Unnamed Falls Buttermilk Falls Waterfall Wednesday blog cover
Adventures,  Painting Series,  Waterfall Wednesday

Waterfall Wednesday: Unnamed Falls

This week we go to an unnamed waterfall in Buttermilk Falls State Park that almost wasn’t part of my 50 New York Waterfalls project.  I was conflicted about including an unnamed waterfall in the project when all the other waterfalls were main features with their own names.  Ultimately decided this waterfall was too pretty not to paint.  

Photo of Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca NY by Laura Jaen Smith

Buttermilk Falls State Park is located along Route 13 just outside of Ithaca, New York on the southern end of Cayuga Lake.  The 811 acre park has a campground, picnic areas, playing fields, hiking trails, and a natural pool. 

The Gorge Trail along Buttermilk Creek has 10 waterfalls varying between 5 to 35 feet in height.  There is a 500 foot elevation gain, which means that the trail is steep in places with many steps.

Buttermilk Falls itself is a ~100 foot waterfall that gets its name from the appearance of its churning waters (during high flow) and is the main attraction of the park with the swimming area below.  However, there are many beautiful waterfalls within the gorge including today’s featured waterfall.  Today’s Unnamed Falls is approximately 10 feet tall and is located towards the upper section of the trail just after Pinnacle Rock. 

Photo reference of unnamed waterfall in Buttermilk Falls State Park by Laura Jaen Smith
Photo of Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca NY by Laura Jaen Smith

The area around Buttermilk Falls State Park was originally home to Native American tribes who were part of the Iroquois Confederacy.  During the Revolutionary War, they were driven from their homes by Continental Soldiers.  Their abandoned log cabin homes, orchards, and farm lands were burned.  The land was later partitioned out to settlers.

During the 1850s, the area was a center of industry with several mills that drew off of the water power of the gorge.  There was a mill at the the base of Buttermilk Falls where the swimming area is today and also a larger gristmill towards the top of the gorge.  A dam at the top of Buttermilk Falls supplied water to the City of Ithaca until the early 1900s.   


Like other parks in the ‘Ithaca area, the land for Buttermilk State Park was initially granted to the state by Robert and Laura Treman in 1924.  

In the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps made improvements to the infrastructure by creating stone walkways along the gorge.  At the upper portion of the park is a 35 foot high stone dam also built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  The dam created Treman Lake which is a small peaceful reservoir.

Photo of Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca NY by Laura Jaen Smith

Painting Unnamed Falls

Unnamed Falls by Laura Jaen Smith. Square acrylic landscape painting of waterfall in Buttermilk Falls State Park Ithaca NY from 50 New York Waterfalls Series
Unnamed Falls, 6x6 acrylic on wood panel, click photo for purchase information

Like I mentioned above, I was stuck by the beauty of this waterfall and decided that I needed to include it in this project.  It was one of the last waterfalls that I painted during this 60 day project.  My favorite parts of the scene were the deep blue plunge pool, and the way the dry rock in the foreground contrasted with the wet rock of the waterfall.

Have you visited Buttermilk Falls State Park?

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