My friend, Ross, and I just spent a couple days at Letchworth State Park, the setting for my May 9-13 Waterfalls of Letchworth State Park tour and workshop. We were reminded of a couple things during this visit. First, Letchworth is a vast landscape to offering countless photo opportunities. Second, you can loose yourself in its vastness and often it will reveal hidden secrets.
It’s early in the season to visit this 17-mile long park that straddles the Genesee River gorge, which often still has some roads barricaded to prevent winter driving that can be treacherous on otherwise unplowed roads. This year is different of course, we all know that an unusually mild winter is being followed by a summer-like spring (so far). Both days of our visit were marked by record breaking temperatures and clear blue skies which meant high contrast when framing the park’s falls, streams, meadows and forested landscapes.
Since our first day at the park was also the first day of spring, it was early from several other perspectives as well.
While the river and her signature waterfalls (Upper Falls, Middle Falls and Lower Fall) were flowing generously and dogwoods were already in bloom the only foliage to be found was just popping out in the understory. Otherwise, the forest canopy was naked. Still the freshly adorned understory foretold what the next few weeks will usher in as spring dresses Letchworth in its finest.
We hiked a trail from River Road, west to an overlook at the gorge’s rim, crossing a half-dozen stream gently flowing towards the Genesee. Only time will tell if April fills the streams or allows them to drain. For our first evening we waited for sunset at Inspiration Point. While skies remained clear and largely colorless, we framed images of the Middle Falls, reflections in
the small inspiration pond, and the winding and twisting stone wall that’s a characteristic accent found throughout much of the park.
We awaited sunrise this morning peering toward the east horizon at the Archery Field overlook, hoping for fog that so often wistfully rises from the deep ravine and filters the morning sun. It wasn’t to be.
Yet, once again one of our favorite venues gave up its beauty – fresh morning sun back-lighting a tall stand of pines climbing a gorge wall, delicate leaves left over from the fall, strapping tree trunks framing a distant gorge view, another section of that ubiquitous stone fence, and of course with the aid of modern digital photo technology that hoped for sunrise painted horizon.
Then it was time for the icing on the cake – a chance meeting of another photographer, a fashion photographer from New York City who was raised in the neighborhood of this great park. I’m not using his name because I don’t have permission to do so. Let it suffice to say he tempted us with talk of “secret” falls that few visitors ever get to see. We’ve found a couple ourselves over the years yet were anxious to “discover” a couple more.
In short order we approached the northern end of the park and leaving our vehicles behind began a short hike that rewarded us with what can only (under the circumstances) be called a “secret view” of a waterfalls that’s not in any of my dog-eared waterfalls guide books. It’s sure to be added to our next tour.
Letchworth is getting ready for our return on May 9.