Three bridges, two dams, and a waterfall
Between Flat Rock and Beebe Lake, Fall Creek accelerates from a quiet stream to a series of rapids and a dramatic waterfall.
After heavy rain or when the snow is melting the creek is a torrent. During a drought it is reduced to a lazy flow. The U.S. Geological Survey has a gauge near The Byway, with online data that goes back almost 100 years.
Three historically interesting bridges cross Fall Creek as it flows through Forest Home. They are Sackett Bridge, which is a footbridge, and two single-lane road bridges with the prosaic names of Downstream Bridge and Upstream Bridge. In the past the Downstream Bridge was often called the Lower Bridge.
Sackett Bridge is a stone footbridge. It crosses a beautiful part of the gorge below the waterfall and above Beebe Lake. This bridge was rebuilt by Cornell University in 2012.
The Downstream Bridge was built in 1904 and rebuilt in 1996. The Upstream Bridge was built in 1909 and rebuilt in 2013-14. When they were rebuilt, some of the highway engineers wished to replace the original Warren Truss bridges with modern concrete structures. Lobbying by FHIA and others led to a compromise. The main structures and roadway are modern but the original trusses have been retained. A plaque on the Downstream Bridge records its origins.
Above the Downstream Bridge, there is a twelve foot concrete dam, built in 1913 to replace the last in a series of old wooden mill dams across the creek. This photograph was taken from underneath the Downstream Bridge during a drought. At times of spate, water pours over the entire width of the dam.
Behind the Byway, there is a second dam. It is not visible from the road, but can be seen at the top of the waterfall in the photograph below. It was built by the USGS in conjunction with the gauging station that records water depth and flow rate in Fall Creek.
(There is a another low dam at Flat Rock for water to Cornell. In the summer this is a popular area for swimming. This area is just outside Forest Home.)
The Finger Lakes region has so many spectacular waterfalls that it is easy to miss the fall that is hidden behind The Byway in Forest Home, but it is a gem.
The kayakers call it Lover’s Falls and give it their most difficult rating of Class V. This Cornell Outing Club Whitewater Kayaking video shows why.
Cornell students used to swim in the hole below the waterfall, but after several accidents Cornell now prohibits swimming in all the gorges. FHIA’s input has been important in keeping a balance between gorge safety and access in the location of the sturdy but inconspicuous railings around this area.