by Sue Freeman
In 2001 when we did our research for the first edition of “200 Waterfalls in Central & Western New York – A Finders’ Guide,” we discovered the fun of creekwalking. One the creekwalks we enjoyed was Rattlesnake Gulf, A tributary into Onondaga Creek in Tully Valley, Onondaga County. It was a challenging walk at the time due to downed trees, loose rocks, and deep holes. But the reward was a beautiful waterfall which was split at the crest to form two channels on opposite sides of the creekbed. Below the right-hand fall was a deep swimming hole. The left-hand channel offered a ledge for sitting in the spray. Climbing to additional waterfalls above this one required ropes. This area is part of an active mudboil area. Mudboils are volcano-like cones of sand and silt that boil out of the earth. They may erupt and form a large cone in several days and then cease flowing, or they may discharge for several years. They were discovered to be the cause of most of the turbidity in Onondaga Lake and have caused the wash out of bridges and relocation of petroleum pipelines and buried phone cables. In 1991 depressurizing wells and diversion channels were built to help mitigate the problems caused by the mudboils. You won’t see the mudboils as you explore Rattlesnake Gulf, but it’s interesting to know that the ground around you is boiling. (How prophetic?) In April, 2005, rapid snow melt, followed by several days of persistent rain caused a 1,200-foot section of the hillside in the middle reach of Rattlesnake Gulf to fail, resulting in a landslide. Large masses of clay slid into the bedrock ravine, blocking the stream, and causing massive amounts of sediment to flow downstream to Tully Farms Road. This is no longer a viable creekwalk location. In 2003 a man drowned when swimming in the Blue Hole during a high water period. The Blue Hole is a pool at the base of a waterfall that’s on private property, owned by Adams Eden Camp. Today, entering via Adams Eden Camp is the best way to see these waterfalls. However, in September 2008 the Syracuse Area Outdoor Adventures Club proved me wrong when 16 intrepid adventurers braved the dangers and enjoyed the beauty of Rattlesnake Gulf. If you go, remember that this is an active mud boil area. The ground is unstable and can give way at any time. Only go during low water, dry conditions. Venture there at your peril.
Click here for info on mud boils. Or here for a video on mud boils.