Friday, February 24, 2017

Along the Way: Ganoga Falls

A look over the edge
From the top of Ganoga Falls
I want to start with stating that the trails winding through Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh are steep in spots and can become slippery. Please be careful while visiting and hiking the area of the falls and please wear proper footwear.

The sound of the roaring waters echoed along the canyon walls as they rushed over the narrow ledge to further cascade over the rock ledges to the base ninety-four feet below. Having left Cayuga Falls upstream (information about it can be found here: Cayuga Falls), the roar of the falling water was deafening and we were filled with excitement as we arrived at the most famous waterfall at Ricketts Glen State Park.

All of the hype had been right – Ganoga Falls is the true gem of Ricketts Glen. Its beauty is what brings countless visitors to the park and was without a doubt the main reason we were here. Yes, the other waterfalls and natural features ranked as important stops on our hike, but without a doubt this was what we had come to see.

"It is a long way down there," the young boy spoke beside me. I was silently agreeing as he leaned out a little further than I personally would have, showing no fear in falling.

Ganoga Falls from the halfway point
Photograph courtesy of Susan
"What's this thing?" Zech asked as he pointed out a piece of metal buried in a rock near the ledge - it was reinforced with concrete to keep it in place. I knew what it was for the moment I saw it - it was to lower people over the falls, or more accurately, to lift up injured (or worse) victims from the base of the falls below. It would not be hard to slip or fall along the path and I imagine a number of accidents have occurred here over the years.

I stayed a little further away than necessary, preferring to enjoy my view from a distance.

The trail leaves the top of the waterfall and goes uphill. Yes, to descend down into the gorge, one first goes uphill before going down. After the trail turns back to the falls, are were able to see the falls for the first time in their full grandeur.

Halfway down, when the main trail switches back, a side trail leads to an overlook of the falls. The rocky ledge that was bordered by a straight up wall on one side and a steep drop on the other caused me to fall back, though the other three eagerly went out onto the rock shelf that was halfway down the falls.

Ganoga Falls
Photograph courtesy of Kevin
"There's plenty of room out here," Susan called as I got as close to the ledge as I was going to go. The brain was strongly overriding the sense of adventure as I stared over the edge. It still seemed to be a long way to the bottom. For the first time in our trip, my fear of heights started to overtake me.

"I'll be waiting over here for you," I replied. "Take your time." After they were done taking photos, we continued down the trail to the base of the falls. One of the most beautiful falls and the most popular destinations in the gorge, the Ganoga Falls have been the site of countless weddings. I personally cannot wrap my mind around the fact that - no matter how beautiful the falls are - the wedding party would want to hike this far to share their vows.

As we looked at the falls and the kids - both young and old alike - playing in the water, I will admit that I was taken in by the natural beauty of the falls.

Along the trail, we started encountering stacks of rocks. These were not natural, but obviously man-made. They were on ledges and on the rocks in the middle of Kitchen Creek. At the base of Ganoga Falls was the largest one we encountered along the trail. It was as tall as I was - somebody had too much time on their hands to take the time to stack the piles of rocks in random places. And though not a natural formation, it was fun to watch for the piles of rocks that began appearing in strange places in and around the creek..

Ganoga Falls
Photograph courtesy of Susan
The largest of the falls in Ricketts Glen at ninety-four feet, Ganoga Falls is not named for an Indian Tribe like the others in the glen. Ganoga, according to Dr. George Donehoo in A History of the Indian Villages and Place Names in Pennsylvania, has its origins in New York state. Ganoga was a Cayuga Indian village meaning "Place of the Floating Oil."

Most writers and photographers agree that this is the waterfall that is the true gem of the park. While it is a beautiful waterfall, and the most impressive, it is not my favorite of the park. We'll get to my personal favorite after visiting a couple more of them first.

Again, please be careful while visiting and hiking the area of the falls

A note of thanks: A big thank you goes out to Susan and Kevin for joining me on this adventure and also for allowing the usage of their pictures in this article..

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