Eternal Flame Falls at Chestnut Ridge County Park – Orchard Park, New York - Atlas Obscura
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Orchard Park, New York

Eternal Flame Falls at Chestnut Ridge County Park

A natural gas leak provides a flickering flame beneath a waterfall. 

All you need is a pair of hiking boots and a lighter to find out how the Eternal Flame Falls got its name.

At the heart of this waterfall is a small flickering flame that is caused by a natural gas pocket and hikers that pass by the falls and relight the gas pocket whenever it sputters out, keeping the flame in an eternal cycle. The eternal flames caused by natural gas pockets are common, but the imagery of a lone flame under torrents of water make Eternal Flame Falls unique.

The imagery has inspired some active imaginations resulting in legends and sightings of elves in the area, and while those legends have obviously been disproved, the falls remains a mystery from a scientific perspective. The natural gas that eternal flame sites give off comes from a reaction caused by old and very hot shale rocks.

The falls, made out of relatively young shale, and as hot as a cup of tea, should be the last place you would expect an eternal flame. Yet, defying all scientific explanation, and the massive amounts of water around it, the flame burns on.

Know Before You Go

Take I 90 to US Route 219 and follow it south for 11 miles. Take the NY-391 exit toward Boston/Hamburg and turn left onto Boston State Road. Take the 3rd left onto NY-277 (Herman Hill Road) and follow it for just over a mile and a half. It becomes Boston Ridge Road. Take a sharp left on Seufert Rd and park immediately on the right.

It's not a long trail, but depending on recent rainfall, the path can be very slick. There are some very steep grades and elevation changes. Every year there are several major accidents in this area of the park due to people going off trail and trekking down the ravine at points off the path, resulting in severe falls. In a typical season there is at least one fatality.