K took me on a little trip to the Barberville Falls Nature Preserve last Sunday, less than half an hour east of Albany. The outstanding feature of the area is the Barberville Falls, a beautiful waterfall about 90 feet high and 50-60 feet wide. The pool at the bottom is broad, and quite deep. As in “Creatures from the Deep” — kind of deep. The sky was in no mood that day but that didn’t stop us from swimming for a while. Well, that *did* stop me for a good 10 minutes because I’m French and I fear for my Speedo, but I had to dive in and take some photos up close, hadn’t I? And by swimming I mean allegedly, it’s illegal to swim in this area (more likely, to jump from the falls, for liability reasons). The video below is just CGI.
Click on any of the thumbnails to open a larger view, or check the full-screen Flickr slideshow if you have Flash installed.
Update May 2012: the Nature Conservancy is closing public access to the Barberville Falls in Rensselaer County this summer because it says people aren’t following the rules there (via AOA). This is unfortunate, and the conservancy is not bothering giving any details. Is it the swimming the problem? The climbing? Can I take my own responsibility please? Is it the neighbors yelling specifically? I’m sorry you don’t get to keep a waterfall for yourself. Is it littering? Please put garbage receptacles, I don’t recall there were any. Maybe collect fees? I would pay to get there.
About a dozen pictures in this series were shot using a long exposure and a neutral density filter. This isn’t by any means original, but I had to try this technique once. It’s a pretty common trick to get that strange silky smooth look actually. I will give a few more details in the “Photo Tips” section as usual, but I figured I would get it out of the way before somebody suspects I dropped radioactive detergent in the river. Not on a Sunday, please.
The Nature Conservancy has a lot more to say about this spectacular sight. I quote: “Above Barberville, the Poesten Kill drains about 35 square miles of the Rensselaer Plateau [...]. This drainage basin generates a substantial flow of water throughout the year, although the flow is most dramatic in the spring when the snowpack is melting. When it reached the Hudson River at Troy, this same flow of water provided water power for much of that city’s early industrial development. [...] Along the Ridge and Creek trails in the valley, look for a variety of wildflowers including starflower, Indian cucumber, jack-in-the-pulpit, trillium, trout lily and cardinal flower. The forest is a mixture of hemlock and hardwoods such as yellow birch, white ash and sugar and red maples.”
Now we aren’t in Spring anymore, but trust me, there is some serious water coming down and flowing through this gorge. According to the Conservancy again, it is as deep as 100 feet and 500-1,000 feet wide. The main rock at the falls is Rensselear greywacke; above the falls are beds of Nassau slate and limestone. The pool is quite slippery, I would almost suggest you wear sneakers to dip your footsies. Or a good old inflatable ducky.
There is enough space near the pond for a whole party of people and the place would make for a light picnic on a sunny afternoon. No alcohol allowed on site. The area is clean, pretty much litter free, and we should all keep it that way. I read online that it can get pretty crowded though. One fellow remembers going there several times when the road was practically blocked with cars parked on both sides. A hot summer day would see easily 100 or more people there. I don’t know if that is true, but this has probably changed since the Nature Conservancy took ownership.
Is that a manatee in the movie below? Not quite: witness my painful efforts at allegedly swimming straight to the edge of the waterfall. I don’t think it can be done for very long when there is so much water raining down, the current is really strong near the point of impact; stop swimming and you will be pushed back to the shore in no time. It’s fun to try though, really. Even with a camera in hand.
This is the first time I take a video with my old Canon SD870IS in its new underwater casing. The audio is… comical; you can barely hear us talk, the casing is certainly muting the tremendous roar coming for the waterfall but you can clearly pick up the lens zooming in and out and the camera going underwater. Poor thing. I’m not quite ready to swim with my Canon 5D Mark II, since it’s worth more than my left kidney, but I’ve been experimenting with underwater photography and scuba diving a lot in the past few months. More on this topic very soon.
The Barberville Falls are located about 27 minutes east of Albany, near Poestenkill, NY. Locate the intersection of Plank Rd and Blue Factory Rd, walk pass the small bridge over the Poesten Kill and turn left to enter the Barberville Falls Nature Preserve, an area owned by the Nature Conservancy. The most convenient place to park, near that intersection, has a “Park here and you’ll be towed” sign; we parked on the small lot further up Plank Rd, across the Brookside Cemetery.
The trail is well marked and relatively flat to the top of the falls. There is a small promontory with a nice view on the gorge and the broad ledge the river is dropping over. The trail descends steeply from here to the bottom of the falls, be extra careful if it rained recently. Round trip is about .5 mile. There are other, slightly longer trails along the creek and ridge that are part of the preserve, but these are separated from the falls trail by private parcels, try not to trespass and be respectful to the neighbors.
If you are looking for more waterfalls and swimming holes I would recommend you check SwimmingHoles.info. They are already listing a location in the Poestenkill Gorge but have let me know that they will include an entry for Barberville Falls soon. Below, the same waterfall, at normal shutter speed.