Located a short distance southeast of downtown Ithaca is one of the most beautiful and unique Ithaca Waterfalls: Wells Falls.
Wells Falls, which is also known by the interesting name of Businessman’s Lunch Falls or First Dam, is 65 feet tall and drops in a series of four drops. Of these, the largest is a 30-foot man-made dam. However, from the base of the falls, this dam can’t be seen well, so you’ll be able to enjoy the 35-foot natural portion of this waterfall.
While Wells Falls in Ithaca is far from the tallest waterfalls in the area, what makes it unique is that it is located directly adjacent to an abandoned power plant.
The Van Nattas Pumping Station was built in 1893 on the site of an old flour mill. It provided water for the city both for drinking and for fire stations. Over the years, the site grew with new pumps being added and the site being harnassed for electricity.
Since the 1940s, the Van Nattas Pumping Station has sat abandoned next to Wells Falls creating one of the most unique waterfalls in New York.
Today, Wells Falls is located on the Six Mile Creek Natural Area less than a mile outside of downtown Ithaca.
From the parking area along Giles Road, it’s a short quarter-mile hike to the base of the falls. While the trail is a bit steep in places, it’s a fairly easy hike to the base of the falls.
The exact spots from which you can see Wells Falls will vary depending upon the water levels. If levels are high, you may only be able to get a side view of the falls. However, if levels are a bit lower, you should be able to easily get a view of the falls from the front, which is the best spot to view the falls from in my opinion.
Adjacent to the base of the falls is a large flat area. It used to be common for workers from downtown to come here on their lunch breaks, which is why this waterfall is also called Businessman’s Lunch Falls.
While Wells Falls in Ithaca might not be as tall as nearby waterfalls like Ithaca Falls or Taughannock Falls, its unique setting adjacent to an abandoned pumping and power station makes this one of the best waterfalls to visit in the Finger Lakes.
How to Get to Wells Falls
Wells Falls is located along Giles Road, less than a mile southeast of downtown Ithaca.
Parking is located on the opposite side of the road from the trailhead in a parking lot for the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve. It can be found at the following coordinates: 42.432650, -76.484195.
From the parking area, walk back to Giles Road and turn left, crossing the bridge over Six Mile Creek. Use caution here as you’ll need to cross the road to reach the sidewalk. While going over the bridge, take a minute to enjoy Wells Falls from above.
Just after the bridge, look for the obvious, but unmarked trail on your right that heads into the woods past a gate. Follow the trail downhill until you reach the base of Wells Falls.
For those that use them, Wells Falls can be found at the following coordinates: 42.433724, -76.485033.
It should be noted that while the trail and viewing area are on public property, the abandoned building is on private property. Please only enjoy it from a distance.