Wednesday, December 25, 2013
The Unadilla River valley is rather uninteresting when compared to natural wonders nearby. Our flat muddy river has inspired little scientific publication and fails to draw tourists. Occasional relatively deep gorges were formed by torrents of glacial melt water but go largely unnoticed. That is certainly the case with this Buttermilk Falls. Largely unknown and ignored, steep slippery sides make exploration here unsafe. For us this is a recently discovered place of rare natural beauty.
The first picture is of the main named falls. Water cascades over a shingled shale slope placed deeply in a narrow valley. Time exposure photos are the standard for waterfall shots but these are point and shoot hand held snaps. White bubbles are the result of numerous quick short falls not a time exposure. This is actually what a person would see if standing here. A picture taken at stream level would show the height of this 25 foot drop.
Numerous smaller drops are located upstream of the main falls. This one may not qualify as an actual waterfall but the white water moving across long shale slabs is beautiful. Nestled among hemlocks, the only sounds are those created by falling water.
None of the three streams that empty here are even named. The smaller stream clearly shows water erosion of the massive shale deposit that underlies this area.
This picture and the previous one together show a single waterfall. Recent snow melt and rain have this stream carrying far more water than normal. We waited for two days after the rain so that the water would be clear of mud color.
A stream bed visit is planned but wisdom demands that it happen when the water volume is smaller and the rocks are free of ice. Scrambles around the waterfalls will be necessary as will walking in the stream. Moss covered rocks cover the flat ground and form the cliffs. These obstacles may explain why this natural wonder largely goes unnoticed.