The Thousand Islands Region of New York is known for its amazing natural beauty. However, there are few large waterfalls here compared to other parts of the state. However, if you find yourself exploring the region or looking for a great waterfall north of Syracuse, Salmon River Falls should be on your list.
Salmon River Falls is a 110-foot waterfall located near Orwell in Oswego County, New York. The 112-acres surrounding the waterfall has been designated the Salmon River Falls Unique Area and protects this incredibly beautiful spot.
From the large parking area, it’s a short walk of around a quarter-mile to the viewing areas for Salmon River Falls. This trail is wide and flat, and the state lists it as a universally-accessible trail, meaning it should be doable for those in wheelchairs (though keep in mind that is a natural surface trail and not paved). I even saw a few families with strollers on the trail.
However, even if you love difficult hikes to waterfalls, Salmon River Falls is a waterfall worth seeing.
At a listed 110 feet in height and wider than it is tall, this is a seriously impressive waterfall. During normal water levels, it falls in three distinct drops from its wide crest. This creates a really interesting looking waterfall.
During times of low water, only the far-right area might have water, while during high water, the entire face of the falls can become a raging torrent.
There are three areas from which Salmon River Falls can be viewed from above. Sadly, while there was a trail to the bottom, it’s “closed for the foreseeable future” according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. It’s clear that the view from the bottom is quite impressive and probably the best place to view this waterfall, but please respect the closure as long as it lasts.
The first two viewing areas for Salmon River Falls are directly along the main trail. The first one is located about halfway from the parking lot to the crest of the falls, while the second is located at the crest of Salmon River Falls.
Both offer nice, but overgrown views of the waterfall. While much of the waterfall can be seen even when there are leaves on the trees, visiting when there are no leaves would provide better views from these vantage points.
Just beyond the second viewing area, there is a set of steps that heads down towards the creek above the falls. Somewhat surprisingly, visitors are allowed to walk along the rocky streambed up here. A painted line a few feet from the edge of the falls serves as a marker not to go past.
While the views from the streambed aren’t the best views of the waterfall, they do provide a great look into the gorge carved by this powerful river.
On the side of the waterfall with the trail, there is also a very short dirt path that leads to another view over the falls. To be honest, I don’t know if this is an allowable spot from which to view the falls. However, it does provide the best views of Salmon River Falls, but also the most dangerous.
If you are exploring anywhere around the riverbed or the edge of the falls, use extreme caution as one slip could prove to be quite bad.
For those looking for more hiking, The main trail above the falls continues for about a mile to the base of the Salmon River Dam upstream of the falls. While I haven’t personally hiked this trail beyond the falls, the information I’ve seen indicates that this is a beautiful trail and a nice hike through the woods.
While it’s a shame that the trail to the base of Salmon River Falls is closed, this is still a great spot to visit if you are in the Thousand Islands Region. It’s also less than an hour’s drive from downtown Syracuse, making it an easy trip from the city.
So, if you love waterfalls, especially easy to reach ones, definitely add Salmon River Falls to your list of places to visit.
How to Get to Salmon River Falls
Salmon River Falls is located near the communities of Orwell and Altmar in north-central New York in the Salmon River Falls Unique Area.
The parking area is located along Falls Road and can be found at the following coordinates: 43.549211, -75.943739.
From here, follow the obvious trail at the end of the parking lot a few hundred yards to the first overlook or a quarter-mile to the second overlook and the access trail to the river bed.