4.6
26 votes

Eternal Flame Falls

Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park, New York USA

Free
Free to Visit
Open Now
Fri 8a-3:30p
  • Independent
  • Pet Friendly
  • Not Wheelchair
    Accessible

“cascading waterfall with a fiery grotto”

Eternal Flame Falls is a 30 ft high cascade in two segments. The top is a narrow cascade of nearly 8 ft high. The second tier spreads out more than twice the width as it cascades over shale. A small grotto to the right houses a natural gas spring that can be ignited to create a flame of 4-8 inches in height. Two small cascades can be found upstream from Eternal Flame. Eternal Flame Falls is highly dependant on rainfall and melt water. It is usually only flowing in early spring, or after long bouts of heavy rain. It reaches 30 ft high, cascading over sloping shale in two segments. The top is a narrow cascade over limestone, nearly 8 ft high. The second tier spreads out more than twice the width as it cascades over shale. A small grotto, 5 ft up from the creek bed, to the right houses the natural gas spring that can be ignited to create a flame of 4-8 inches in height. When flow is high, the water pours over the grotto, covering the flame and diffusing the light like a lampshade. As you approach the falls, the smell of rotten-egg-like natural gas fills the air within the ravine. This is the result of seepage from layers of organically-rich Hanover Shale. This roughly 90ft-thick rock layer consists of alternating strata of brittle, gray and black shale that was deposited during the  Devonian Period, 416 to 359 million years ago. The gasses produced during the decomposition of the organics within the rock deposits are under pressure and push out through cracks and loose layers within the rock. One large fissure is located right within Eternal Flame Falls, in a small grotto that protects the gas seepage from the falling water and any wind, enabling it to sustain a flame when lit. Two other, smaller seepages within the grotto can be lit, although they can't hold a flame as large or as long as the primary flame. There are several other gas seepages, or springs, around the falls, but locating them can be tricky and lighting them often impossible. Some are located underneath the pool below the falls, and can be seen as bubbles rising up from the bedrock below. The path leading down to Shale Creek and Eternal Flame Falls snakes through mixed hardwood forest on a sandy glacial terrain, and passes a beautiful Hemlock grove as it winds around to the bottom. The descent can get a bit muddy and filled with obstacles, as erosion as exposed the sandy earth as well as a large quantity of exposed roots. Once at the Creek visitors must walk upstream to get the falls. A few downed trees can get in the way, and if the falls is flowing, you will most likely get your feet wet, but overall the hike upstream is uneventful. Eternal Flame Falls is truly one of the most unique waterfalls in the state, possibly the country, but the muddy landscape, unpredictable flow, and significant amount of trash within the ravine detract from the experience. Overall if you are in western New York, during the wet season, and have an hour to spare, be sure to check this one out. Don't forget to bring a lighter.

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Reviewed by
benjamin.harrison123

  • 3 Reviews
  • 9 Helpful
May 07, 2014
Rated 5.0

Visited this in Winter. Walking though the area was like walking to Narnia. And when we finally got to the frozen waterfall with a fire in the center. Wow. Amazing.

9 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
yocum137

  • 7 Reviews
  • 7 Helpful
September 23, 2014
Rated 5.0

Very cool waterfall about a 15min hike from the trailhead which is located at
42.701969, -78.747879. There's a parking lot off Chestnut Ridge Rd.

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
broam13trip

  • 1 Review
  • 4 Helpful
June 06, 2014

Went to this with a friend today!! Even though the waterfall wasn't a full flow, the fire was still lit considerably! It's a very simple hike and I loved seeing it. So amazing! WORTH THE TRIP TO SEE :)

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Greek_nomad

  • Road Warrior
  • 401 Reviews
  • 207 Helpful
September 17, 2014
Rated 5.0

We parked our car at Chestnut Ridge Road. There is an entrance to the park from there. We walked the park for almost 2 hours, as we were stopping to take some photos as well.

In order to go and see Eternal Flame Falls we took the trail and followed it. The end of the trail was the waterfall and the already lit fire behind the running water. Thrilling. My kids were asking all the time how this can be possible and we let them know about the natural gas source within the rocks.

I would suggest you go well prepared as far as the clothing and shoes are concerned, in order to be safe for all circumstances.

Great place, amazing and unique waterfall.!!

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
gueritababe

  • 6 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
April 24, 2017

Tried to visit 4/24/17 but it was too flooded to hike. There are about three mini waterfalls and then the eternal flame. I was able to see all the mini ones with out a problem. If you are doing this in the spring time, expect to get very wet and muddy. You have to hike down a hill and cross the river multiple times.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
AxelNelson

  • 3 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
May 18, 2016
Rated 5.0

One of the most unique spots on earth. A true hidden gem on our road trip.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Irelia

  • 72 Reviews
  • 12 Helpful
March 01, 2015
Rated 4.0

Another masterpiece of nature!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Dosia

  • 5 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
August 06, 2014
Rated 5.0

Visited this after few days of rain and had to hike through flowing shallow river. Amazing nature from the beginning of hike all the way to the eternal flame fall. Fairly easy hike, bring water shoes and towel. This is a must to visit.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
kerridevries

  • 16 Reviews
  • 5 Helpful
July 15, 2014

Awesome place! The trail was marked first with blue spots and then flames. The hike was medium difficulty. Took us with our 3 kids about one hour total. This is a must see!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
bluesnafu

  • 8 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
September 24, 2017
Rated 5.0

Eternal Flame Falls in Chestnut Ridge Park (Orchard Park, New York) is supposed to be a 30 ft high cascade in two segments. The top is a narrow cascade of nearly 8 ft high. The second tier spreads out more than twice the width as it cascades over shale. A small grotto to the right houses a natural gas spring that can be ignited to create a flame of 4-8 inches in height (the flame was lit when we arrived). The natural gas is a result of seepage from layers of organically-rich Hanover Shale. The gasses produced during the decomposition of the organics within the rock deposits are under pressure and push out through cracks and loose layers within the rock. One large fissure is located right within Eternal Flame Falls, in a small grotto that protects the gas seepage from the falling water and any wind, enabling it to sustain a flame when lit. Two other, smaller seepages within the grotto can be lit, although they can’t hold a flame as large or as long as the primary flame. There are several other gas seepages, or springs, around the falls, but locating them can be tricky and lighting them often impossible. Some are located underneath the pool below the falls, and can be seen as bubbles rising up from the bedrock below.

The path leading down to Shale Creek and Eternal Flame Falls snakes through mixed hardwood forest on a sandy glacial terrain, and passes a beautiful Hemlock grove as it winds around to the bottom. The descent can get a bit muddy and filled with obstacles, as erosion has exposed the sandy earth as well as a large quantity of exposed roots. Once at the creek, we walked upstream to get to the falls.

The best times to view the falls is early spring, or after bouts of rain lasting several days. There hadn't been any rain here since we've been in NY (more than a week) so we only got to see a trickle. The flame though is so cool as was the 1 mile round trip hike to get there while walking through the Shale Creek bed. We saw bubbles coming from the shale so tried to light it and "poof" it worked (I uploaded a pic of a trickle waterfall but 2 flames lit)!

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Eternal Flame Falls

Chestnut Ridge Park
Orchard Park, New York
USA

Hours

Open now until 3:30 pm
  • Mon - Fri: 8:00 am - 3:30 pm

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  • Independent
  • Pet Friendly
  • Not Wheelchair Accessible
  • Street Parking
  • Free Parking
  • Yes Parking

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