“In one place in the island of Hawaii, we saw a laced and ruffled cataract of limpid water leaping from a sheer precipice fifteen hundred feet high; but that sort of scenery finds its stanchest ally in the arithmetic rather than in spectacular effect. If one desires to be so stirred by a poem of Nature wrought in the happily commingled graces of picturesque rocks, glimpsed distances, foliage, color, shifting lights and shadows, and failing water, that the tears almost come into his eyes so potent is the charm exerted, he need not go away from America to enjoy such an experience. The Rainbow Fall, in Watkins Glen (N.Y.), on the Erie railway, is an example. It would recede into pitiable insignificance if the callous tourist drew on arithmetic on it; but left to compete for the honors simply on scenic grace and beauty–the grand, the august and the sublime being barred the contest–it could challenge the old world and the new to produce its peer.” – Mark Twain, Chapter LXXVI of Roughing It.
Isn’t it fascinating to think that such a world renowned figure walked the same place as us?
Today we finish Watkins Glen State Park with Rainbow Falls. Watkins Glen State Park is located on the southern end of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen, New York. The state park features 19 waterfalls along the Gorge Trail of the park. During my 50 New York Waterfalls project I painted seven of the main ones.
I’ve previously shared about Triple Cascade with historic photos, walking behind Cavern Cascade, renovations near Sentry Cascade, Central Cascade with artist James Hope, the mythic origins of Pluto Falls, and the literary origins of Minnehaha Falls.
Rainbow Falls is located about halfway up the mile and a half Gorge trail just before Triple Cascade. The waterfall is 95-101 feet high, but parts are obscured from view so it appears slightly shorter. Rainbow Falls is one of two waterfalls that you can walk behind in this gorge (Cavern Cascade being the other). This beautiful area of the gorge is the section that James Hope was commissioned to paint in 1871 and led to his later residency in the gorge.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) also fell in love with the beauty of this waterfall as he described in his novel, Roughing it (excerpt above).
There’s small glimpses of Mark Twain’s life nearby throughout Elmira – where I live and where he spent his summers at Quarry Farm. Quarry Farm still exists today and is owned by Elmira College.
The original Octagonal Study where he wrote the majority of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Prince and the Pauper, and A Tramp Abroad is now located on the Elmira College campus (along College Avenue).
Each year during the summer there is a trolley that tours the downtown area of Elmira and shares more about Mark Twain’s life and local Chemung County history. I think about it every year. Maybe this will be the year that I finally do it. (Here’s more info if you’re interested too.)
Painting Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls was a fun waterfall to paint. For the project I decided to divide up the paintings of Rainbow Falls and Triple Cascade so that I would be able to feature each waterfall individually. By dividing the paintings I was able to really focus on on the experience of traveling behind the water for Rainbow Falls. It was an interesting effect to play with.
The painting of Rainbow Falls is available as part of the Watkins Glen State Park Collection. For more purchasing details and to view the paintings in the collection, click the picture of Rainbow Falls above.
Have you visited Watkins Glen State Park before? Do you have a favorite waterfall from this gorge?
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