Everything You Need to Know About Rainbow Falls

New York City life is more than just walking around on the perfectly paved streets that are well-shaded by tall, manmade skyscrapers, just to get to work or school every single day.

No matter how busy or hectic your lifestyle or work regulations are, you will be doing yourself a great disservice if you do not take time out for yourself to see some of the State’s most magnificent wonders, mother nature has crafted and designed by her own hands.

One such natural wonder that has the unique mystical power to completely enchant and mesmerize its visitors is Rainbow Falls.

Located in the heart of Minnewaska State Park, in Ulster County, New York, the Rainbow Falls is an incredible destination for people who appreciate the unmatchable rawness, authenticity, and perfection, only nature can offer.

Known for its undeniable aesthetic appeal, the Rainbow Falls is a remarkable 150-foot-high waterfall that is heavenly enwrapped by massive rocky structures, lush-green and colorful plantation, and a raw wilderness that has the ability to touch a visitor’s inner primal instincts.

To learn more about why you need to visit Rainbow Falls, its historical and geological appeal, and how you can get there, keep reading the remaining article below.

The History

Any time you come across a waterfall, know that nature worked hard to bless the planet with this incredible wonder. Just like most other naturally occurring waterfalls in New York, the Rainbow Falls is another site that has a rich history, worth learning about, resting under its colorful waters.

The Rainbow Falls is one of the nineteen others naturally occurring waterfalls located in Watkin Glen Creek. Apart from being Glen Creek’s only tributary waterfall that has been officially named, the Rainbow Fall is one of the highest waterfalls located along the Gorge Trail.

The Minnewaska State Park, home of the stunning Rainbow Falls, was first opened to the public in the year 1863, and was a privately-owned tourist destination until 1906, after which it was officially purchased by the New York State government.

Perhaps the prime attraction of the entire 780-acre is its 400-feet deep Glen Creek and its nineteen waterfalls, that according to archeologists, formed as the melting glaciers of the Ice Age era helped create the incredible destination that New York takes great pride in.

Over two million years ago, the movement of the glaciers helped originate a series of lakes, which moved southwards from the Hudson Bay. As these massive icy glaciers moved through the valleys, they helped deepen and further accentuate the existing Seneca Valley.

This natural event led to an increase in the stream of water passing through the valley, which eventually helped create waterfalls anywhere layers of hard rock had formed.  Moreover, along with the moving ice, massive loads of glacial debris helped form dam-like structures, which later turned into natural lakes.

Eventually, the deepened valleys helped form natural water tributaries, which hung over the lakes, forming the many deep gorges, out of which one is the Watkins Glen.

As water passed through the steep drop of the Glen Creek, a staircase of nineteen different waterfalls formed, out of which the most popular is the 150-feet high Rainbow Falls. 

The  Geology

As explained above, Rainbow Falls have an incredible history that can be dated back to before the beginning of human civilization.

Any time a destination or natural site has such an enriched history; it almost always has great geological value as well. The same is the case with the Rainbow Falls.

The floor bed of the gorge and the waterfall consists of a number of different kinds of rocks such as soft shales, sandstone, as well as limestone. Archeologists have also discovered hardened sedimentary rocks that can be dated back to the Devonian age.

Moreover, the Rainbow waterfall is a single drop waterfall that has an estimated height of 101-feet, while the average width is almost 20-feet. Hence, if you ever decide to trek on the Minnewaska State Park’s Watkin Glen gorge trail, it will be nearly impossible for you to miss the massive Rainbow waterfall.

Furthermore, the main water tributary which forms the Rainbow waterfall has just an 85-acre drainage area; however, it is also fed by groundwater which seeps out from between the many layers of bedrock present in the Watkin Glen canyon.

Although the color of the Rainbow Falls’ water is crystal-clear, it gets its unique name as rainbow sightings in the water are quite common during the summer and spring seasons.

Local Wildlife You Can Spot

Although people tend to visit the glorious this waterfall for its incredible natural beauty, some people are also interested in the potential fishing opportunity.

Hence, if you plan to fish at the Rainbow waterfall, you might be able to catch the Brown Bullhead, Yellow Perch, Smallmouth Bass, Rock Bass, Northern Pike, etc.

Moreover, apart from the various species of fish, the Minnewaska State Park and the Rainbow Falls are also home to a wide range of beautiful animals. For instance, you can come across a snowshoe hare, the white-tailed deer, Turkey Vultures, Cooper Hawks, Coyotes, Black-Billed Cuckoos, dragonflies, etc. 

What Should You Pack Before Leaving

  • Good quality trekking boots since the hike is almost five hours long
  • A change of dry clothes if you wish to swim
  • An umbrella
  • High-energy snacks
  • Water bottles

Things to do When Visiting

  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Camping at the nearby campsites
  • Cliff jumping
  • Have a picnic

Final Thoughts – How Can You Get to Rainbow Falls?

Want to witness how the soft light of the golden sun can create a vibrant rainbow in the glistening waters of a tremendous and crystal-clear waterfall? Then wait no more, and head out to Western New York’s Minnewaska State Park to experience the magical allure of the Rainbow Falls.

Once you make it to the State Park, head over to the South end of Seneca Lake to get to Watkin Glen Creek. Hike the relatively easy Gorge trail, upstream, until you get to the mesmerizing Rainbow Falls.

You can also follow a well-guided map to get to the destination.

The McClain Family

We hope we helped. Please let us know of any place that you want to know about in NYS or if we did a poor job with any part of this. Our goal is to help as many people as possible.

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