Eternal Flame Falls
North Boston, New York

Eternal Flame Falls Map

Location: Chestnut Ridge Park, Town of Orchard Park, Erie County.

     Starting from the intersection of Route 20A and Route 219, follow Route 219 South for 1.1 miles to the Armor Duel's Road exit. Head East on New Armor Road towards Route 277/Chestnut Ridge Park. In 0.8 of a mile turn right (South) onto Route 277, Chestnut Ridge Road. After driving 1.8 miles you will pass the main entrance to Chestnut Ridge Park. Continue past the park entrance and in 1.3 miles turn right (West) into the main parking area for Eternal Flame Falls.

     For more information contact: Erie County Parks Recreation & Forestry, Edward A. Rath County Office Building, 95 Franklin Street, Room 1260, Buffalo, New York 14202. Phone: (716) 858-8355.

     The GPS coordinates of Eternal Flame Trail parking lot are N 42.702934 W -78.747677.

Eternal Flame Area Map

Eternal Flame Falls Photo space      Please hike responsibly. The ravine area around the falls has been the site of several recent accidents and the death of one teenager who slipped and fell into the ravine. Stay on the marked trails and don't venture near the edge of the ravine. The trail can be rather slippery in places, especially once you descend into the ravine and begin walking in the creek bed to the falls. Take care as you hike all sections of the trail and remember you are responsible for your own safety. The distance from the parking area the falls is roughly 0.6 of a mile (965 meters). To return to your vehicle, simply retrace your steps.

Eternal Flame Sign space      The trailhead for the Eternal Flame Trail is located in the southwestern corner of the parking area. Follow the trail to the West. The trail is marked by small flame markers nailed to trees. You will soon enter a grove of hemlock trees. Follow along the trail and it soon descends into the ravine. When you reach Shale Creek turn left and follow the creek bed to the bace of the falls.

Eternal Flame Trail Marker space      Shale Creek has cut a deep glen in the southern end of Chestnut Ridge Park and created Eternal Flame Falls. The GPS coordinates of the falls are N 42.701892 W -78.752092. The falls is 30 feet high with two major segments. The upper segment had a 10 foot crest that faces west northwest. Shale Creek cascades nine feet and then spreads out to about 18 feet in width and descends 21 feet to the bace of the falls. The falls is developed in Hanover Shale of the Upper Devonian Period and is around 375,000,000 years old. The shale consists of a greenish-gray to gray colored shale with some black bands. It is 85 to 95 feet thick.

gas vents close up space      The flame, found in a small grotto on the right side of the falls, is produced by the emission of natural gas coming from cracks in the shale. The gas fueling flame is believed to originate from the Rhinestreet Shale formation which is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) deep. The gas is a mixture of methane, ethane and propane, with methane being the dominant gas. It reaches the surface through cracks associated with faulting caused by tectonic activity. Because of changes in the pressure of the escaping gas, the flame’s height can vary from 3 to 8 inches. I have seen three flames in the back of the grotto. Flooding, pressure changes and ice may occasionally extinguish the flame, but it is easily re-lit with a lighter.

     An alternative road side parking area is located on Seufert Road. To get there continue on Route 277 for 0.4 of a mile from the main parking lot to to Seufert Road and turn right (northwest). In roughly 250 feet there is a gravel parking area on the shoulder of the road. Parking is avalable from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. only. The trailhead here is an old road marked by two white brick pillars and a gate. Follow the trail to the northeast. After crossing Shale Creek it will soon join the Eternal Flame Trail.

SAE at gas vents
     In the past these natural emissions of gas were called “Burning Springs.” Today geologists refer to them as "gas seeps." In addition to Eternal Flame Falls, I have located 6 other gas seeps in the waterfall survey area. Only one of these is found by a small (3 feet high) waterfall, with the flame being at the top of the falls. The other seeps are found along creek beds.

Eternal Flame Small Eternal Flame Small Eternal Flame Small Eternal Flame Small Eternal Flame Small Eternal Flame Small Eternal Flame Small

     The first commercial attraction at Niagara Falls was a burning spring. In the late 1700’s a forceful emission of gas was discovered on the Canadian side of the Niagara River in the Dufferin Islands area, about 0.7 of a mile upriver of the Horseshoe Falls. A barrel with a pipe sticking out of the top was placed over the vent. A cork was put in the pipe and allowed the gas to build up. After an audience was gathered, the cork was removed and the gas was lit. Guide books of the time listed this as a place that one must visit. It continued to operate until the late 1880’s, when the area was turned into a park.

For a MapQuest map of the area click here.

For a ACME Mapper 2.0 map of the area click here.

Web site: Chestnut Ridge Park

Facebook Group: Chestnut Ridge Park AKA The Ridge
Copyright © 2015 by Scott A. Ensminger.
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