Dams are some of the most exciting places to visit in New York state. From large dams that power nearby cities to tiny ones along mountain streams, each has a story worth hearing about. So, what are the best dams to visit in New York state?
The best dams to visit in New York state include the New Croton Dam, the Kenisco Dam, Mount Morris Dam, and the Bevill Lock & Dam. There are over 2,000 dams in New York, so this is only part of the list. You can also visit Palisades dam, Alice Falls, and many more to enjoy New York state’s scenery.
This article will discuss the best dams in New York state – let’s get started!
1. Alice Falls in Keeseville
Why is Alice Falls number one on the list? Because it has a gorgeous waterfall!
Alice Falls is a beautiful cascade located in the Adirondacks mountains, about an hour and a half north of Albany, in a town called Keeseville.
This video shows a little dive into Alice Falls, though this is not something just anyone can do:
As you can see, the falls are beautiful, but the dam is quite interesting, too. The power station located at the falls is a 2,100-kilowatt hydroelectric generation station, harnessing the power of the nearby AuSable River.
Nature lovers can add the Wickham Marsh Wildlife Management area to their list, which is only seven minutes away.
If you’d like to camp before heading to the dam, there are two campsites nearby. You can either stop at the Ausable Chasm Campground (which is only two minutes away) or go to the Twin Ponds Resort campsite, a mere five minutes away. There is also a hotel not too far off the highway called the Shamrock Inn if you’re not a fan of camping.
For shopping, you can visit the Champlain Centre mall, which is only 20 minutes from the trail. It has a movie theater and food court to keep you entertained, and the Adirondack Baer antique mall is right down the road from the Alice Falls waterfall.
New Croton Dam is located in New York’s Hudson Valley, just a few miles north of the Taconic Parkway. This massive Dam was built between 1892 and 1906 to help control flooding along the Croton River, which runs through Cortlandt.
The Old Croton was one of the first major water supply systems in history. Today, the Dam spans long and wide and serves as a spot for recreation and picnics while still generating large amounts of power to the city via water.
Here is a short lesson on the Croton Dam:
What you may not know about this dam is that it had an important role in the battle between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, as they competed for control over how many banks should be allowed in the state. While the dam did have a purpose, it was also an essential chess move by Burr to create the First Bank of the United States and The Bank of New York.
Croton Gorge Park is a lovely recreation area that sits outside the Dam, with water, fishing, hiking, and more.
If you want a bite to eat before heading over, you can go to 105 Twenty Bar & Grill, Terra Rustica Ristorante Italiana, or Woods Tavern Bar and Grill. For a picnic, stopping at the nearby Whole Foods is also a great option.
Once you arrive at New Croton Dam, you will be amazed at how close you are to the Hudson River.
This is a great spot for a picnic or to go with your family and friends. The Kensico Dam Plaza has plenty of space for everyone to spread out and enjoy themselves. You’ll find it right off of Bronx River Parkway and the Taconic State Parkway.
The area also features a dog park, making it a wonderful place for you and your four-legged friend to bond. If you’re lucky enough to visit in the summertime, there are plenty of activities, such as movies under the stars and live music concerts on Friday nights (weather permitting). There is also a playground for kiddos and great waterfront views.
How can a place have so much to do? Check out this Kensico Dam walk-through video:
The Kensico Dam Plaza is located in Valhalla, New York, and is a beautiful place to go and enjoy the summer weather with your family and friends. It also has a memorial in memory of 9/11 called The Rising.
For more fun around Kensico Dam Plaza, you can visit the Cliffs at Valhalla, a rock climbing gym. You could also go to the Cranberry Lake Preserve or try to get a tee time at the Tamarack Country Club, which is not too far away.
This plaza is extremely close to the Westchester County Airport and Manhattan college, so you know there will be dozens of fantastic food choices. South of the park, you’ll find dozens of food choices of all kinds.
Mount Morris Dam is located in Mount Morris.
The dam was completed in 1918 and has been in operation since then. It was originally known as the Genesee Valley Canal Reservoir Dam, but it has undergone several name changes over the years. Mount Morris Dam is located in the gorgeous Genesee River Gorge, right next to the Letchworth State Park.
Check out this virtual field trip of the dam:
This dam was a major project to help control floods in the public park. A rec area and park nearby make it a great spot to visit and take pictures or take a load off and watch the sunset.
Many people end up seeing the fortress-Esque Mount Morris Dam when they decide to visit the large Genesee River Gorge or the Letchworth State Park. There is also the Finger Lakes trail, which is notably one of the most beautiful hiking trails in NY.
If you’re feeling hungry, stop by Main Street, Mount Morris, for some amazing mom-and-pop style eateries, where you’ll also find some family-owned shops and more gorgeous sites.
To get all you need and more, you can visit Dam Overlook Gifts and Grill for food, views, and some souvenirs to commemorate the trip.
Beebe Lake Dam is located in Ithaca, New York. This is located on the campus of Cornell University, so if you’re in town for a college tour, this is the perfect Dam to visit.
Here is an aerial video of the Dam and waterfall:
Beebe lake itself is an important part of Cornell University and has been used for over a hundred years for recreation and sport.
Since Beebe Lake and its dam are located on the Cornell Campus, you will likely find a lot to do in Ithaca.
The town’s downtown scene is bustling, with the main street filled with locally-owned and chain restaurants. You’ll also find much to do on campus, such as events and concerts. Additionally, touring the college is sure to be fun.
There are dozens of places to stay around the dam, and if you’re in New York just to see Cornell, we would highly suggest admiring the lovely architecture.
Blenheim–Gilboa Dam is a dam on the North Blenheim in New York. It was built by the New York Power Authority and sends over 1,000 megawatts of energy to New York City.
The reservoir is also used for recreation and wildlife habitat, and the dam is a gravity-type concrete and rockfill structure. It impounds the Schoharie Creek in Schoharie County, New York.
If you’re interested, you can see the dam briefing by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo about the dam after the Virginia Earthquake:
This dam is mostly underwater, and you can only see about five feet protruding from the earth. The visitors center is a lovely eighteenth-century dairy farm, which you can visit to learn more about the New York Power Authority and the Blenheim Gilboa dam.
Mine Kill State Park is nearby and has its own pool, which is great for swimming and relaxing on hot summer days. Additionally, you can visit the Historic Lansing Manor, which is on the register of historic places.
Representative John Lansing was the delegate to attend the Constitutional Convention, and he built the manor for his daughter.
You’re in luck if you like to fish or watch wildlife because Cannonsville is home to various fish species, including walleye, trout, and bass.
The dam is located right on the reservoir, but it’s the reservoir itself that most people want to visit. You can also enjoy the hiking trails along the riverbank or take advantage of their picnic tables if you want to spend some time relaxing outdoors with friends.
This video discusses the New York Resevoir’s system, including Cannonsville:
Cannonsville Dam has an inflow and outflow from the Delaware River, though it is located in New York.
Cannonsville Dam is surrounded by parks:
- Bear Spring Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary
- Melody Hill State Forest
- Arctic-China State Forest
- Cherry Ridge Wild Forest
This dam is on the edge of New York and Pennsylvania, so you may even be able to pop into another state for a moment if you have time.
You can see the Harvard Road bridge if you drive to the east and the gorgeous Merrickville Tunnel if you drive to the north. Additionally, the Ireland Farms and Andrew Mann Inn are nearby, which are both registered Historical Landmarks. If historical landmarks aren’t your thing, there are also many nearby small towns with unique eateries.
Conklingville Dam is located in Hadley, New York, which is part of Saratoga County. This dam holds back Day, New York’s Sacandaga Lake. The Conklingville Dam is used to control floods, but it’s also a spot known for its many recreation opportunities. It generates power for New York as well.
At the Conklingville Dam, you can visit Sacandaga Lake, which has everything you’d expect of a recreational park. You can go swimming, boating, fishing, and even rent a home or boat for the weekend.
Here is a video about the construction of this dam:
This dam took three years to build and began construction in 1927. At the time, the dam was a twelve-million-dollar project.
Hadley Bow Bridge and Rockwell Falls are both extremely close to the Conklingville Dam, and these two gorgeous spots can round out your picture-taking journey. Wayside Beach is also just around the corner and is the perfect spot for cooling off on a hot day.
The dam is also a short twenty-five-minute drive to the Saratoga Sand Plains Wildlife Management Area, which is home to McGregor Pub and a few chain restaurants.
Gilboa Dam is another must-see, and it recently had a million-dollar rehabilitation project. The project was so successful that it achieved the National Award for Engineering Excellence. The NYC Water project highlights the dam in this video:
The Gilboa Dam was originally created in 1926 but eventually wore itself down. Hurricane Irene also greatly affected the dam after much construction in 2011, and the Virginia Earthquake immediately after nearly destroyed it. Now nearly completely reconstructed, the dam wears a badge of excellency.
The Gilboa Dam is pretty close to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, making it the perfect stop if you want to visit a few states during your trip. Additionally, the dam is located within a driving distance of Albany, New York, which has a ton to do.
The Marcy Dam isn’t a dam you can simply drive to because you have to take a hike to get there.
The effort is worth it, though. The Marcy Dam is the only dam on this list that is constructed from wood, and though it doesn’t serve much of a purpose, it has some historical value. The dam felt the damage of storm Irene in 2011, but it’s still a great thing to look at.
This video shows the removal of the dam:
Though it has been removed, there’s still a bit left worth seeing.
Marcy Dam is located in the Adirondack High Peaks in North Elba. It’s additionally surrounded by:
- Weight Peak
- Algonquin Peak
- Mount Colden
- Whales Tail Mountain
The dam was set to be removed in 2014 because the state decided it was unhelpful and protruded the natural water flow.
Again, Marcy Dam can’t be driven to, but there is a lot in town right outside of the trailhead to get you set for your bike hike.
You can visit Craig Wood Restaurant, Campfire grill, or Big Slide Brewery and Public House. The town also is home to the following attractions:
- Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex
- The historic John Brown State Historic Site
After reading the list above, it’s easy to understand why New York state is home to some of the most beautiful dams in America.
The best dam trips in New York state are a great way to get off the beaten path while visiting one of the country’s most famous cities. The city has much more to offer than just the Empire State Building and Central Park: it also has stunning natural scenery, including these incredible dams.
Dam trips are a great way to spend a day outdoors with friends and family. You can bring your own picnic and enjoy the beautiful scenery around you or stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants located along the route.
If you’re bringing your kiddos, here’s a video to show them how a beaver builds a dam:
Here is a list of must-bring items when visiting one of the state’s many dams:
- Camera. You’ll want to capture the moment of your first sighting of the dam and all its glory, and its other beautiful features.
- Water and snacks. You won’t want to get too hungry or thirsty while taking in the sights and sounds of the dam you are visiting.
- Binoculars. If you want to see as many features as possible, a pair of binoculars will help you to zoom in and appreciate their beauty.
- Walking shoes. A comfortable pair of walking shoes is essential when exploring the dam and the surrounding area.