The Mystery of Papermill Falls

June 23, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This story started last summer when we wanted to start exploring some of the less obvious areas of the wonderful Letchworth State Park. The first trail we hiked with that goal in mind was the St. Helena Trail (#13 on the Letchworth State Park Trail Map) that leads down to the Genesee River. With any canyon or a gorge I always like to get the perspective from down below and the Letchworth gorge is no exception.

Since waterfalls are one of our favorite sites to visit and mine to photograph, a hike to the Papermill Falls was to be our next exploration. However, it was not meant to happen on our first attempt. As we arrived there were bulldozers and other construction trucks all around trail 19 and the trail head was closed. Checking with the workers on site they said a water main burst in the area and they were busy fixing it and the whole area was closed. So instead of trail #19 we ended up on the nearby 18 and instead of hiking it from its trail head that was also closed we started at the campground about one third into the trail. It was a beautiful hike but no waterfalls there.

Lower Waterline Falls, Letchworth State Park, near Perry Entrance, New York (NY).Lower Waterline Falls We made the second attempt at hiking to Papermill Falls during the Memorial Day weekend and timed it so that we could complete the round trip hike and then go to the Archery Field to see the potential balloon launch. We parked at the trail head, which was clear this time around with no construction or closures, got our water bottles and cameras ready and off to the woods we went. After about 30 seconds, the trail split. One path went down to the creek to the right, one turned left. And look, there's a waterfall down by the creek! So we turned right, ended the hike after about 1 minute of hiking, and spent quite a bit of time exploring the place. It sure seemed strange since I had everybody ready for a 2 - 3 mile hike but everyone seemed happy with the surprise "shortcut".

Much later at home at the computer I started looking for clues about this mystery and soon confirmed we totally fell for a diversion. We should have followed the left path along the creek. But what was it that we found? Even the mighty Internet had few clues. The official Letchworth hiking map had none, their trail map and descriptions are sketchy at best, leaving any unofficial sights completely out of their documentation. Even Scott A. Ensminger's Western New York Waterfall Survey did not provide clues (or I did not search right).

However, e-mailing some local waterfall fans I met through Flickr yielded quick replies and at least the mystery of the diversion was solved. Apparently, we ended up by the Lower Waterline Falls. Visit +David+'s Flickr page to see those (Waterline Falls, Papermill Falls) and many others. Now since the name includes the word Lower, there must be Upper Waterline Falls too, right?

Equipment Used:

Nikon D600Nikon 24-85mm Nikkor LensB+W 77mm 1.8 - 64x Neutral Density FilterManfrotto tripod (055MF3; replaced by 055CXPRO3 with the convenient Q90 column) and Manfrotto Ball Head (496RC2), Think Tank Speed Demon Waist PackPetzl Zipka Plus 2 Headlamp (always in the bag just in case), Jackery Bar 5600mAh (usually on hand to keep the smart phone going), SanDisk Extreme 32GB SD CardsNikon Capture NX2.

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Letchworth State Park Trail Map - Scott A. Ensminger's Western New York Waterfall Survey - NY Falls - +David+'s Flickr page


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