Watkins Glen, New York
Watkins Glen, New York
Franklin Street in Watkins Glen
|• Mayor||Luke Leszyk|
|• Total||1.94 sq mi (5.03 km2)|
|• Land||1.56 sq mi (4.04 km2)|
|• Water||0.38 sq mi (0.99 km2)|
|Elevation||463 ft (141 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||1,200.77/sq mi (463.62/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-4 (EDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||0974082|
Watkins Glen is a village in and the county seat of Schuyler County, New York, United States. Watkins Glen lies within the towns of Dix and Reading. To the Southwest of the village is the Watkins Glen International race track, which hosts NASCAR Cup Series and WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races and formerly hosted the Formula One United States Grand Prix and IndyCar races.
HISTORY OF WATKINS GLEN STATE PARK: The geological formation of Watkins Glen State Park started over two million years ago when a large sheet of ice completely covered the area. As this glacier moved and eventually melted away, it left behind the beautiful caverns, waterfalls, and gorge we see today. During the 1800s, the small town of Watkins Glen was developed and became home to a large saw and grist mill. In 1851, the gorge was turned into a park in hopes to bring tourists to the area. It worked. Tourists around the world began to flock to this area and have never stopped. Today, Watkins Glen is considered one of the best state parks in the country and that testament is shown by the million annual visitors who come to witness this geological wonder.
WHEN TO VISIT: Spring: During the spring, the crowds are significantly smaller than in the summer. The temperature and humidity are also milder. Spring may seem like the perfect time to visit, but always check the availability of the Gorge Trail. This is the main attraction of the park, and it’s availability changes from year to year depending on snow and ice.
Summer: Summer is by far the most popular time to visit. Our advice to avoid the crowds is to try and avoid the weekends and start your visit as early in the day as possible.
Fall: With children back in school, fall is a great time to avoid the crowds. This time of year is our personal favorite because of the beautiful fall foliage the area has to offer. The leaves change from hues of greens to variations of reds, yellows, and oranges.
Winter: We do not recommend planning your trip in the winter. The Gorge Trail will be closed due to weather, and you will miss out on the most beautiful sites the park has to offer.
If you are unsure if the Gorge Trail will be open during your visit, you check the status of the trail here.
Watkins Glen State Park: Entrance Tunnel Entrance Tunnel HOW TO GET TO WATKINS GLEN: There are three entrances to Watkins Glen State Park: the Maine Entrance, the South Entrance, and the North Entrance. Each entrance has a visitor center with bathrooms, a snack bar, and souvenirs for purchase.
We recommend using the Maine Entrance. This entrance is found along Franklin Street in the Village of Watkins Glen. The Maine Entrance will bring you directly to the trailhead for Gorge Trail, the main attraction of the park. Walking the Gorge Trail from Maine Entrance up towards the North Entrance will also give you the best views.
ENTRANCE FEES: There are no fees to enter the park, but there are parking fees at each of the visitor centers. We recommend parking in the free public parking areas within the Village of Watkins Glen and then walking over to the park. There is a parking lot near Seneca Lake that we used during our visit.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY: Watkins Glen can easily be explored in a couple of hours. We recommend devoting at least a weekend to the Finger Lakes region and exploring other parks and natural beauties nearby.
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Seneca Lake (8 miles or 10 minutes) Taughannock Falls (23 miles or 33 minutes) Letchworth State Park (73 miles or 1 hour and 17 minutes) Niagara Falls (154 miles or 3 hours)
Rainbow Falls WHAT TO DO IN WATKINS GLEN STATE PARK: Indian Trail: This trail will take you along the top of Watkins Glen Gorge. While most of the main sites and viewpoints are found along the Gorge Trail, this hike is definitely worth it if you have the extra time.
Total Distance: 1.9 miles Elevation Gain: 413 feet [≈ height of the Great Pyramid of Giza] Trail Type: Out and Back Duration: Around 2 hours (This depends on crowds and if you are wanting to get pictures) Difficulty: Moderate Fees: Free Pet-Friendly: Yes, dogs must remain on a leash. Snow Free: Late April – Early October Parking: Maine Entrance and Upper Entrance to Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail: This trail is the star of the show. If you visit Watkins Glen State Park, you must walk along the Gorge Trail. We recommend you start at the bottom of the gorge near the Maine Entrance and walk up the stairs towards the North Entrance. This will give you the best perspective and views of the waterfalls and viewpoints. If you struggling to go upstairs, there are over 800 on this trail, you can go from the North Entrance to Maine.
Total Distance: 2.1 miles Elevation Gain: 501 feet Trail Type: Out and Back Duration: Around 2 hours (This depends on crowds and if you are wanting to get pictures) Difficulty: Moderate: This is a well-maintained trail with 832 stairs. It is often slick and muddy, so make sure to wear shoes with proper grip. Fees: Free Pet-Friendly: No Snow Free: Late April – Early October Parking: Maine Entrance to Watkins Glen State Park Watkins Glen State Park: Cascade FallsCavern Cascade Gorge Trail ATTRACTIONS ALONG THE WATKINS GLEN GORGE TRAIL: Entrance Tunnel: As the name suggests, this tunnel is the entrance of the gorge. In the early 1900s, this tunnel was carved from the rock by hand. If you keep an eye out, you can spot a giant hole in the remaining rock. It was here that the water was forced through to sustain a flour mill in the mid-1800s. There are several signs with historical and geological information along your walk into the gorge.
Cavern Cascades: This picturesque waterfall is a must-see for any visit to Watkins Glen. for the fact that you can walk behind it. Just be wary because the spray from the water is likely to get you a little wet.
Spiral Tunnel and Suspension Bridge: After walking through a spiral staircase, keep an eye out from up above 85 feet above to be exact. Here you will find a suspension bridge crossing over Watkins Glen Gorge.
Central Cascades: Over 60 feet tall, this is the tallest waterfall in the Watkins Glen Gorge.
Rainbow Falls: This waterfall is our favorite view of the entire park! It seriously looks like something from a fairytale. While not as powerful as the Cavern Cascades and not as tall as the Central Cascades, this delicate waterfall is truly something special. If you are lucky and are visiting Watkins Glen during a sunny afternoon, you will have a good chance of catching a rainbow reflecting off of the waterfall.
WHERE TO STAY: $$$: Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel: Seated along Seneca Lake, this hotel boasts beautiful views. It is also an easy 11-minute walk to the Maine Entrance of Watkins Glen State Park making it a beautiful and convenient choice.
$$: The Local: This budget-friendly hostel is located in the middle of Watkins Glen. While simple, it is clean and is the perfect location.
$: Watkins Glen State Park Campground: Situated within the park, this campground is perfect for those wanting to truly connect with nature and escape within the great outdoors.
Watkins Glen Gorge Watkins Glen Gorge TIPS FOR VISITING WATKINS GLEN STATE PARK: Pack plenty of water: While each of the entrances has plenty of water, there are no water fountains along the trail. Make sure to come prepared and pack plenty of water before each hike.
Wear waterproof clothes and shoes: Due to the flowing water and spraying waterfalls, the trail is often slick especially along the Watkins Glen Trail. Make sure to wear the proper footwear and have a waterproof outer layer. This will ensure that you are comfortable throughout the entire hike.
Avoid the crowds: Watkins Glen is by no means a secret. The best way to avoid the crowds is to visit during the shoulder season of spring and fall. If you can only visit in the summer, try to avoid the weekends and come as early in the morning as you can.
Save or screenshot the map of the park: This map is a great tool to have while exploring Watkins Glen Park. Not only will it help you navigate your way around the park, it will also give you additional information on everything there is to see.
Use the bus shuttle: During the summer the park offers a shuttle bus between the three entrances. This could be especially handy if you are camping near the South Entrance but want to hike the Gorge Trail from the Maine Entrance.
Pet Policy: Pets are allowed in the park and within the campground; however, they are not allowed along the Gorge Trail. If you do bring your pet, make sure to keep them on a leash and always pick up after them.
Leave No Trace Policy: Keeping our parks clean is so important. By following the Leave No Trace Principles you can do your part to protect our lands and wildlife. A great rule of thumb is to always leave it better than you found it. Pick up after yourself and if you see trash take it with you.
Watkins Glen is located at (42.380984, -76.871079).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2). 1.9 square miles (4.9 km2) of the village is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2) of it (17.41%) is water.
New York State Route 14 joins New York State Route 79 and New York State Route 414 by Watkins Glen. NY-14 is one of the principal streets in Watkins Glen village. New York State Route 329 and New York State Route 409 lead into Watkins Glen from the west.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,859 people, 873 households, and 442 families residing in the village. The population density was 845 per square mile (326.25/km2). There were 977 housing units at an average density of 444 per square mile (168.4/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 96.2% White, 0.50% African American, 0.40% Native American, 0.50% Asian, 0.70% from other races, and 1.70% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.40% of the population.
There were 873 households, out of which 22.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.70% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.40% were non-families. 42.40% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.09 and the average family size was 2.86.
In the village, the age distribution of the population was spread out, with 22.70% under the age of 20, 5.40% from 20 to 24, and 31.80% from 25 to 50 and 17.50% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43.20 years old. The Village of Watkins Glen had 866 male residents, and 993 female residents.
The median income for a household in the village was $34,969 and the median income for a family was $55,357. Males had a median income of $37,885 versus $29,000 for females. The per capita income for the village was $24,116. 5.0% of the population and 1.70% of families were living below the poverty line. 3.6% of those under the age of 18 and 6.80% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
Notable events and attractions
Watkins Glen State Park
Auto racing at Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen is noted for its role in auto racing, being the home of a street course used in road racing, a famous racetrack, Watkins Glen International, one of the premier automobile road racing tracks in the United States, which has hosted the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series I Love New York 355 at The Glen, IndyCar Series Grand Prix at The Glen, and the IMSA SportsCar Championship 6 Hours of Watkins Glen. The first Watkins Glen Sports Car Grand Prix, however, was held in 1948 on public streets in and near the village. Organized by local resident Cameron Argetsinger, it was the first post-WWII road race held in the United States and it marked the revival of American road racing.
The original course ran for 6.6 miles (10.6 km) and passed through the center of the village. The streets used for the original course remain intact today and a checkered flag marks the original start-finish line on the village's main street. During the 1952 race, driver Fred Wacker struck onlookers sitting on a curb, killing a 7-year-old boy and injuring 10 others. The tragedy caused the end of street racing at the Glen and elsewhere in the United States.
A permanent racing facility, the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course opened in 1956. It has hosted nearly every type of road racing, from the Sahlen's 6 Hours of Watkins Glen (1948-current), the Formula One United States Grand Prix (1961–1980), and the I Love New York 355 at The Glen (1957-current), one of the few races on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule not conducted on an oval speedway, the other being Sonoma Raceway.
International Motor Racing Research Center
The International Motor Racing Research Center, a professional archive of motorsports history, opened in June 1999 in an annex of the Watkins Glen Public Library. The mission of the center is to preserve and share the history of motorsports around the world.
Personal Watercraft racing at Watkins Glen
Since 2014, Watkins Glen has hosted a weekend of IJSBA (International Jet Sports Boating Association) closed course racing, and has become one of the largest race venues in the sport today. Originally promoted in Region 8 by NEWA (North East Watercraft Alliance), until 2016 when East Coast Watercross purchased the series, racing has been at Clute Memorial Park and Campground, and is typically the last weekend in August. The event has always been free to spectators, and features both closed course racing and freestyle competition using standup, sit-down, and sport class machines.
1973 Summer Jam at Watkins Glen rock festival
The racetrack was also the scene of the July 28, 1973 Summer Jam at Watkins Glen rock festival attended by an estimated 600,000 people, one-and-a-half times the crowd at 1969's historic Woodstock Festival and a world record for the largest number of people at a pop music festival. The concert featured The Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead, and The Band. The music started at noon Saturday and continued long into Sunday. The bands played in their normal make-up and continued as members drifted in and out for many hours afterward.
On July 1–3 of 2011, the band Phish hosted Superball IX, a three-day music festival on the same grounds of the Summer Jam of '73. On August 21–23 of 2015, Phish hosted their 10th festival, Magnaball, on the grounds. Phish planned to return to Watkins Glen for their 11th festival, Curveball, on August 17–19, 2018 but was forced to cancel when their permit was revoked due to floods contaminating the local water supply.
True Love schooner
Farm animal protection movement
Watkins Glen is the home of Farm Sanctuary, a national farm animal protection organization co-founded by activist Gene Baur in 1986. In 1991, the organization opened a shelter in Watkins Glen that has since provided lifelong care for thousands of animals rescued from abuse; hosted numerous public events; and welcomed thousands of visitors from all over the world, including Joan Jett, Emily Deschanel, Biz Stone, Colbie Caillat, and Jonathan Safran Foer.
- "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
- "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- "Section O: Environmental Conservation and Recreation, Table O-9". 2014 New York State Statistical Yearbook (PDF). The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. 2014. p. 674. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
- "Watkins Glen State Park History". Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
- Defechereux, Philippe (1998). Watkins Glen 1948-1952: The Definitive Illustrated History. Beeman Jorgensen. ISBN 0-929758-17-X.
- "Our History". IMRRC. International Motor Racing Research Center. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
- "Collecting, Preserving and Sharing History". IMRRC. International Motor Racing Research Center. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
- Johnson, Shane. "True Love Schooner". WSKG. Retrieved 2019-05-02.
- Village of Watkins Glen
- Watkins Glen State Park
- Book excerpt on the 1973 Summer Jam Rock Festival from "AQUARIUS RISING" by Robert Santelli
- 1884 Guidebook to Watkins Glen with Illustrations at Internet Archive
- Google Earth overlay of original circuit