Compiled by Pamela
information gathered from the Syracuse newspaper archives.
Herald, Sunday Morning, May 12, 1918
Touring Confined to State as Conservation Measure This Season
. . .
Features Near Syracuse.
The last two reservations acquired were in 1915 and 1916, when the
daughter of former Gov. Myron H. Clark transferred to the State
seventy-five acres of land, called the Clark reservation, located near
Green lake, east of this city. In 1916, Battle Island Park,
of about 200 acres of land on the Oswego river, was acquired. . . .
The Syracuse Herald, Sunday
Morning, September 28, 1924, Third section,
Uniform Policy In Parks Under State Council
. . .
Clark Reservation in Syracuse also will come in for improvements under
the direction of the council. The reservation, a sort of dried up
Niagara Falls, a horseshe shaped gorge, the plunge basin of a huge
cataract of glacial times, when the drainage of the Great Lakes flowed
east into the Mohawk Valley, already is open to campers.
At present, it is in the custody of the New York State Museum with four
other reservations of scientific interest. It is planned by the
Museum to increase the scientific and scenic value of the place by
extending it on both sides to include other plunge basins made by the
glacial stream. . . .
The Syracuse Herald, Sunday
Morning, April 18, 1937, pp. 4-5
Scenic Marvel at
Southeastern Door of Syracuse Reveals How Artic Ice Sheets Fought a
Losing Battle With the Sun for Possession of New York State and Created
the Valleys and Drumlins of Onondaga
Deep in the
heart of New York State, nature has written a story as marvelous and as
fascinating in its telling as the tales of the tinted terraces of the
Yellowstone, the high falls of the Yosemite, the grostequely carved
rocks of Colorado, and many other famous regions which attract visitors
from all over the world.
Nature uses many
kinds of materials to inscribe the history of the earth upon its rocky
pages. Sometimes she uses white-hot lava to mold the lofty cones
of volcanic peaks; sometimes she employs wind-blown sands to
fantastically etch and carve the rocks of a desert land; again she
utilizes the waves of the sea to hammer and chisel a rock-bound coast;
or in her quiet and more patient moods she calls upon river or rill, or
one slow-moving glacier, to write chapters in the autobiography
of the earth.
In Central New
York, a few miles from the city limits of Syracuse, is a thrilling
chapter of this autobiography written by ice and water. Just west
of the village of Jamesville is a great stone crescent, gouged in the
limestone wall of Butternut Valley. The huge horseshoe-shaped
cliff, with sheet sides dropping 160 feet, partly encircles a round
lake of green water.
This unusual and
striking natural feature is in the Clark Reservation of 226 acres, one
of the many splendid parks under the jurisdiction of the State of New
York. To this recreational area come thounds of people
annually. They come to play, to picnic, and to rest.
There are few of
these visitors who, standing on a limestone ledge and viewing the
sweeping curve of the depression, do not ask themselves or their
companions the meaning of the scene before them. Some
believe that the rock-hole is a crater of extinct volcano; others argue
that it represents the caving in of the roof of an underground cavern;
while still others think that it represents some strange convulsion of
few of the multitude of visitors are aware that the crescent niche in
the hill is an abandoned cataract - a fossil waterfall over which once
swept a tremendous flood of icy water or that the spring fed pool at
the base of the cataract is the old plunge-basin of the
waterfall. The story of the origin of this deserted cataract,
comparable in size to the American Falls at Niagara, is filled with
interest and should give to inquisitive minds a greater appreciation of
the scientific value and scenic beauty of the park at the Clark
Reservation. As a prologue to the story one should have a mental
picture of the region around Jamesville as it was before the great
cataract was formed.
Some hundreds of
thousands of years ago there were, as now, two parallel _____ running
north and south and separated by a ridge about four miles in width ____
to the west was what is now Onondaga Valley and the one to the east was
the valley _____ Butternut Creek.
Could one have
visited this region in _____ far-off time, the general features would
have been the same as today. The hills are a little higher and a
bit more rugged. The valleys were deeper and narrower at their
base. Some of the lateral ravines of _____ did not exist and none
of the many ____ical-shaped hills of sand and gravel nor ____ rounded
elevations of clay on which the drumlin golf course is developed were
formed. But the larger physical features have not undergone much
The climate was
milder and more uniform than at present. Gradually, however, a
change in temperature took place. Winters were longer and summers
were shorter. The north winds became increasingly more
strong. The vegetation, long accustomed to congenial clime, died
out and was replaced by forests and grasses better suited to the ____
Far to the
north, in Labrador, a massive ice sheet was forming. As its depth
increased it spread out at its edges in all directions. To the
south it crept majestically and unrelentingly, scraping off the
accumulated soils of the ages and incorporating them into its frozen
body. It plucked off huge blocks of rock and engulfed them in its
icy maw. On it came, slow and ponderous, disdainful of any loose
obstacles in its path. Into all of the Northern States marched
the conquering glacier.
In New York it
buried the Adirondacks and lay 3,000 feet deep over the site of
Syracuse. The Empire State was buried as the rocks of
Antartica. It crossed into what are now the states of New Jersey
and Pennsylvania. In the northern portions of these areas its
progress was halted. The climatic pendulum swung again.
Soft and warm southern winds hurled their battalions of heat against
the ice-front. Slowly the ice melted at its margins. Little
by little it melted and its front retreated northward, acknowledging
its surrender by sending vast rivers of ice-water and its prisoners of
soil and rocks into the southlands. But there was no rout.
The glacier yielded its ground reluctantly. Here and there it
made a brief stand. But in the end it all turned to water and
disappeared from the face of the earth.
It was during
this stubborn retreat that the great cataract at Jamesville was
born. When the ice had reached the vicinity of Jamesville it made
several determined stands. Though in the end vanquished, the ice
has left imperishable monuments of its halting retreat in this area;
the huge crescent of limestone being the most imposing.
accompannying diagrams show various stages where the ice-sheet
temporarily stood its ground near the great cataract and in the
immediate vicinity. A brief study of these drawings show how the
ice built the memorials of its retreat.
At the time the local story of the ice's retreat opens, the front of
the retiring glacier lay a little less than a mile south of the Clark
Reservation, in which the fossil cataract is now located. The
ice-sheet spread across both the Onondaga and Butternut Valleys and
capped the intervening ridge with its high wall of ice. From this
ice rampart its melt-waters flowed into the Onondaga and Butternut
Valleys. Since the natural drainage of both these valleys were
blocked by the ice wall, the waters of the melting ice were backed up
toward Tully in the Onondaga Valley and toward Apulia in the Butternut
Valley, forming two deep finger-like lakes.
These lakes rose as the melting flood of the disappearing ice entered
them. At last the waters in the Onondaga Valley rose to such an
extent that they overflowed to the east, crossing the ridge between the
two valleys at an altitude of about 800 feet, and carved a channel
across the hill through which the overflow of the glacial Lake Onondaga
entered the glacial lake which occupied the valley of the Butternut.
Then the ice-front retreated to a point on the ridge just north of the
point where the cataract is now. Here the height of the hill was
some feet lower, permitting the drainage of the glacial Lake Onondaga
at a lower level. Meanwhile, the level of the glacial lake
occupying the Butternut Valley had been greatly reduced because the
icedam that lay athwart it north of Jamesville had melted enough to
permit the escape of much of its water to the lower lands at the north
Thus the new spillway entered the Butternut Valley at a steep
declivity. The waters of the overflowing glacial Lake Onondaga
crossed the hill almost at grade until they began their sharp descent
into the partially drained valley of the Butternut. As they
plunged down the hill in great volume and velocity they began the
carving of the now extinct cataract which is the striking feature of
At the height of this flooded cross-hill river millions of tons of
ice-water swept across the ridge in a channel whose south walls were
the rocks of the hills and whose north bank was the firm ice-front of
the glacier, making one of its stubborn stands. With a roar like
Niagara it plunged into the Butternut Valley and wore a crescent-shaped
gouge in the hillside. In this plunge the cataract was born and
grew to a height higher than Niagara Falls.
Before we describe the cataract in more detail let us follow the
retreating ice-front. At last the icy wall forming the north bank
of the high drainage channel of the glacial Lake Onondaga moved a mile
or so to the north, where it made its last stand in this
vicinity. Here its battle-front rested just north of what is now
the depression or "rock-cut" through which run the tracks of the D. L.
and W. Railroad, and its forward mass lay where the rolling hills of
the Drumling golf course now lie.
The waters of the impounded glacial Lake Onondaga had shrunk and the
Butternut Valley contained but a small, shallow lake. Across this
low ridge the overflow of the much reduced Onondaga Valley lake flowed
into the expiring remnant of the glacial lake that had once filled the
Butternut Valley. This new spillway carved the narrow rock-sided
cut through which the Lackawanna railroad now passes from Onondaga
Valley to Butternut Valley.
At last there came a day when the ice was entirely vanished, permitting
the waters of Onondaga and Butternut Valleys again to follow their
natural course to the north. But the scars of that stubborn ice
retreat are still visible. The high abandoned channel south of
the Clark Reservation; the fossil cataract with its magnificent
scenery, and the new dry river course in the "rock-cut" valley all
represent the determined but unavailing stands of the icesheet in its
retreat. The diagrams accompanying this story will serve as
visual references to this unusual geological event.
The writer and his associate, Dr. O. T. Brown, chairman of the Division
of Geography in Colgate University, have directed the making of models
of the Clark Reservation and its environs, showing the origin of the
fossil cataract and its associated channels. These models are now
on exhibition at the park.
While a written account with diagrams and models gives an
understandable picture of the remarkable events that took place in this
area, one who is really interested should spend a few hours in this
region and see with his own eyes the records that Nature has written.
One should first take the high road on the east side of Onondaga
Valley, drive past the LaFayette Country Club and stop in the
depression just before the road forks at the south. Here one may
see the deserted channel through which the waters of the glacial Lake
Onondaga escaped in the first cross-country cut over the hill.
At the Clark Reservation, one should walk leisurely around the crest of
the cataract and note the typical horsehoe curve made by the plunge of
the waters. Then he should walk westward from the cataract rim
and view the scoured limestone which was teh bed of the glacial stream
before it roared over its self-made crescent of rock.
It would likewise be of interest to drive through the now dry and
streamless "rock-cut" channel, noting its precipitous southern rock
wall, indicative of rapid water erosion, probably helped by icebergs as
they bumped along the glacial waterway.
All in all, the Clark Reservation affords a singular beauty and imparts
a thrilling tale to those who wish to understand the past history of
Syracuse Hub of Tours Through Woods and Rolling Country
The tourist season, put in full swing by the uniformly clear, warm
weather during the last three weeks, brings to public attention the
rapid development of the Central New York State parks system. The
Central New York State Park Commission was the last of the big State
park commissions to be organized, coming into existence in 1925.
The commission is composed of former Lieut. Gov. Harry C. Walker,
Binghamton, chairman; former Senator William H. Hill, Binghamton;
former Congressman John R. Clancey, Syracuse; Edward N. Trump,
Syracuse; Charles Smith, Oneonta, former member of the State
Legislature, and James F. Evans, secretary.
The first year $10,000 was allotted to the commission by the State Park
Council, which was spent toward making a survey of the section of the
State over which the commission had jurisdiction. It was not
until 1926 that a substantial allocation of funds was given for the
development of the Central New York State parks. Land acquirement
was next in order which covered the period to 1928 and is still in
progress. During the last year development work has fairly gotten
under way with excellent results.
The parks that comprise the Central New York State system could not
have been arranged more conveniently for the tourist had man planned
them instead of the sometimes careless but lavish hand of nature.
This group forms the hub of the various State parks systems and offers
a wide variety of concentrated recreational values. The three
main automobile routes east and west traverse the region connecting
these scenic, historic, forest-clad, lake-studded playgrounds, a
universe of inspiring scenery made more enjoyable by carefully planned
Along the various routes to the parks are to be found exquisite
landscapes, woods, winding rivers and rolling country attractive to
camera fans, hunters and the disciples of Issak Walton. The
region embraced in this park system is redolent with the stirring
events of early history. It reaches from the territory raided by
General Sullivan in the south and central sections in his memorable
campaign that broke the power of the Iroquois to the grounds made
famous by Montcalm, Pontiac, Brant, Sir William Johnson and others in
the north and western sections. Numerous landmarks have been left
of these tragic struggles. Several of these historic shrines may
be visited en route to the six central parks. THe accompanying
map indicates the highways which the motorist may follow.
Beginning at any point along the route, this tour can be made in two
days or in separate trips from Syracuse, Binghamton and intermediate
places. The tourist will find accomodations in several of the
parks practically complete. Road construction, grading,
reforestation, building of dams, parking areas, installation of water
supplies, sanitary systems and trails, as well as the erection of
structures for shelter where refreshments and knicknacks are
sold. Many of these buildings are as artistic as they are
practical. In other words, the commission is bringing to the very
doorstep of the people the scenic frontier of Central New York.
Selkirk shores bordering Lake Ontario will be the first park to
formally open, although it is now well inaugurated to the use to which
it has been dedicated. Visitors are already taxing the capacity
of the . . .
. . . and pass through Syracuse to the Clark Reservation, three miles
south of the city on the Jamesville Road. The Clark Reservation
constitutes one of the amazing products of glacial action. The
lake at the bottom of the highest escarpment, the perpendicular walls
of the precipice 250 feet high, the cave that extends into the wall,
which is being improved, make this product of a great glacial waterfall
one of the most interesting bits of natural scenery in the State.
From the Clark Reservation, the route to the Green Lakes, known as
Kirkville Lakes to old Syracusans northeast of Fayetteville, is a
15-mile ride. These lakes are the progeny of the glaciers.
The larger lake is 275 feet deep and the water has an exceedingly green
color. Bathing, fishing and boating already are available at this
resort. Green Lake is the latest addition to the park areas, but
by 1930 will offer to the public an improved bathing beach, bathhouse
and headquarters building. Another project being considered at
this location is an 18-hole golf course which seems to be in great
demand. . . .
Sunday, August 15, 1954, pg. 28
Clark Reservation Geologist's Paradise
In a deep, quiet lake near Jamesville, and on the cliffs which loom
above it is written the story of an age of ice, and a huge, turbulent
waterfall which was greater than Niagara Falls.
It all happened untold thousands of years ago. But the saga of
the retreat of a glacier is still there for modern man to see.
The story is etched in the tall boulders and the overgrown valleys of
Clark Reservation - in the fossils of an ancient sea and in the jagged
channels chiseled out of rock by raging waters.
Today Clark Reservation is a geologist's paradise. Scientists
flock to the picturesque state park to study everything from rock
formations to the rare hartstongue fern found there. But the
amateur as well as the expert can enjoy the wonders of Clark
To the right of the part entrance, down 179 feet of jagged cliff, one
can see Green Lake, a cold, calm body of water which once was deluged
under torrential falls. It is 469 feet from the top of the cliff
to bed rock at the bottom of the water-filled crater.
As if a dim memory of its glacial origin remained, the lake maintains a
cold, constant temperature of 43 degrees all year round. No
swimming is alloed in its icy depths.
In an earlier day Green Lake was known as Kai-Yah-Koo Lake. In
Mohawk language, it means "tobacco satisfies." According to an
old legend, a young Indian woman's first child drowned in the
lake. After that the Indians made an annual pilgrimage to the
site and threw tobacco into the waters to appease the angry gods.
A govenment reserve since colonial times, the site obtained its present
name in 1856, when the State Legislature gave the land to retiring Gov.
Myron H. Clark. It was first opened as a park on July 4, 1879,
after Clark's daughter, Mary, leased the land to I. G. MacFarlane.
But the most fascinating part of the park's history lies long before
men were there to record it. it dates back to the time when a
great glacier paused in its retreat northward, and changed the nature
of the land where it rested.
In that era a cataract higher than the American falls at Niagara
plunged over the cliffs, hurling water and boulders down into what is
now Green Lake, and off eastward in a turbulent river.
Long before recorded history, a great ice sheet from Labrador formed
and slowly pushed its way south, covering Syracuse with 3,000 feet of
ice and extending down into Northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Then came a period of gradual warming which started the slow, reluctant
retreat of the ice mass. Inch by inch, it melted, backing its way
northward through New York State.
As the ice melted the glacier sent out huge rivers and it was this
process which formed the cataract at Jamesville, a natural monument to
the last stand of a gigantic wall of ice.
The glacier, spreading across the Onondaga and Butternut Valleys,
blocked their natural drainage routes to the north. The rising
waters melting from the glacier backed up to form two deep lakes.
Finally the glacial Onondaga Valley lake overflowed to the east cutting
a channel across the hill into Butternut Valley. Meanwhile the
glacier continued to recede until it reached a point just north of
where what is called "the Jamesville cataract" is now.
At this more northerly point the hill was lower, permitting the
drainage of Onondaga Valley's glacial water into Butternut
Valley. In the latter valley, the lake level was far lower than
it had been earlier, because further retreat of the glacier had enabled
drainage to the north and east.
And so it was that the icy waters from Onondaga Valley plunged into the
lower-level Butternut Valley lake. For uncounted years, tons and
tons of water roared down into the valley, slowly cutting a
crescent-shaped gouge in the side of the hill - the famous Jamesville
Later the glacier moved still further northward and a new drainage
channel was cut - the "rock-cut" where the D. L. & W. Railroad now
runs. Slowly the retreat continued, and the levels of the two
The ice has long gone from the green hills of upper New York
State. But the marks of its passing are still there.
The most impressive of the glacier's vestiges, the Jamesville
"cataract" is well worth a visit to Clark Reservation.
One can stand at the shelter near the brink of what were the falls, and
visualize the scene which would have confronted him had he stood there
at the time of the glacier. In front and to the left towers the
brink of the falls, over which the waterfall poured. Far below
lies the plunge basin of the cataract, now a quiet lake.
At the time of the glacier, everything north of the cataract was icy
whiteness. From the melting ice came rivulets of water, which dug
gullies in the rock at the brink of the cataract.
A trail which winds along the brink allows close observation. One
can see the fossilized coral in the limestone over which water once
poured. Huge boulders, set on end, stand as precarious evidence
of thousands more which were hurled over the falls by the power of tons
of rushing water.
Superintendent Jerry Ryan has built steps down the side of the cliff
for ambitious hikers who want a closer view of Green Lake, dug by water
which forced its way through limestone and then through the softer rock
underneath it to form the huge hole.
Elsewhere in the park one can find other shallower plunge basins,
now overgrown valleys, into which the retreating glacier spilled
melting ice. And along the cliff trail the visitor, armed with a
map, can find many points of interest. On the east side of the
cataract flint beds have yielded many Indian arrowheads.
Every spring the wooded land turns bright with wild flowers, and the
boulders dropped there by the glacier become what Ryan calls "natural
rock gardens." For the young and starry-eyed, there is a Lovers'
Glen near the brink of the falls. It's had that name since the
late 19th Century.
Botanist, butterfly catcher, hiker, and just plain picknicker can
_________ much pleasure at Clark Reservation. it can accomodate
1,000 in a busy day, has a softball diamond, picnic facilities,
including charcoal grills, and fireplaces, and even swings and slides
Submitted 24 June 2005