If I had to pick, I think I would say that Bucktail Falls was my favorite waterfall to visit during my painting series of 50 New York Waterfalls. Of course that’s been a question I’ve been asked when people learn of the project (and that was the answer I have given).
Bucktail Falls is located towards the southern end of Otisco Lake near Spafford, New York in the Finger Lakes Region of the state. It can be found hidden at the intersection of Moon Hill Road and Sawmill Road. While researching for the blog I found out that it is on unposted private property. From what I’ve read the owner is okay with visitors as long as you’re respectful, so be mindful of this if you visit.
The waterfall itself is less than 50 feet from the road. In the first picture you can see the waterfall from the road; in the second you can see the road in the distance with the bridge while standing at the edge of the waterfall.
I think what I liked best about this waterfall is how secluded it was. There is a dense forest canopy filled ferns and moss which makes it feel like a magical place that no one else really had known about. Like stepping into the forest scenes of Sleeping Beauty (look up Eyvind Earle – his background scenes from Sleeping Beauty are one of the things that inspired me to be an artist). During the day I visited Bucktail Falls I also visited Fillmore Glen State park, Carpenter Falls, Tinker Falls, Pratt’s Falls and Stockbridge Falls. After visiting such high traffic parks, it was refreshing to find this hidden gem.
Bucktail Falls stands 35 feet high and is 11 feet wide at its crest. The first 30 feet of the waterfall fans out while it plunges then the last 5 feet cascades through rocks at the base.
I found it a little surprising, that even this remote waterfall had a rich history with the milling industry. Captain Asahel Roundy owned the land around this area and built a sawmill on the site in 1840.
This waterfall and the nearby Bucktail Road gained their name from Capt. Roundy being part of the Bucktail party of New York Democratic-Republicans Party (yes, in the beginnings of our country there were two main political parties – the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party). The Bucktails were one faction of Democratic-Republican Party and supporters of then State Senator Martin Van Buren (the other faction was the Clintonians supporting Gov. DeWitt Clinton). The Bucktails were named due to wearing hats with buck tails pinned to them during political meetings.
Painting Bucktail Falls
One of the interesting things about Bucktail Falls is that as you walk around the base, the waterfall looks very different. Deciding which angle to paint from and how many of the rocks below to include was a big part of the fun of this painting. Ultimately I decided to paint tight to the falls, mainly due to the time constraint of having only 60 days to visit and paint all 50 of the waterfalls in time for the deadline.
If you’re not familiar with my 50 New York Waterfalls series you can view them here on my gallery page. Each week on my blog I share about a waterfall in the series with pictures from my hike and little pieces of local history. You can subscribe below to receive the latest post in your email each week. Selected paintings from this series are available to purchase in my etsy shop.