Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins County

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ElijahW
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Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins County

Post by ElijahW » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:57 pm

NTS,

Located on the western shore of Cayuga Lake, a short distance from its terminus, Taughannock Creek plunges about 215’ in a single drop, the tallest such waterfall east of the Rockies. For my money, Taughannock Falls, especially in periods of wet weather, is the prettiest single spot in the Finger Lakes region.

Unfortunately for tall tree hunters, the creek and its associated gorge have seen much human-caused disturbance even prior to European settlement. Though the upper rims of the gorge harbors attractive and likely reasonably old oak-hickory forest with scattered White pines, the gorge bottom is a mix of young floodplain and mesic forest on a tiny strip of level ground between the creek bed and the gorge walls. The steepness and instability of the walls also plays a large part in tree mortality; Eastern Red cedars are generally the only species clinging to the north wall, while Hemlock is common on the south side. From what I’ve read, rock slides are common.

I only measured tree heights in the gorge bottom on this trip. Three species of birch grow here: Yellow, Black, and White. Black birch may be the most common tree I saw, but I didn’t measure any; I will in the future. Striped and Mountain maple are common in the understory, along with Flowering dogwood and Witch hazel. Large patches of Canada yew grow along the ground, joined by several fern and wildflower species I can’t begin to identify.

The trail network was laid out by the CCC in the 1930s, and excepting the Black walnut, I believe all the measured trees date to that period.

Trees measured today:

Tuliptree

140.3’
131.0’

American Sycamore

129.8’

Sugar Maple

124.4’

Black Walnut

123.6’

White Ash

121.3’

American Basswood

111.3’

Eastern Hemlock

110.6’

Northern Red Oak

101.8’

Yellow Birch

95.8’
95.0’

Tree of Heaven

88.0’

Rucker 10 Height Index: 114.6’

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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ElijahW
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Re: Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins Coun

Post by ElijahW » Fri Oct 20, 2017 10:22 am

NTS,

It was brought to my attention that, in fact, Falls Creek Falls in Tennessee is the tallest single drop waterfall in the east. This topic is more controversial than I realized, and I found several more claims to the #1 spot online. The 215’ height I was able to verify by laser.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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dbhguru
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Re: Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins Coun

Post by dbhguru » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:40 pm

Elijah,

I've measured Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee. The major drop is not what it is claimed to be. It is approximately 190 feet, if I recall. I think Will Blozan also measured it. Taughannock Falls has a higher single plunge. Measuring waterfalls are even more controversial than measuring trees. What constitutes a waterfall as opposed to a cataract?

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins Coun

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sun Oct 22, 2017 11:02 am

I haven't been to the falls since I was a teenager but I have definitely wondered what the trees might be like there. Glad to see some numbers! What do you think the story is for that walnut- does it pre-date the ccc era trees?

That sugar maple height is very impressive, especially if you do consider this to be probably 20th century second growth.

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ElijahW
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Re: Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins Coun

Post by ElijahW » Sun Oct 22, 2017 6:56 pm

Bob,

An Eastern Native Waterfall Society may be required to sort out the true rankings. Once they get over fifty feet or so, I think they’re all beautiful.

Erik,

I noticed the walnut on my last visit and assumed it to be a Tuliptree. It’s a much larger tree in volume than I would expect from an eighty year old walnut, and though it lacks the dark bark charactistic of old walnuts, I think it’s probably around 100, maybe slightly more. The walnut is also growing separately from the other tall trees.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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bbeduhn
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Re: Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins Coun

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:02 am

Elijah,
You got some solid numbers! Yellow birch at 95' is tough to find. They're out there but not in many sites. I didn't realize Tree-of-Heaven would grow that well that far north.
Brian

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ElijahW
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Re: Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins Coun

Post by ElijahW » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:24 pm

Thanks, Brian. The Yellow birch are all tall and thin, as are the Black birch. The tallest Ailanthus I’ve measured is north of here, in Irondeqouit Bay on Lake Ontario. It’s a hair over 122’.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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ElijahW
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Re: Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins Coun

Post by ElijahW » Sun Jan 20, 2019 1:34 pm

NTS,

In late December of last year, I was able to survey the remaining forest across the road from the falls overlook. I also found a couple of new trees below, along the gorge trail. Gorge trail trees first:

Eastern Hemlock

132.6’

Shagbark Hickory

119.5’

Pignut Hickory

119.2’

Cucumber Magnolia

100.0’

You’ll notice that CBH figures are missing; some slopes are simply too steep to get measurements, and others were covered with snow and slippery.

The forest above the falls appears to be slightly older on average than the gorge forest below. A few trees may even exceed 200 years old, including two really interesting Cucumber Magnolias. Here are the upland trees:

Eastern White Pine

127.8’

Eastern Hemlock

122.8’

Cucumber Magnolia

117.3’

Updated Rucker Index: 125.5’

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Don
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Re: Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins Coun

Post by Don » Sun Jan 20, 2019 4:14 pm

I'm reminded of a long ago visit to Ithaca, and a bumper sticker I saw there, among the many gorges around, that read "Ithaca is GORGES". I totally agreed, and admit to a total lapse in not 'seeing the forest for the trees' as clearly you guys are! Well done!
Other sighting, a car wash/laundry whose sign read "where you can suds your duds, and bubble your buggy"...we had gone to visit friends nearby who lived in a log cabin, when they were called away to attend with a sudden death in their family...being Fall, they asked us if we could caretake their place (fearing cold snap, freezing)...the leaves were dayglo yellows and reds, and we allowed as to how we'd be glad to help in their time of need. It was a lovely time, a gorgeous location and we look back with fond recollection of our time there.
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
Science Center
Grand Canyon National Park

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View my Alaska Big Tree List Webpage at:
http://www.akbigtreelist.org

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ElijahW
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Re: Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, Tompkins Coun

Post by ElijahW » Sun Jan 20, 2019 5:42 pm

Don,

I’m glad that you enjoyed your stay in Ithaca, even if if wasn’t in the best of circumstances. Probably due to the presence of two elite universities (Cornell and Ithaca College), this small city likely has a more diverse cultural makeup than any other upstate NY community. It’s also a place of many contradictions: A politically and socially liberal enclave in the midst of conservative farm country; an ecologically rich area that has probably been overdeveloped.

I’ve reported on half a dozen or so great sites associated with Cayuga Lake, but I’ve probably looked at twice that many that weren’t as interesting. The quality of forests is really a mixed bag, largely dependent on age. The other Finger Lakes haven’t yet panned out as well as Cayuga, but I’ll keep looking.

As for the bumper stickers, they’re still popular. I like them about as much as the “ADK” (Adirondack) and “OBX” (Outer Banks) stickers also common around here, which is not at all.

Eli
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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