The falls are one of America's oldest tourist attractions, and appear in some of the most prominent books, essays, poems and paintings of the early 19th century. Long before Alexis de Tocqueville's famous essay on America, Kaaterskill Falls was lauded as a place where a traveler could see a wilder image, a sort of primeval Eden. Beginning with Thomas Cole's first visit in 1825, they became an iconic subject for painters of the Hudson River School, setting the wilderness ideal for American landscape painting. The Falls also inspired "Catterskill Falls", a poem by William Cullen Bryant. The falls, like the clove and creek with which they share a name, are a relatively recent addition to the Catskills in geologic time. They evolved through stream capture at the end of the Illinoian Stage, when runoff from the glacial melt that created North-South Lake began to flow away from the nearby headwaters of Schoharie Creek and down the steep slopes of the newly created clove. The rushing waters of what would become known as Spruce Creek eroded a natural amphitheater at roughly 2,000 feet (609 m) on the south slope of South Mountain.