Taughannock Falls

August 05, 2003

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Referred by: Peter Saracino, Marcus Whitman High School, Rushville, N.Y.
Summary authors & editors: Peter Saracino

The above photo is of Taughannock Falls, near Ithaca, New York, in the Finger Lakes region. An Indian legend attributes the origin of its name to a Native American word “Taghkanic,” which means “great falls in the woods.” At 215 feet high (65.5 m), Taughannock is higher than the mighty cataract at Niagara. The falls form a 30 feet deep (9 m) plunge pool at its base. Approximately 12,000 years of erosion by Taughannock Creek has left the falls some ¾ mile (1.2 km) distance from Cayuga Lake.

The Finger Lakes were formed by the action of glaciers. It's believed that these lakes were pre-existing river valleys, which were widened and deepened by glacial scouring. Streams were dammed at their southern end by glacial till and flooded to form lakes as the ice sheet retreated. The Finger Lakes region is known for its many beautiful gorges -- an indirect result of glacial action. When glacial ice retreated from this region, tributary streams began running into the glacially-deepened valleys. Many of these streams were literally “left hanging” far above the lake surface. In the ensuing years, deep erosion by the tributary streams moved many of the waterfalls back away from the edge of the lake valleys, creating long, narrow and picturesque gorges.

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