Businessman’s Falls

I am so fortunate to live and work in Ithaca, NY. It is so beautiful. Everyday I see a waterfall on my way to work – I’m serious – every day!! And I see the wonderful views of Cayuga Lake – every day. It’s an amazing place to live.

Wells Falls

Today I’m going to talk about Businessman’s Falls, or Wells Falls, or sometimes Van Natta’s Falls. I believe Wells Falls is the official name of these falls. Van Natta is the name of the dam that helps to create these falls. Businessman’s Falls is my preferred name – this name was derived by the many businessmen who take their lunch in this area as I did one day last month. With all the rain, a coworker and I decided to do some waterfall scouting at lunch one day. Of course, we had to pick a day it was SNOWING – in late April. CNY weather is unpredictable at best.

Wells Falls

I always include the old hydro station - it's beautiful in its own way

Businessman’s Falls used to be a relatively unknown waterfall but largely thanks to flickr it seems to be growing in popularity. Go to the Waterfalls of New York State group and search for Wells Falls – you will find lots of stunning images.  Photographing Businessman’s Falls is challenging at best – do you include the old hydro station, the angles aren’t that great, especially during high water, and how do you handle that gnarly old tree?  As you can see, there are many interpretations.

To visit you can park at the Elizabeth Mulholland Wildflower Preserve off of Giles St. From the parking area, walk back to Giles Street and cross the street and the Giles Street bridge. There is a footpath that runs right along the falls but I’ve always been too chicken to try that one. If you continue past the falls just a little bit further, there is a gravel trail that’s a little steep, but is a much easier path down. From the bottom you can wrap around to view the falls. This is a very popular area especially with college students in the summer and you’re likely to see many sunbathers and picnicers. But swimming is prohibited as this is Ithaca’s water source.  A map of the area is available here.

Falls along Six Mile Creek

One of the unnamed side falls along the trail

If you have some time and want to do some easy trail walking, go back to the parking area and continue along Six Mile Creek. This is a flat, well-worn trail popular with the locals. This area is noted for its woodland flora. In the spring or after a heavy rain you will see several little waterfalls trickling down the gorge walls.

You will see many old water pipes 12-18 inches in diameter that used to provide water to the City of Ithaca and occasionally the trail traverses along the tops of these pipes (this requires a little bit of balance, but is not too difficult). In less than an hour you will reach a couple of dams and their corresponding waterfalls.

Six Mile Creek Dam and Falls

Upper dam - the lower is just barely visible at the bottom of the pic

Further along the trail past the dams is the Ithaca Reservoir and Potters (or Porter’s – I’ve seen both) Falls. I’ve never continued this far along the trail, but I hope to sometime this spring/summer.

Wells Falls and the Elizabeth Mulholland Wildflower Preserve are beautiful natural areas that I’m so fortunate to have right here within the city. The walk to the upper dams is easy, flat, and well-marked. If you have a couple of hours and want to experience some nature, I highly recommend this.


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