While Niagra Falls in northwestern New York gets a lot of much-deserved attention, there is another waterfall in eastern New York that is nearly as impressive: Cohoes Falls.
Located along the Mohawk River a short drive north of downtown Albany, Cohoes Falls is easily one of the most impressive waterfalls in New York. The waterfall spans the entire 1,000-foot length of the river and drops as much as 90 feet in height.
This makes it longer and nearly as tall as American Falls at Niagara Falls. It also usually has a higher rate of water flow than American Falls does. Without a doubt, Cohoes Falls is an incredibly impressive waterfall.
The waterfall is located on the outskirts of Cohoes, New York, and is just upstream of where the Mohawk River empties into the Hudson River.
History of Cohoes Falls
Cohoes Falls’ immense size has made it a focal point of regional history for both Native Americans and the settlers that came to the area.
According to Iroquois history, it is said that Cohoes Falls is the site where The Great Peacemaker founded the Iroquois Confederacy. This united the Mohawk, Oneida, Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga peoples into a strong nation (The Tuscaroras would also later join the Confederacy).
This history makes the site of Cohoes Falls one of the most important Native American historical spots in the region.
As settlers came to the area, they recognized the value of the falls for powering mills. Just downstream of the falls was Harmony Mills, which was the largest cotton mill complex in the world when it opened in 1972.
Today, the remains of the mill have been turned into an apartment complex, but the site still retains much of its historical interest on the outside.
Cohoes Falls was also a major issue for navigation in the 19th century. Goods being transported to the north and west from New York City and Albany would have to go around the falls on land. Because of this, Cohoes Falls was one of the reasons for the creation of the Erie Canal, portions of which can still be seen in a few spots around town.
Cohoes Falls has also been used to generate power for many decades, and a large power plant sits adjacent to the falls. Unfortunately, the power plant diverts much of the water flowing to the falls, which means that Cohoes Falls can be nearly dry during times of low water.
When to Visit Cohoes Falls
As with most waterfalls in New York, Cohoes Falls is at its most dramatic during the spring when water levels are at their highest. During this time of year, the flow can cover the entire length of the falls, as it did during my visit in mid-May 2019.
As stated above, the power plant diverts a large amount of water from the Mohawk River, so during times of low water, there can be very little flow over the falls.
When this occurs, the water tends to flow over the right side of the falls, leaving the side closest to the viewing areas dry. However, during this time period, you’ll have the chance to see the unique rock formations that lay under the water, which is an interesting sight that’s also worth seeing.
Cohoes Falls Viewing Areas
There are two different viewing spots for the waterfall, both of which offer great views of the waterfall.
If you only have time to visit one spot at Cohoes Falls, make it Falls View Park.
The entrance for Falls View Park is located along North Mohawk Street a short distance north of Harmony Mills. A large parking area is located across the road from the entrance to the park.
This accessible park features a nearly 200-foot bridge over the water that feeds the power plant and ends at a fantastic vista overlooking the waterfall.
Along the way and at the vista, there are signs that highlight the history and geology of the region, which really helps you to appreciate the area.
From this upper viewing area, there is also a steep stairwell that heads towards the bottom of the falls. There is a gate at the bottom which is open from 11a-3p on Saturdays and Sundays when water levels and conditions make it safe to do so. This allows you to get an even closer look at this impressive waterfall.
If water levels are higher or the gate isn’t open, the lower area doesn’t really provide any good views of the falls, so it’s not really worth checking out if you are short on time.
It should be noted that the bridge to the overlook at Falls View Park has a gate which automatically opens and closes in the morning and the evening. While the exact time that the gate is open seems to vary based on the time of year, it was open from 7am to 7pm on the day of my visit in mid-May.
This Falls View Park is closed entirely from November through April.
The second vista is Overlook Park, which is located about a third of a mile from Falls View Park.
Not only is this viewpoint only steps from street parking, but it’s also open year-round as well as in the morning and evenings. Depending on when you visit, it’s possible this might be the only spot that’s open.
That being said, the views here aren’t as good as those at Falls View Park because you are further away and the power plant sits between you and the falls, partially blocking the view here. Nevertheless, this is still a stop worth making when visiting Cohoes Falls, especially if the other viewpoint is closed.
Where is Cohoes Falls?
Cohoes Falls is located in Cohoes, a community north of downtown Albany in Albany County, New York.
The parking area for Falls View Park can be found at the following coordinates: 42.785387, -73.711204.
From this parking area, it’s possible to walk a third of a mile to the second viewpoint at Overlook Park, which is located along School Street or you can drive over and park along the road. The viewing area at Overlook Park is located at the following coordinates: 42.784407, -73.707016.
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