Family Fun: Visit High Falls Gorge, one of the Natural Wonders of the Adirondacks
Environmental Wonder of the Adirondack Park
Labeled as one of the natural wonders of the Adirondack Park and New York State, High Falls Gorge provides a scenic trail on steel bridges and walkways over four waterfalls formed from the AuSable River. An easy groomed trail and wide entrance allowall levels of abilities to get close to nature.
We pay our fee that includes a self-guided tour through the gorge. My kids stop midway to take turns looking over the west branch of the Ausable River through the large viewfinder. At the opposite shore there is a replica of an old mining sluice and picnic area that sustained extensive damage during Tropical Storm Irene. (At this time the outdoor mining facility is closed but anyone can still mine for gems year-round inside, near the gift shop and small cafe.)
All four waterfalls can be viewed in just under a half-mile walk. The walkways edge the AuSable River and show not only the effects of this latest storm but how very powerful water can be. From the formation of the waterfalls to potholes carved out of rock, High Falls Gorge is part nature trail, part geology lesson. The water is so swift that sometimes the occasional tree limb shoots out over the milky falls.
Thankfully all the pathways have hand and guard rails that are further secured with wire fencing so no one's view (no matter how small) is obstructed. Parents can breathe a sigh of relief that their inquisitive youngsters will be safe.
Interpretive signs inform us about native flowers and the formation of potholes, waterfalls and a brief history. We work our way back inside where snacks are available along with some homemade cinnamon buns and beverages. I sit by the woodstove while my children mine for gems.
For a fee one can buy a tub of "rough" filled with sand, gravel and a choice of gemstones, arrowheads, or fossils. The bucket is taken to the mining sluice where one can pan for the stones. Each bucket comes with an identification card. Each child approaches the activity differently. My son slowly pours a small amount of the gritty mixture into the sifter box, a wooden box with a screened bottom, taking the time to examine each rock as it appears, cross-referencing the mineral identification handout. My daughter dumps her whole bag into the box and eagerly washes away the sand until just the gemstones remain. She doesn't care if her rock is quartz or ruby as long as it is shiny.
High Falls Gorge did sustain major damage during Tropical Storm Irene but with the help of strangers, neighbors and friends the business is up and running. There are plenty of people and businesses that are still trying to rebound after Tropical Storm Irene and High Falls Gorge is one of them.
High Falls Gorge is located eight miles east of Lake Placid on Route 86 in Wilmington. For more information, hours of operation and other events please call 518-946-2278.
All photos and content © Diane Chase, This post is based on Diane's guidebook Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes & High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities (with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities™ guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time™ and co-owner of the young adult, backcountry wilderness adventure program, Adirondack Outdoor Expeditions.