Finger Lakes
Geology Websites


-Introduction
-Brief Summary
-Formation of the _Finger Lakes
-Ithaca is Gorges
-Rocks of the _Finger Lakes
-Fossils in Ithaca
State Parks
-Treman
-Buttermilk Falls
-Taughannock
-Watkins Glen
 

At 215 feet, Taughannock Falls is 33 feet taller than Niagara Falls. It is the highest free-falling waterfall in the northeastern United States, and one of the highest waterfalls of any kind east of the Rocky Mountains. Taughannock gorge was formed as Taughannock Creek eroded through more than 400 feet of shale and deposited it in a broad delta on the west side of Cayuga Lake. The lawn, beach and marina areas of the park now occupy this delta. It may have been cut and filled during more than one glacial-interglacial episode.

The 3/4 mile hike from the parking lot to the falls carries you through a rather flat, broad, very high-walled gorge. This shape is in marked contrast to the more stair-step form of many of the other gorges. It is due largely to the relative homogeneity of the Geneseo Formation through which the stream has cut the gorge. With few resistant layers to form ledges, the soft shale has been carried away almost completely, down to the harder limestone known as the Tully Limestone at the bottom of the gorge.

The "caprock", the resistant rock over which Tauhannock Falls tumble, is sandstone of the Sherburne Formation; the rocks immediately above these, along the rim, are the Ithaca Formation.

 

Taughannock Falls can be seen from two lookout points. One route, at the end of the 1/2 mile Gorge Trail, views the falls from below; the other, views the falls from above, at the Falls Overlook on Taughannock Park Road. The Gorge Trail is wide and flat and negotiable by people in wheelchairs with assistance.

The name "Taughannock" most likely originates from the Algonquin word "Taconic," translated as "In the trees." Another possible origin of the name comes from the story of a Lenape (Delaware) Indian chief named Taughannock.

Sources:
Ithaca is Gorges by Warren Allmon and Robert Ross
Taughannock Falls State Park Brochure (available by visiting the State Park)
http://www.taughannock.com

Note: PRI is not a part of the parks system. For more information about Taugannock Falls and other Finger Lakes state parks, please call (607) 387-6739.

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The Paleontological Research Institution
1259 Trumansburg Road
Ithaca, NY 14850 phone: 607-273-6623 fax: 607-273-6620
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