Flint Creek Falls
Location: On Main St. in the village of Phelps; Town of Phelps; Ontario County; New York.
- Old Mill Falls: N 42.95831 / W 77.06032
- Upstream falls: N 42.95777 / W 77.06552
Directions: From Syracuse and points east: Take I-90 to Exit 42 and head south on NY-14 for about a half mile. Turn right (west) onto NY-96 and follow it through the village of Phelps. Turn left (south) onto Flint St and park on the side of the road. Old Mill Falls is just north of where Main St crosses the creek.
From Rochester and points west: Take I-90 to Exit 43 and head south on NY-21. Immediately turn left (east) onto NY-96 and follow it to the village of Phelps. Turn right (south) onto Flint St and park on the side of the road. Old Mill Falls is just north of where Main St crosses the creek.
Or use Google Maps.
Parking: Parking for roughly a dozen cars along Flint Rd (off of Main St near the creek). Parking for the upstream cascades: Room for two cars in a small lot just to the north of the William St Bridge (on the right if coming from Main St).
Information / Accessibility / Accommodations
Number of falls: 2
Size/Types: Old Mill Falls, (also known as Flint Creek Falls or Willings Dam), is a crescent-shaped, 11 ft high, man-made dam on top of a natural falls. Water falls roughly 7 ft straight down the cut stone blocks of the man-made top and then cascades across the 4 ft of jagged limestone at the base. Upstream there are several more limestone drops less then 3 ft high.
Best time to visit: Spring, fall, winter.
Flow: Generally consistent. May be dry in mid-summer.
Waterway: Flint Creek, which originates southwest in the Italy Valley near Naples, NY. Right after it passes through the village of Flint it joins with the Canandaigua (Lake) Outlet, which heads north to Lyons, where it joins the Erie Canal.
Time: 5 minutes to check out Old Mill Falls. 30 minutes or more to see the small cascades upstream.
Seasons/Hours: Year round, anytime. Old Mill Falls is illuminated nightly. It is probably not a good idea to explore upstream in the dark or in the icy conditions of winter.
Handicap accessibility: Yes, to see Old Mill Falls from the bridge.
Pets: Allowed on leash.
Accommodations: Historic markers; adjacent drinks and dining at the Waterside Wine Bar or hot dog stand; small park with benches; trash cans.
AKA Flint Creek Falls, Willings Dam
Flint Creek has its beginnings in the Italy Hill region southeast of Canandaigua Lake near Middlesex and heads 25 miles north and into the Canandaigua Outlet at the village of Phelps. With its wide basin, moderate slope and consistent flow, the creek helped pioneers settle this region by powering a variety of mills and allowing for growing industry. Old Mill Falls is the site of one of the first grist mills constructed in the area, built in 1792 by Seth Dean.
Old Mill Falls is a man-made dam, constructed of limestone bricks atop a smaller natural falls. The crescent shape of the man-made stonework, along with the straight drop of water that is abruptly broken by the natural rock below, gives this waterfall a unique and beautiful personality. The falls can be easily seen from the Main St bridge, but for a more intimate view, a small community park on the eastern bank allows for a glance across the crest towards the Old Mill, which has been drastically reconditioned into retail space (Waterside Wine Bar when we visited in 2023). Disappointingly, the traffic from Main St, with countless speeding vehicles, detracts from this little slice of peace.
If you are willing to explore a little, Flint Creek offers several more cascades, including two on the Ontario Pathways Trail (see Double Drop Falls) and a few drops to the south of this one (between William and Eagle Streets). If you take the short drive or walk to William Street and head upstream along the trail that starts behind the cemetery (adjacent to the bridge), you can visit the waterfalls along the way. They are small drops, no more than 3 ft high, but the wide cascade just below the railroad arch bridge is very picturesque, even if when we visited in the spring of 2009 it was littered with trash, including a twisted rusty shopping cart and smashed 36 inch TV. Ironically, at the turn of the century, this neglected section of Flint Creek was a common spot for picnics and was known as “Lover’s Retreat.”
Hiking / Walking Trails
To see Old Mill Falls
Difficulty: Easy, as it’s visible from sidewalk on the bridge or from the small adjacent park.
Markings: Historic marker only.
Distance: A roadside falls, just a few feet from a parking area.
Description: Old Mill Falls is easily seen from the NY-96 bridge over Flint Creek. There is a small park on the east side the creek for a side view. Be cautious of cars speeding down NY-96.
To get to the upstream cascades
Difficulty: Moderate, which may require some creek walking.
Distance: About 700 ft.
Description: To get to the upstream cascades, start from the small parking area on the north end of the William Street bridge. Follow the trail into the woods along the creek and you will approach the first small cascade after 300 ft. The 1940s stone arch railroad bridge can be seen in the distance. Continue along the trail or follow the creek bed to the railroad bridge. Although we did not come across any posted signs using this route, the railroad bridge is posted (on the top). You can hike upstream on the creek (under the bridge) to see a small drop on the other side or turn around and go back.
Flint Creek Falls Interactive Map
The town of Phelps began as the district of Sullivan (after General John Sullivan) and was changed to Phelps (after town pioneer Oliver Phelps) when it was founded in 1796.
The village of Phelps began when one of the first settlers of the town, Seth Dean and Oliver Phelps, erected a grist mill on this site in 1792. The mill transformed over the years, handling grain at first, then operating as a sawmill and once a plaster mill under the ownership of Willings. In 1812, Luther and Francis Root and Erastus Butler constructed an adjacent woolen mill in the village. The mills and hodgepodge of industries that relied on them brought great prosperity to the village, growing its population to over 5 thousand. It was around this time that postal routes and railroads arrived, further opening the village to remote markets. The Pennsylvania Railroad’s Northern Region of lines passed through Phelps (at what is now the Ontario Pathways trail) connecting Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with the resorts at Sodus Point on Lake Ontario.
Flint Creek Media
Ewww…What’s that smell?
When the wind is blowing gently from the west, that rotten egg smell is from the village of Clifton Springs. Natural sulfur springs in the village have been used for health spas since the early 1800s for religious, holistic, and modern medical treatment. Is there a waterfall in the village? Not anymore. One of the spas was built over the sole waterfall.
What’s that (slightly appetizing) smell?
It just may be sauerkraut. With its beginnings in 1967, the Phelps Sauerkraut Festival has been an annual celebration of this pickled and fermented cabbage. Why? During Phelp’s industrial boom it was one of the largest producers of sauerkraut in the world. No more ‘kraut factories operate in Phelps, but the memory lingers on with this annual 4-day festival held the first weekend in August. More info.
- These falls are wide and not very high, so they will not fill the camera’s frame very well. Either include more foreground and put the falls in the top of the frame, or include a dramatic sky if it’s there. Panoramic shots may be an option as well.
- Shoot from the small park on the site and try to include the side of the old mill in the photo.
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.