In the town of Montour Falls, New York there is a stunning waterfall that looks like it’s flowing right into the homes that sit at the base. When you drive down West Main Street, as I did, its a shock to look up and see this magnificent waterfall cascading down onto the town. It was a wow moment on par with coming through the Webster Tunnel on I-376 in Pittsburgh to have the entire city open up in front of you.
Seeing the falls with high water in the creek is a must. I saw it on a warm February day with rain and melt-off fueling the tumbling waters. Apparently that’s what She-Qua-Ga means; tumbling waters. It’s not the only waterfall in Montour Falls – I’d also visited Eagles Nest Falls a couple of minutes away from She-Qua-Ga Falls, but it’s the most accessible. You don’t have to get out of your car to be blown away by it, but of course you must. Seeing a waterfall from afar is not the same as feeling the mist dance on your face and hearing the roar of the cascading water. You should have a relationship with a waterfall, otherwise what’s the point?
Anyone who knows me knows I like to dance with ghosts, and there’s a real tango with history at the base of She-Qua-Ga Falls. This was the place where Queen of the Seneca/Iroquois Catherine Montour lived. Several of the place names nearby honor her, including Catherine, Montour and Montour Falls. It was the place where Red Jacket, who signed the Treaty of Canandaigua after the Revolutionary War, practiced his speeches. If Fort Stanwix tore lands away from the Iroquois, Canandaigua promised to give some of this land back. For the once mighty Iroquois to cede these lands to the new United States must have been a devastating and bitter pill to swallow.
Around 1820 Louis Philippe, later the “Citizen King” of France from 1830 to 1848, sketched the falls from roughly the spot where I was standing taking them in when he was in exile. At some point I’ll try to take a picture of that sketch and update this post with it. For now, I’ve had the opportunity to see the real thing.