Location: Western Chautauqua County, Chautauqua Creek Gorge, 5.5 miles south of
From the intersection of Routes 394 and 20, follow Route 20 westwards for 0.3 of a mile to Chestnut Street (County Road 21) and turn left (south). Chestnut Street will turn into Sherman Road once you leave Westfield. In a little over 3.3 miles from Route 20 bear to the left (south) onto Ogden Road. In 1.5 miles turn left onto Taylor Road. In a little under 0.6 of a mile there is a parking area on the right (north) side of the road. Do not drive down the road any farther and please do not block it as it provides access to privately owned land past the parking area.
The trail leading down into the gorge can be used only by hikers to access the Chautauqua Gorge and Skinny Dip Falls. Some areas of the Chautauqua Gorge are privately owned. Please do not trespass on the land adjacent to the trail. The falls is located in a designated nudist area of the Chautauqua Gorge.
From the parking area at the end of Taylor Road follow the hiking trail to the east. Keep to the left passing the road to the Cabin at the Gorge, a private cabin that is available for rent. The trail starts it 280 foot vertical decent into the gorge in a short distance. The trail is steep in spots, rutted and there may be muddy areas. Use caution and take your time and you'll be fine. Roughly 0.2 of a mile from the parking area the trail levels out and comes to a Y. The trail passes on either side of an old abutment for a bridge that once spanned Chautauqua Creek. Follow the trail to the left and you will quickly reach the creek. Take note of the landmarks in this area as you will need to find the trail on your return trip.
The end of the trail is on the left side of this photo. You are looking downstream.
When you reach the creek turn left heading downstream (northwards) with the flow of the creek. You will find ATV trails paralleling the creek. They provide an alternative to walking in the creek and avoiding the small waterfalls encountered on the creek. Roughly 200 feet past the point where you entered the creek keep an eye out for a trail on the right (eastern) side of the creek. Follow this trail a short distance into the woods and you will come to a 30 foot high waterfall. The falls is known as First Falls or Dark Falls. It has a crest that is about seven feet wide and faces to the west.
Two views of First Falls.
After viewing First Falls return to Chautauqua Creek and continue heading downstream. Soon you will see a boulder on the western creek bank with "Nudist Area Next One Mile" painted on it in yellow. This marks the start of the official nudist area in the Chautauqua Gorge. A second red painted boulder is found on the eastern creek bank in a short distance.
Be prepared to possibly see naked people sunning themselves or swimming in pools below one of the small waterfalls encountered before reaching Skinny Dip Falls. Feel free to join in if the spirt so moves you. Nudism in the Chautauqua Gorge is limited to this one mile section of the gorge.
From the second painted boulder it is about 0.6 of a mile to Skinny Dip Falls. The hike is a fairly easy creekwalk. Along the way you'll encounter two small waterfalls (three to four feet in height), a few small cascades and some stunning views of the gorge.
A short distance downstream of the two foot drop and flume in the last photo is the crest of Skinny Dip Falls. To get to the bottom of the falls you have two options. You can climb down either side of the falls or follow an ATV trail on the eastern side of the creek that starts a short distance upstream of the falls. The ATV trail bypasses the falls and returns to the creek in a short distance. If you chose the ATV trail turn left and head upstream when you reach Chautauqua Creek to get to falls.
Skinny Dip Falls is seven feet high, has a crest that is 45 feet wide and faces to the north. The falls is developed in the Northeast Shale Member of the Canadaway Formation. Northeast Shale consists mainly of beds of medium gray shales with a few beds of light gray siltstone. The shale dates from the Upper Devonian Period giving it an age of around 372,000,000 years.
Skinny Dip Falls in June of 2010.
The large tree on the left side of the falls was removed by the spring floods of 2011. A large and deep swimming hole is now found at the base of the falls.
You may want to continue your hike downstream for roughly 0.5 mile to New Falls. It is a small falls that is a little under 3 feet in height and roughly 35 feet wide. A swimming hole is found at the base of the falls. The falls marks the end of the official one mile long nudist area in the Chautauqua Gorge. New Falls began to form around 2008. The four views below are of New Falls and were taken in August of 2011.
The 44 second video below of New Falls and the plunge pool was shot by William P. Mitchell aka Bill or Astronutski, on July 29, 2012. Many "Thanks" to Bill for supplying this to me.
A short distance downstream of New Falls there was once a very steep sided ridge that at one time looked very much like a camelís back. Prior to 2006 Chautauqua Creek made a large horseshoe shaped bend around this ridge. According to Devon A. Taylor in his 1995 book Chautauqua Gorge - History, Legends and People, on page 46, the ridge ďis composed entirely of clay, rock and gravel left by the last glacier. It has, for several years, had one part that was more resistant to erosion and it sticks up like a sentinel rock. This will not last due to the nature of the material it is comprised of.Ē
As far as is know the ridge had no official name so I have decided to refer to it as Sentinel Ridge. In the past others have called it the Camelís Back, but this name is incorrect as the true Camelís Back is located farther downstream to the north. The true Camel's Back was a well-known tourist spot in the first half of the 1900s, and there are many historic photos and post cards of it.
A deep notch appeared in Sentinel Ridge in early 2005. Over the next few years Chautauqua Creek broke through the notch and quickly eroded the clay and gravel that made up the ridge. The erosive power of Chautauqua Creek has lowered the creek bed by roughly 5 feet in this area.
The photo of Sentinel Ridge above and to the left was taken by William P. Mitchell in 2005. The photo the right was taken from the same general area in August of 2011 by Scott A. Ensminger. Note the tall tree just left of center in the 2005 Mitchell photo. This tree now appears dead in the 2011 Ensminger photo. You can click on either photo to enlarge it.