A “book of nature” is how local journalist and promoter Morvalden Ells described Watkins Glen in the 1860s, and travel writer Tip Roseberry wrote in 1982, “A tour through Watkins Glen is a visit to an art gallery of nature, each picture to be savored individually before moving on to the next.”
Water created Watkins Glen – water as a stream that eroded the gorge, water as Ice Age glaciers that bored the Seneca Lake valley and changed the course of Glen Creek, and water in an ancient sea where sand and mud settled on the bottom, eventually to harden and become the very rocks the gorge is cut into.
The main entrance to the park is where you make your transition from the busy, noisy world of the 21st century to a quiet natural world where time does not seem to matter. From here on, nature follows its own rhythms.
At the end of Sentry Bridge, Glen Alpha opens up to you. You peer up the stream as it runs toward you through a twisting, narrow, smoothed channel of rock, to crash below you as Entrance Cascade. Beyond, high walls of stone enclose a huge, cool cavity in the earth threaded by the stream and waterfalls. Lush ferns, mosses, wildflowers and small trees soften the dark, grey stone.
Cavern Cascade is at the head of a little section of gorge. Indeed, most sections of the glen have waterfalls at their upper ends, because waterfalls have cut them in the first place. You might think of the entire glen as a giant staircase of waterfalls, each waterfall a step.
Beyond, you can see potholes in the Glen of Pools. The falls on the upstream edge of each pool are so short they hardly deserve to be called waterfalls, but the pools are magnificent with their charming round contours and green depths as they tumble from one into the next.
On the approach to Rainbow Falls, a ribbon of water streams down out of the forest on a green slide of rock. It then leaps over the trail and into Glen Creek, which has just jumped down Triple Cascade. The scene is so lovely and unusual that the view of Rainbow Falls and Triple Cascade may be the most photographed spot in Watkins Glen.
A Walk through Watkins Glen: Water’s Sculpture in Stone by photographer and park naturalist Tony Ingraham is available at gift shops in the state park, at Storylines Bookstore, Capt. Bill’s Seneca Lake Cruises, and in bookstores and gift shops in the region. For more information and online ordering, visit www.owlgorge.com.
19-20…15th Annual Watkins Glen Waterfront Festival & Cardboard Boat Regatta
Enjoy a full day of activities for the entire family at the Seneca Harbor Park on Seneca Lake in downtown Watkins Glen, highlighted by the Cardboard Boat Regatta on Saturday, June 20. In addition, you will find live music, vendors, a downtown parade and lots of family activities.
3-5…Indy-Pendence Day Celebration and the 5th Annual Camping World Grand Prix
Celebrate in Clute Park in Watkins Glen on Friday, July 3. (For more, call 607-739-0344.) The party moves up to the track for the rest of the weekend with fireworks, trackside camping, concerts, wine tasting, carnival food, kids’ games and much more. The up-and-coming drivers of the Firestone Indy Lights will heat up the track in the Corning 100 on Saturday, July 4, and Ryan Hunter-Reay will look to defend his victory in the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen on Sunday, July 5.
17-19…Finger Lakes Wine Fest
Over 500 New York wines can be sampled. The celebration starts Friday, July 17, with fireworks, wine, and togas at the “Yancey’s Fancy Cheese Launch of the Lakes.” On Saturday, July 18, and Sunday, July 19, the festival will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring a variety of wine and food from across the state, culinary classes, cooking demos, wine seminars, live entertainment and much more. On-site camping, shuttle service to area hotels and plenty of free parking are also available.
11…Grand Prix Festival of Watkins Glen
Presented by Chemung Canal Trust Company, festival events include the Walk of Fame award ceremony, a historical lecture called “The Legends Speak,” a pre-race tech inspection at Smalley’s Garage, and a judged automobile show, Concours d’Elegance. Additionally, individuals who own a qualifying automobile and would like to participate are invited to take part in one of the Stone Bridge Driver events, but should register early, as slots fill very quickly. Further, the festival features more than 500 classic sports cars of all ages and marques on display, live music, wine tasting, food courts, family activities, a variety of vendors and fireworks at dusk.
The Finger Lakes National Forest encompasses 16,212 acres nestled between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. The forest has over 30 miles of interconnecting trails that traverse gorges, ravines, pastures and woodlands.
The Catharine Valley Trail joins the past with the present. Visitors can bike, hike or ski the trail to enjoy the scenic beauty, travel between communities and discover the valley stories, as they pass remnants of a canal towpath and locks, railway, historic buildings and other landmarks.
Directly in line for the breeze off Seneca Lake, Clute Park offers a haven of comfort on a hot summer day for the traveler. The campground offers full hook-up sites with electric (20-, 30-, and 50-amp), water, sewer and cable hook-ups. Tent sites and dock rentals are also available.
Explore Seneca Lake aboard Captain Bill’s vintage motor vessel, Stroller IV, christened in 1934, whose Captain and first mate will take you back in time with a historical narration as they show you the sights. Or, take a meal cruise aboard the luxurious Seneca Legacy, which offers full-course seated dining with entree selections prepared daily.
The 175-acre Farm Sanctuary is located next door to Sugar Hill State Forest, just west of Watkins Glen. In addition to caring for hundreds of animals, Farm Sanctuary’s New York facility receives thousands of visitors every year. The “People Barn,” a unique visitor center, is filled with displays, literature and videos. It also includes the “Kids’ Korner” and gift shop. The New York Shelter is open to visitors from May 1 until October 31.
The Finger Lakes Scenic Railway offers various excursions from April to December. Details of specific runs and information on ticket purchasing are available online. Check ahead for boarding locations and times, as well as excursion themes.
The new Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel is open for its first full summer season in 2009. Check the website, www.watkinsglenharborhotel.com, for special offers and packages or call 607-535-6116 for more information.