The first waterfall along Tannery Creek. It has an hourglass shape.
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Location / Directions / Maps

Location: On the south end of Canandaigua Lake; southeast of the village of Naples; in the town of Naples, Ontario County, New York.

Maps: Google mapTopographicInteractive map.

GPS/Locations:

  • Parking: N 42.60394 / W 77.40626
  • First waterfall: N 42.60296 W / 77.40638 (private property)
  • Final waterfall: N 42.60010 / W 77.40367 (private property)

Directions: From Main St (Rt 21) in Naples…

  1. Head south and at the junction of Cohocton St and Rt 53, keep left onto Rt 53.
  2. Make a left onto the next street, Tannery Creek Rd.
  3. Follow this to the Town of Naples Highway Department.
  4. Turn into their parking area and hug the left.

Or use Google Mapss.

Parking: Park somewhere on the premises, but do not get in the way of any of their operations. There is room for several cars. The trail-head is very close to the back left side of their building.

YouTube video

Weather

NAPLES WEATHER

A large waterfall near the end of the hike at Tannery Creek in Naples, NY.

Information / Accessibility / Accommodations

Update 10/7/2020:  I have been informed that the land above the first falls is on private property. This most of what made this hike an amazing one off-limits. My recommendation as of this time is to skip this hike. I will update if/when more information becomes available. The information below is outdated and retained for a record only.

Number of falls: 7, with 5 of those accessible through this creek walk.

Size/Types: Several cascades under 10 ft tall, often combinations of overhanging plunges and cascades. The first notable waterfall is 20 ft tall and drops in 3 irregular segments. The last major waterfall reaches 40 ft high and first drops a third of the way from a slight overhang. The bottom 2/3 is a steep cascade over shale, often splitting to a second, smaller winding cascade to the right (usually in low flow). Two small (less than 8 ft ) cascades can be found above the largest falls, but scaling that falls is dangerous and not recommended.

Best time to visit: Spring, fall. To avoid interfering with Naples’ highway department operations, it is best to visit only on weekends.

Flow: Highly variable, depending on rainfall. The water in this small tributary is highly dependent on melt and rain. Visit only when area waterfalls are flowing well.

Waterway: Tannery Creek, which begins a mile northeast in the H i-Tor Wildlife Management Area. It joins with Naples Creek just down the road in the village, and empties into Canandaigua Lake.

Time: Allow for an hour, possibly more if the flow is high.

Seasons/Hours: No set days or hours, though it is best not to park in the highway department’s lot when they are working.

Admission: Private property, do not trespass (updated 10/7/2020).

Handicap accessibility: Not at all.

Pets: Uncertain; though it is recommended that you DON’T bring your pets, for their safety and the safety of other hikers.

Accommodations: None.

The large upper falls in Tannery Creek with a cairn

Description

Naples, NY sits along the junction of several ancient valleys that have since been scoured by numerous glaciers and eroded away to form deep rocky ravines that hang above wider, fertile basins. Sitting right within the center of the Naples Creek Valley, the village originally prospered from the abundant waterpower that fueled a variety of mills that tapped the flow off the surrounding tributary gorges, such as Grimes Glen, Conklin Gully, and Tannery Creek.

Grimes Glen, at almost twice the size and now an Ontario County Park, gets all the attention—with hot summer days often bringing hundreds of visitors. Although just a minute down the road from Grimes, Tannery Creek is relatively unheard of, and it is not unusual to be the only one exploring this glen on any given day. Despite being small, it does have several more waterfalls than Grimes. Completely wild, with not even a sign to mark its entrance, There are no trails, and you must scale several waterfalls, including a challenging 20-footer to reach the large waterfall at the end. It is a tricky creek-walk that is sure to get you wet, muddy and perhaps a bit scratched up. Certainly not a family-friendly hike, and that’s probably why it is less frequented.

For the photographer, and someone who enjoys the peace and solitude of a natural glen without having to travel far from civilization, Tannery Creek is the perfect spot to “get lost” for a few hours. Photographers will enjoy the various shapes and sizes of the waterfalls, as well as the micro-landscapes that the creek surrounding stone gorge presents. The naturalists will enjoy the aquatic fossil specimens from ages past, when this region was covered in a shallow sea. Along our late spring hike, we encountered numerous salamanders, crayfish (as well as two juvenile water snakes) along the way.

Tucked away behind the Naples highway department facility, and masked by thick woodland, Tannery Creek is a hidden gem, under-appreciated and just waiting for enthusiasts to visit. Because of its seclusion and challenging obstacles, it is recommended that you do not visit alone, and be careful when climbing.

A peaceful view of lower Tannery Creek with low water flow down a series of small drops, past piles of stones and branches.
A large wading pool below an hourglass-shaped waterfall at the beginning of the Tannery Creek hike.

Hiking / Walking Trails

Note: In 2020, much of this hike was declared off-limits. It appears as though only the first falls is accessible/visible from the parking area.

Difficulty: Difficult, this is a creek walk with several waterfalls to climb.

Distance: Less than a half-mile one way.

Markings: None.

Trail guide: Getting wet is unavoidable at Tannery Creek, so embrace it early and the hike will be a pleasant one. There are no trails, just a creek walk, and to get above the falls, you have to climb them, which simply may not be possible in high flow.

  1. Tannery Creek is a natural glen that starts out with a steep descent into the rocky creek bed.  Shortly after, you will spot the  first waterfall (less than 10 ft high) and a wide shallow pool. Climbing up the left side of this waterfall is your best choice.
  2. About 0.2 mile in you will approach a gradual sloping cascade in a wide area of the glen. Rarely is this falls full with water, so scaling one of its dry sides should be easy.
  3. The gorge narrows ahead, and a small cascade (often covered in rocks and fallen trees) creates a painless obstacle on your way to the 20 ft falls just up ahead. The pool at the bottom is deep, so be careful. There is usually a rope to the right side. Avoid using it, as it may not be reliable. We found it easier to scale the left side, using rocks and roots as holds. Do this at your own risk.
  4. Shortly after, there will be a small ledge before you reach the final falls of the creek walk. It drops about 15 ft over a hanging ledge to a platform, where it often divides the flow into two cascades that tumble the remaining 25 or so feet down. Climbing up the falls here is extremely dangerous. Scrambling up the right side when the flow is low to get to the middle ledge may be an option, but caution is needed. There are two small (sub 8 ft high) falls above this one, but it’s difficult to justify the climb up and down just to see them.
  5. Head back the way you came.

Maps: Interactive.

A view of a large waterfall in the middle of the hike at Tannery Creek in Naples, NY.
A step-like cascade under a fallen tree halfway up Tannery Creek in Naples.

Tannery Creek Waterfalls Interactive Map

History

Long before white pioneers settled here, the Seneca tribe of the Iroquois Nation ruled this region. Naples, particularly South Hill (now within the Hi -Tor Game Management Area) was of particular importance to the Seneca people. This massive wooded hill, that juts out over the highly productive marshland on the southern end of Canandaigua Lake, was considered to be the birthplace of the first Seneca people. As the legend goes, the hill opened up and the Seneca people (referred to as the “Great Hill People”) walked out. The crack in the hill from which the Seneca were born, is called Clark Gully today.

Settlers established homes and businesses in the town of Naples as early as January 1790, with ever-increasing numbers moving in as the potential for mill-power became realized. Seneca tribes continued to inhabit the area as well, with little or no conflict. Early settlers in the village banded together to create a mill race that extended water from Grimes Glen into the village to power mills. The first entrepreneurs to construct mills along this race were Paul Grimes (the glen’s namesake), who built a woolen mill, Perry Holcomb (fulling mill), and Benjamin Clark (for which Clark’s Gully was named) who built a saw mill with partner Jabez Metcalf. Mr. Grimes and Mr. Clark also operated pubs within the village. The first church was constructed on the corner of Main and Vine streets in 1826.

The primary methods of getting in and out of the Naples Valley were either by steamboat via Canandaigua Lake or by wagon on one of the many rough roads connecting the townships. In 1892, the Middlesex Valley Railroad built a station in the valley and facilitated the exports of Naples produce, eventually leading to a successful wine industry. The arrival of electricity meant the decline of water-powered mills and most of them have been razed.

Although the name of Tannery Creek leads us to believe that there used to be a tannery mill in operation along this run, we could not find any historical record of a tannery mill being in operation here (though we have found mention of tannery operations in the town of Naples). If there were, we suspect it operated below the first falls.

Vintage photo of the village of Naples, NY from 1910.
The Village of Naples, NY c.1910
Vintage postcard of a waterfall in Tannery Creek Gorge in Naples
Vintage photo of Lehigh Valley Station in Naples, NY
Lehigh Valley Station

Tannery Creek Falls Media

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Interesting Stuff

First Falls

The first waterfall forms a slight V-shape near the bottom and the water from each side collides in the middle, mixing-up the water quite well and creating some interesting fluid dynamics. We found this falls to be an excellent subject for photographing close up.

Fossils

Check the shale rock for impressions of trilobites and brachiopods, which are numerous here. One of the oldest tree fossils in the Americas was found nearby at Grimes Glen.

Grape pies

A trip to Naples is not complete if you don’t pick up a delicious grape pie. Almost 70,000 of these sweet and tangy pastries are sold here annually and the community even celebrates them with an annual baking contest. You can find them sold in local farm markets, shops and at road-side stalls, but I have a particular affinity towards the creations at Monica’s Pies on NY-21 S, north of Naples.

A closeup of a waterfall along Tannery Creek.

Photography Tips

Tannery Creek

  • Don’t just concentrate on the waterfalls, there are plenty of small drops, twists in the creek, interesting stones and trees along the way.
  • The last falls is tall, and the narrow bend in the gorge doesn’t allow for much room to back up. Bring a wide angle lens so you can fit it all in.

Proper creek-walk footwear

  • Wear the proper footwear for creek walking and climbing. Not only can a quality pair of water shoes prevent blisters and infection, they will help you stick better to the ground and reduce your risk of falling, hurting yourself, or your camera gear.

Overcast skies

  • Openings in the canopy will cast sunspots on your photos. It is best to wait for an overcast sky for this one.

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.

More tips

  • See the Articles for more photography tips.
A wide angle view of Tannery creek's upper falls, with some fallen logs leaning up against the cliff on the right side.

Who to Contact

Naples Town Hall
P.O. Box 535
106 South Main Street
Naples, NY 14512
Phone: (585) 374-2111
naplesny.us

A small waterfall over flat rocks in Tannery Creek in Naples, NY
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