprising merchants, and other business men. The largest general store is owned and conducted by Nelson E. Lyon, and the second largest by Charles G. Benjamin. Among the earlier prominent business men were, Oliver Phelps, who came from Fabius in 1811 and built the first store; he also built the first steamboat on Cayuga Lake. Arad Joy came from Fabius in 1811 on horseback, with the key to Mr. Phelps’s store in his pocket, and acted as clerk for Mr. Phelps. Calvin Burr began business here in 1812. Henry B. Lord, now cashier of the First National Bank in Ithaca, acquired an interest in the business of Mr. Burr in 1835. The village at one time had seven dry goods stores and other business places, and was a more important point than Ithaca. About three and a half miles above Ludlowville on Salmon Creek is a grist mill owned and operated by James Ford, which was built in 1819 by Ambrose Bull. Another mill, half a mile above this one, was owned still earlier by a Mr. McClung. The present postmaster of Ludlowville is Charles G. Benjamin, an old resident and merchant, who received his commission in November, 1893.”
A map from 1853 shows a mill race stemming from Ludlowville Falls and several establishments along its path. A photo from 1907 (below) shows what appears to be a dam above the falls.
Ludlowville Falls Media
Ludlowville Falls Audio
Ludlowville Falls Videos
Downstream from here, a tributary creates an 11 ft high cascade. Drive east down Mill St. to the DEC fishing access site. Park here and head along the river bank upstream a short distance. Look across the creek for a glimpse of this waterfall. Check the interactive map for details.
Opposite the viewing area, a water jet bounces off a shelf in the rock halfway down the falls and lands on a boulder in the creek bed. It has gouged out a channel in that boulder.
- Be mindful of mist when shooting from the viewing platform on the eastern side. Bring a soft but absorbent lens cleaning cloth and wipe your lens frequently.
- The overhang looks fun to go under, but be careful, that ledge could break with no warning, and crush anyone underneath. Don’t risk your life for a stupid photo. Read more about waterfall hiking safety.
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.