Lower Falls Genesee River Waterfall Wednesday blog cover
Adventures,  Painting Series,  Waterfall Wednesday

Waterfall Wednesday: Genesee Lower Falls

We’ve reached the 49th Waterfall Wednesday blog post.  Do you know what that means?  Just one more waterfall next week and we’ve made it through the whole 50 New York Waterfalls project!  I’m currently brainstorming ideas for upcoming blog posts.  Anything topics you’d like to see more of?  

Photo of Lower Falls Genesee River in Rochester NY by Laura Jaen Smith

Today’s waterfall is the northern-most waterfall that I visited for the waterfall project (I took a peek at the map to double-check).  Lower Falls is located in downtown Rochester just two miles north of High Falls.  Both Lower and High Falls (as well as the small Middle Falls) flow along the Genesee River.  The Genesee River is one of only 33 rivers in the entire world that flows northward. 

You can view Lower Falls through a path that leads down from Maplewood Park or Driving Park Avenue Bridge.  If you go by way of Maplewood Park,  there is the Maplewood Rose Garden on the west side that is over an acre of roses.  There are over 3000 rose bushes with hundreds of different varieties.  A Rose Festival is held each June during peak blooming.

Lower Falls is 110 feet high with a 276 crest.  It is the tallest waterfall found within a city boundary in the whole United States!  The waterfall is a complex curtain fall – the eastern portion of the falls has an overhang while the western half is a steeply terraced cascade.  Right next to the waterfall is the Rochester Gas & Electric substation, built in 1917.  The station generates roughly 47,000 kilowatts per hour – enough to power 24,000 homes.

Photo of Lower Falls Genesee River in Rochester NY by Laura Jaen Smith
Photo of under bridge near Lower Falls Genesee River in Rochester NY by Laura Jaen Smith

Like many waterfalls, this site is rich with history.  The most prominent early settlement that was in this location was built in the 1820’s by Dr. David McKracken.  Parts of the old foundation of the McKrakenville mill center can be seen today as they were used to create Lower Falls Park in 2001.  The small park borders Lower Falls and nearby Middle Falls.  There are informational displays that tell more about the historic site. 

Lower Falls Park also features a sculpture by Adriana ippel Slutzky titled “The Seat of Remembering and Forgetting.”  I wish I had taken the time to get a photo of it, but the area wasn’t feeling safe while traveling alone near dusk.  Here’s an article I found that shows a few pictures of the sculpture as well as a pretty accurate (and amusing) description of it.  

In 1844, Kelsey’s Landing was built near Lower Falls on the west side of the Genesee River just below where Maplewood Park is located today.  It was the last port before Canada by way of Lake Ontario.   The port was utilized by individuals in the Underground Railroad escaping slavery to find freedom in Canada.  In 1859 Frederick Douglass boarded a boat from Kelsey’s Landing to Canada to escape arrest.

Photo of walking bridge near Lower Falls Genesee River in Rochester NY by Laura Jaen Smith

Painting Lower Falls

Genesee River Lower Falls by Laura Jaen Smith. Square acrylic painting of waterfall in Rochester NY

It was difficult to get a good angle of Lower Falls and to get the lighting just right while taking the reference photo.  I think I finally found a way that worked well and shows off its personality.  On the left you can see the edge of the substation, in the foreground you can see hints of the lush vegetation in front of the falls, and within the water you can see the evening light reflecting the trees.  This painting used a lot of greens which give it a warm summer glow and contrasted from many of the other paintings in the series that featured cooler grey tones.  

Have you visited Genesee Lower Falls?

Resources & Further Learning

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