By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Local waterfall aficionado Scott Ensminger said he recently wrote a letter to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation asking them exactly how many waterfalls exist in the state.
New York is known for its abundance of waterfalls, thanks in large part to Niagara Falls and the many that dot the Finger Lakes region, but Ensminger said the DEC estimated there to be only about 65 official waterfalls.
In a recent interview with the Tonawanda News, he imparted this little tidbit of information with a small scoff of disbelief.
So how many are there really?
“Good question,” he said. “Probably a little over 2,000.”
Ensminger and the other contributors to the book profiled about 100 of them in his latest book collaboration, “Waterfalls of New York State,” a compilation of some of the best-known and biggest waterfalls in the state.
The book is one of two volumes produced by Firefly Books on waterfalls, the first written about the Ontario region.
“New York state has some of the best waterfalls in the Northeast and they are accessible to both Americans and Canadians,” said Firefly Books editor, Michael Mouland about why the company chose to feature New York waterfalls.
The book, which was released in September, was written in partnership with David Schryver and Edward Smathers, who took the majority of the full-page photographs featured in the book. Ensminger took six of the photos, he said, flipping through the book to point out his shot of Akron Falls.
The North Tonawanda resident said he first became interested in waterfalls back in the late 1980s. He had taken a few geology classes and collected rocks for a while, something that segues naturally into an interest in waterfalls.
“I used to go to Niagara Falls quite a bit but it’s become too commercialized ... (they’re) almost artificial with the diversion of water,”he said. “I started looking for other ones in the woods, ones people hardly ever go to.”
Ensminger estimates he’s probably seen somewhere close to 800 waterfalls, though that largely depends on one’s definition of a waterfall.
“I wrote letters all over the world trying to find out what the minimum height for a waterfall is. The state of Pennsylvania says anything from several inches to several feet,” he said, adding that New York’s minimum is 16 feet.
“I chose five feet because I have friends into white-water rafting who said any (rapid) over five feet is pretty dangerous and involves risk of life,” he said. “You have to draw the line somewhere.”
The book serves as a vehicle for Ensminger and the other two authors to share their knowledge and experience in tracking down waterfalls throughout the state. The three provide suggestions on safety and how to identify different types of waterfalls — classical, curtain and ribbon, and ribbon or falls — to thoughts on how best to photograph a waterfall. Ensminger said views the book more as a guide than a pretty coffee-table book.
Two pages are devoted to each waterfall, which include a small write-up, a full-page color photograph, directions and a fact sheet listing size, waterfall type, walking time and peak activity, among tidbits of information.
When asked to point out his favorite, Ensminger is quick to suggest a trip to Tinker Falls in the Finger Lakes region.
“It has an overhang big enough that you could drive a school bus behind it,” he said, although “it’s tough to get a decent shot of it because of the way the water is” a very thin veil.
Another bit of information readers might not find in the book?
“Don’t go this time of year,” Ensminger said.
You’ll find just “one little trickle of water,” he added, saying it’s been a bad year in general for waterfalls due to drought conditions.
Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.