There are many incredible waterfalls in the Adirondacks, but few are as beautiful as Split Rock Falls in Essex County.
Split Rock Falls is located near New Russia, New York, roughly a 40-minute drive southeast of Lake Placid or only five minutes from exit 30 along I-87. It is on the Bouquet River, a 40-mile river that flows from high in the Adirondack Mountains into Lake Champlain.
This waterfall can’t be seen from the road and isn’t well marked, but it is basically a roadside waterfall, and getting a view from above is fairly easy.
From a pull-off along Route 9, head into the woods along the unmarked, but well-established paths. Within a few feet, you’ll come to a section of chain-link fencing that keeps you from getting too close to the edge.
From this point, you can get a view of the top of the falls, but the views improve as you head down the hillside towards the base of the waterfall. While there is no official trail and the route is relatively steep, it’s not overly difficult if you are an experienced hiker.
That being said, there are cliffs here that could cause some dangerous falls, so be very cautious as you head down the hillside, especially if you try to get some of the views from along it.
In my opinion, the best views of Split Rock Falls can be found from the hillside as opposed to the base as you can get a better look at the entirety of the waterfall. However, seeing these views requires standing near the cliff edges, so again, use extreme caution.
Split Rock Falls consists of two main drops, with a third drop just downstream of the main waterfall. The uppermost drop is unique in that a large rock splits the flow of water into two streams, hence the name of this waterfall.
Online sources differ on the height of the waterfall listing it between 30 and 46 feet in height. In my opinion, the upper two drops probably combine to 30-35 feet. If you add that to the 6-8 feet of the lower drop 100 feet downstream of the main falls, all three probably add up to the range of 40 feet or so.
Regardless of the height, though, Split Rock Falls is an incredibly impressive waterfall. However, if you want to visit the waterfall to enjoy its natural beauty, I suggest visiting early in the morning for two reasons.
The first is because, on a sunny day, the waterfall tends to get full sun in the morning and early afternoon. That makes getting photographs of the waterfall difficult. I visited shortly after sunrise and had a chance to really appreciate the beauty of the waterfall before the sun started to hit it.
The second reason is because Split Rock Falls is a very popular waterfall. On warm summer days, you’ll find a lot of people here enjoying the beautiful weather and swimming in the waterfall. If you are looking to get photos of the falls or to simply enjoy a relaxing spot in nature, this can be less than ideal. (The same advice goes for Flume Falls, which looks surprisingly similar to Split Rock Falls.)
I also would highly caution against swimming here. The currents and rocks here can be very dangerous, and a quick online search indicates that there are several accidents here every year, including deaths from time to time. Because of this, I recommend sticking to land when enjoying the waterfall.
However, for those looking to explore one of the best waterfalls in the Adirondacks, Split Rock Falls near New Russia is a spot that shouldn’t be missed.
How to Get to Split Rock Falls
The closest community is New Russia, though Elizabethtown, the county seat, is only a short distance away as well.
For those visiting Lake Placid, this waterfall is only 40 minutes away. Even better, if you are approaching Lake Placid from the south, this waterfall sits only about 2 minutes out of your way as you travel between the town and I-87.
Access for Split Rock Falls is from a pull-off located on the southern side of Route 9. It can be found at the following coordinates: 44.124223, -73.657996.
From this pull-off, follow the unmarked, but obvious paths towards the stream. A steep, but relatively easy to manage hillside takes you down to the base of the falls and the best viewpoints.
It’s worth noting that while this pull-off can handle a decent number of cars, it can fill up quickly during peak times. Parking alongside the road isn’t allowed outside of this area. If possible, visit the waterfall in the early morning to avoid crowds.
For those that use them, Split Rock Falls can be found at the following coordinates: 44.123891, -73.657469.