Chimney Bluffs State Park

I’ve been wanting to go to Chimney Bluffs State Park for years now, and we finally went yesterday.  We started out at the east end of the bluffs to walk along the shoreline.  Then we walked on the Bluff Trail. We got there early before many people showed up.

This sign at the east end has issues, but it worked!

Starting at the east end along the shore, I had no idea what we were in for.

This is our first clue of the amazing beauty we were about to see. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought we were in Utah (Bryce Canyon) or Arizona (Monument Valley).



The shore has all kinds of different sizes of rocks.

I’m sparing you all of the photos we took, but I want you to get the idea that this is a very cool place.

The Bluff Trail runs along the edge of the trees at the top of this photo.

Walking along the Bluff Trail, we had to go through the woods. You know this is breaking my heart! Not!


We saw a Jack-in-the-Pulpit! Yay!






We saw many other wildflowers, fungus and ferns, but our focus was on the bluffs.

We had to climb up the side of the drumlin to get to the top. Here we were part way up.

A bit higher.

Close-up. These are taken with my SONY since my NIKON’s battery was “exhausted” and I didn’t realize it. Wah!

Getting higher yet.

At the top! I should have taken photos of the trail that we had to walk along. Sometimes we were too close to the edge for comfort.


It amazes me to see formations sticking up like this in spite of all of the years of weathering.

If you want to know more, this is taken from the Chimney Bluffs State Park brochure:

To the geologist, Chimney Bluffs have “Ice Age” written all over them.  Lake Ontario was left in an enormous, shallow bedrock pan eroded by the most recent continental glacier, which melted from New York 12,000 years ago.  The Chimney Bluffs form the north end of a glacier-made hill called a “drumlin.”

There are more than 10,000 drumlins south and east of Lake Ontario.  They are made of “glacial till,” a mixture of sand, clay, silt, gravel, cobbles and boulders that were scraped, pulverized, pasted, smeared and dumped on the land beneath the passing mountain of ice.  It is thought tha the drumlins were created when the overriding glacier worked glacial till into hills that ran parallel to the direction of ice movement under the ideal conditions of temperature, melting, ice thickness and land slope.  The central New York drumlin field is one of the most extensive in the world and Chimney Bluffs are its most spectacular example.  But, the story does not end there.

Imagine a dome of ice as high as the Rocky Mountains covering Ontario and New York, sloping upwards to its greatest height in northern Canada.  Then imagine how heavy this must have been, so heavy that the land sank beneath it.  When the ice melted away, the depressed land began to rebound and has been rising ever since, though at a decelerating rate (about a foot a century).  The rising land tilted Lake Ontario southward and flooded the drumlin field between Sodus and Oswego, creating bays, marshes, islands and wave-eroded drumlins.

For thousands of years, waves have pounded the northern edge of this drumlin, causing the packed glacial earth to collapse.  Rain and melting snow wash out gullies between the chimneys.  The whole cliff-face is eroding into the lake, as much as three to give feet annually in places.  This is quicker than vegetation can get a foothold, leaving the bluffs bare and vulnerable to yet more erosion.  Soil is washed into the lake and stones are left behind on the shore.

Forest grows atop Chimney Bluffs, supporting a rich community of spring wildflowers.  West and south of the bluff, natural vegetation is slowly replacing former orchards and farmland that took advantage of the lake’s moderating effect on temperature extremes.  The top of the bluffs is a good place to watch for migrating birds in spring, including hawks, which follow the lakeshore eastward on their way to Canada.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lynne at Hasty Brook
    May 26, 2009 @ 19:47:38

    Yay!! I’ve been missin your nature walk posts. This one is wonderful!


  2. jayne
    May 27, 2009 @ 06:58:09

    Amazing photos Pam! What a wonderful place to visit.


  3. Liza Lee Miller
    May 27, 2009 @ 09:43:41

    Really beautiful! Love that pebbley beach!


  4. Pam
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 09:01:46

    Thanks Lynne! I’ve been missing them, too!
    Thanks Jayne! I can’t wait to go back.
    Me too Liza!


  5. sigi
    Jun 02, 2009 @ 20:08:32

    Hi Pam,
    I’m a member of a ladies motorcycle group and this year we are planning on riding to the finger lakes. By cruising the internet, I happen to find Chimney Bluffs and your wonderful pictures. I wonder just how long a hike it is and if it is possible for our little group of 10 to spend some time there. How long did it take for you to hike up the bluffs?
    I also love your nature pictures.



  6. Burt
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 11:32:19

    Were you able to walk out on to any of the bluffs? I went to college in Oswego about 20 years ago and we used to go there to party. There was one bluff that you could walk all the way out to the end on…it was probably five feet wide at the most, but it wouldn’t shock me if it has since eroded to where you cannot walk on it.


  7. Scott Thomas Photography
    Jun 06, 2010 @ 17:26:13

    Like you, it took me a couple of years to get to Chimney Bluffs once I found out about it. Why I waited is beyond me. The place is a photographer’s delight with all the flowers, rocky shore, Lake Ontario blue water and the amazing bluff formations.

    I will be going back again soon!


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