Eternal Flame Falls

Hidden in a sleepy little park in the northwestern corner of New York state is a rather unusual waterfall. Eternal Flame Falls gets its name from natural gas emissions in a tiny grotto in the waterfall’s face which produce enough gas to sustain flames behind the falling water.

We pulled into Chestnut Ridge Park, just south of Buffalo, yesterday and started on a pleasant hike through dappled forest. The way to the falls was signposted with rather mysterious-looking symbols painted on pine trees along the trail.

eternal flame falls new york shale creek preserve chestnut ridge park

The river has cut a deep gorge into the surrounding landscape, but there was little evidence of flowing water as I trekked along the river bed. There was just a tiny stream of water trickling along in the heat of summer. The water captured the reflections of the trees towering above us and cast an eerie green glow along the trail. I couldn’t resist taking a few shots – you know how much I like reflections.

eternal flame falls new york shale creek preserve chestnut ridge park

eternal flame falls new york shale creek preserve chestnut ridge parketernal flame falls new york shale creek preserve chestnut ridge park

And then I saw flames, flickering away in the distance. On a good day, I had read, you might find two or three flames, sometimes a few inches in height – apparently this was a good day. There were four flames in total, a large defiant orange flame surrounded by three smaller flames, glowing and dancing beautifully in the darkness of their little cave behind the waterfall.

eternal flame falls new york shale creek preserve chestnut ridge parketernal flame falls new york shale creek preserve chestnut ridge parketernal flame falls new york shale creek preserve chestnut ridge parketernal flame falls new york shale creek preserve chestnut ridge park

It was an absolutely wonderful treat at the end of a gorgeous trail, and if you’re ever in this part of the world, you should check it out. Huge thanks to my friend Susanne who told me about this little secret.

About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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61 Responses to Eternal Flame Falls

  1. Writer Group says:

    That was another excellent post today. Thanks so much for sharing. Keep up the fantastic job.

  2. Wow! So cool! Now I have YET ANOTHER place on my roadtrip list. 🙂 It’s OK. There are worse problems to have.

  3. fgassette says:

    A wonderful find and so unusual. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Gracie says:

    Wow! That’s awesome! I would definite add this on my list of places to visit. Thanks for sharing the journey and the photographs.

    • ailsapm says:

      I highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area, Gracie. It’s a fun, gentle hike with a great payoff. Fire and water together in nature is pretty wonderful to behold.

  5. Myra GB says:

    A wondrous and miraculous find indeed. So untouched and raw and awe-inspiring indeed. Love the flames. Beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  6. Susie C. says:

    So, am I the only one whose brain is playing The Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” while reading this post? 🙂 Thanks for telling us about a very cool spot I knew nothing about!

  7. scrapydo says:

    Awesome adventure! Thanks for sharing

  8. Deepali says:

    wow! what a fascinating end to an interesting trail. I would love to go here some day. I loved your third and fourth pictures..reminds me of your post on Manhattan reflections in puddles. Thanks for sharing.

    • ailsapm says:

      Hi Deepali, I hope you get to visit it for yourself some day! Yes, when I saw the 3rd and 4th photos I too thought about my puddle reflections of Times Square, and had to put them in this post. I am fascinated with reflection photos. 😉

  9. A wonderful post on a really different place. Thank you!

  10. Amy says:

    Another cool adventure. The flames are just fascinating. Beautiful shots!

    • ailsapm says:

      Thanks Amy, it was a very cool experience, and it was so exciting to catch the first glimpse of the flames flickering in the distance.

  11. Madhu says:

    Wow!, fab shots Ailsa! Had never heard of this before! Seems like I will need to allot a LOT of time to your part of the world if and when I get there!

    • ailsapm says:

      Thanks Madhu. When you make it to this part of the world. allow yourself plenty of time for adventures. There’s an awful lot of cool stuff to explore. xxx Ailsa

  12. Gilly Gee says:

    Wonderful! the reflections are most unusual and the flames at the end – wow!

    • ailsapm says:

      It really was lovely, Gilly, hiking through the glen that was bathed in a shimmering green glow, and those flames were really beautiful, glistening behind the waterfall.

  13. deepa says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing this wonderful ‘secret’.

  14. Madoqua says:

    Amazing feature!

  15. cocoaupnorth says:

    Fascinating stuff! Love the reflection on the water, beautiful pics.

  16. Anne Camille says:

    The reflections are wonderful. And how cool are those flames? 🙂

  17. Tiffany says:

    Very beautiful! I loved the pictures!

  18. adinparadise says:

    Those symbols really are mysterious, Ailsa. Your hike yielded some amazing finds, and photos. Thanks for sharing. Love the flames in the cave. Really awesome. 🙂

    • ailsapm says:

      There’s something terribly mystical about the combination of fire and water, adinparadise, and those symbols were really cool, like something from a bygone civilization. 🙂

  19. writecrites says:

    Such a neat find. And, as a photographer, I must compliment you especially on the fourth photo: green reflections. It’s stunning.

    • ailsapm says:

      Thanks so much for the compliment, Jennifer, I’m so glad you stopped by and commented so I could find your blog too – love your photos of vintage cars! xxx Ailsa

  20. do you find this stuff?? Spectacular!!!

  21. COOL! Or should I say Hot Stuff! (ugh!)

  22. Awesome. And now I’ve got the Bangles song running through my head too. That’s a fascinating find and story. Thanks for sharing!

  23. gingerbreadcafe says:

    What a brilliant find, a naturally occuring flame how amazing.

    • ailsapm says:

      It really is amazing, isn’t it? It was so exciting to round the last bend of the river bed and see the flames flickering away in the distance. 🙂

  24. cathome36 says:

    really amazing. Only nature can come with such surprises of water-flames!!!!!

  25. Sus:)nne says:

    Wow! You were really there! I’m so jealous. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Wonderful blog and brilliant photos. Thanks for checking it out! 🙂

  26. Jeff Sinon says:

    What a cool find! Now I have a question for you. I get the whole gas emissions thing, but how is it lit? Did / does someone light it, is it spontaneous?

    • ailsapm says:

      Oops, just saw this now, Jeff – actually, rogue hikers will set it alight as they pass by – it was already burning when we got there, so lovely to look at! 🙂

  27. a similar phenomenon can be seen near Cirali in Southern Turkey. They are known as the Chimaera (yanartas in Turkish which literally means burning stones)

  28. Wow. The flames are truly amazing. Just can’t figure out why are there flames in the midst of a flowing water? Sorry (0_o)! But, nonetheless, it is really amazing!

    • ailsapm says:

      It’s a natural gas emission, GraCess_Mommy – and hikers passing by sometimes set it alight – it was already burning by the time we arrived – beautiful to behold!

  29. dogear6 says:

    That is too cool, although the location is not a big surprise. Niagara Falls is near there as is Letchworth. The same geological upheavals made all of them.

    This is partway between Rochester and Buffalo, New York.


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