Lower Falls Walking Tour
This tour takes you past a spectacular 110-foot waterfall and over a hydro power station.
It starts at Maplewood Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which features a nationally accredited rose garden and also includes Kelsey’s Landing, a National Underground Railroad Network site.
- Stay home if you’re not feeling well
- Stay at least six feet away from others during your walk
- Don’t touch, sit on, or lean against, benches, fences, and other objects during your walk
- Wash hands for at least 20 seconds when returning home
Parking is at Maplewood Park.
15 TOUR SITES
#1 Maplewood Park
Maplewood Park was designed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted. Mr. Olmsted, known as the father of American landscape architecture, also created Highland Park and Central Park in New York City.
Photo: Rochester Parks
#2 Maplewood Rose Garden
The Maplewood Rose Garden is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a nationally accredited Rose Garden which features over 3,500 bushes and more than 250 varieties of roses. The garden also features peonies, perennials, evergreens, and the Stecher Memorial Fountain.
Photo: Debbie Vanderpool
#3 Kelsey’s Landing
On the banks of the Genesee River below this point, steam ships transported flour, lumber and passengers to Canada and the Great Lakes. Kelsey’s Landing was a final stop on the Underground Railway, where escaping slaves boarded ships which crossed Lake Ontario to Canada.
#4 Glen House Site
In 1870, Rochester’s first luxury resort hotel was built along the riverbank at the bottom of this cliff. The Glen House featured scenic views of the Genesee River, along with dining and dancing.
#5 “Hawkeye” Plant
The building across the river is the “Hawkeye” plant, where Kodak made camera lenses and optical equipment starting in 1912, and developed film from spy satellites during the cold war. It is now being converted into mixed use property with offices and affordable housing.
# 6 Driving Park Bridge
This single arch bridge above you was built in 1988, replacing a historic wrought iron bridge built in 1890. In 1819, the Carthage bridge was built here using pine timber an iron bolts. Standing almost 200 feet above the river, it was an engineering marvel, until 15 months later, when the center section collapsed into the river.
#7 View of Hydro Plant
This building houses three turbines, which together generate 46 MegaWatts of electricity, enough to power over 30,000 homes. Known as Station 5, this hydro plant began operating in 1917. To reach the turbines, water flows down a 2,000 foot long tunnel. The tunnel begins upstream, at a rack house above the Middle Falls, which you’ll see later in this tour.
#8 View of Lower Falls
The Lower Falls of the Genesee River is 110 feet tall. It’s capped with a small dam to help water flow to the power plant at the left side of the falls. The walls of the 200 feet deep gorge show 20 million years of geological history, revealed in a gorge that was carved over the last 10,000 years.
Photo: Debbie Vanderpool
#9 Lower Falls Lookout
From this lookout, you can see the top of the Lower Falls. The Genesee River starts from a spring on a farm in northern Pennsylvania. The river is about 150 miles long and is one of only 33 rivers in the world that flows North.
#10 McCrackenville Site
This area was once a thriving manufacturing settlement, known as McCrackenville . Starting in the 1820s, water was diverted from the middle falls, to power equipment used for many businesses, such as paper milling and furniture making.
#11 Middle Falls Crossing
On the south side of this bridge over Middle Falls is a rack house, where water enters the long tunnels which lead to the hydroelectric turbines at the base of the Lower Falls. This hydro generating station was modernized in 2012, at a cost over $100 million dollars.
# 12 Seat of Forgetting and Remembering
This weathered sculpture, by Adriana Ippel Slutzky, includes four monoliths which represent the world. They were formed from concrete covered steel and use casts of the hands and faces of over 600 children and adults to celebrate the community’s diversity.
#13 Future Falls Overlook Site
If you look up the bluff, you’ll see what might someday serve as the perfect location for viewing the Lower Falls. Imagine if a restaurant or visitor center, accessible from Lake Avenue, was located near the trees at the top of this bluff. It would provide one of the most spectacular views in Rochester.
# 14 Falls View from Bridge
From the center of the Driving Park Bridge, you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Lower Falls. Depending on the wind direction and the amount of water flowing over the falls, some of the mist may create a shower or a rainbow.
#15 Maplewood YMCA
The original building, designed by Claude Bragdon , opened in 1916. The center entrance features an arched porch flanked by stone columns. Colorful ceramic tiles surround the doorway and railing. Today, the Maplewood YMCA includes an Aerobics Studio, an Indoor Pool, and a Gym, as well as a Literacy and Computer Center, Senior Center, and Teen Center.
Lower Falls Walking Tour
This tour takes you past a spectacular 110’ waterfall and over a hydro power station. It starts at Maplewood Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which features a nationally accredited rose garden and also includes Kelsey’s Landing, a National Underground Railroad Network site.
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