Even if you have been to this little known park on Lake Ontario, a return visit guarantees it won't look the same.
Chimney Bluffs State Park is one of New York's most unique landscapes, and it's very nature keeps it in a state of constant change. The towering bluffs were carved by erosion both past and present. The hills, known as "drumlins" were initially formed by receding glaciers over 12,000 years ago, and continue to be sculpted under Mother Nature's hand.
Joe Keeler is the park's manager. "When the wind and the waves and rain and snow all wear on the face of these drumlin hills, then this is what you get, is these type of structures, these pinnacles and spires."
The constant battle against the elements is one the bluffs will always lose, and that creates it's very nature. The land is always changing because of the constant wear of the elements, and a visit to the park can be quite different each time, as Keeler explains, "Normally they'll come out to a point, there'll be a point and then a horseshoe shaped depression, and there'll be another point, and off these points there'll be these spires that develop, and the hollow part here is where the rain and the wind and the ice and everything just hammers away on them, and it becomes a little gully, and it keeps washing them out , then the sides keep falling down, it's kind of like a series of horseshoes."
The inevitable march of erosion will one day create a very different landscape here, even the changes from year to year can be somewhat dramatic, geologically speaking. "We lose about three to five foot average, from the shoreline to the top of the bluff here, we lose three to five feet,says Keeler, it regresses that much further back to the south. So you know, over time this one will become flatland."
The park provides stunning views from very different perspectives. A stroll along the beach gives an impressive view of the towering cliffs and also an interesting look at the stones left over from the erosion process. Take a walk along the trails above the beach and the vista becomes breathtaking, and the unique and transient scale of the bluffs can be appreciated. Keeler says, "There's so many different shapes and sizes of them, one may fall apart entirely, and then a new one starts. There's very unique things. I've seen boulders half the size of a car sitting on top of one of these things , and they'll stay there for a period of time, maybe a couple of months, it all depends, and finally it washes away, and it comes down, but those sights are possible."
Chimney Bluffs is just another example of the diversity of parks throughout the state. It's one frequently overlooked, but well worth the effort to discover. Keeler concludes, "There's many people folks who come to Chimney Bluffs because it's a straight shot through Upstate NY, they'll be coming from Pennsylvania, and they come straight up, they just come up to see the lake, and say, hey, I've seen Lake Ontario, but, while you're here, you better come and hike the trail, and either come on up on top and take a look, or walk the shoreline and take the view from down below. Either one is grand, and worth the sight, for sure ."