STAFF / USA MAINLAND / Water / Scenic Wonders

Ausable Chasm, New York

Story by Milli Thornton. Photos Copyright © Brian Williams.

AUSABLE CHASM, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is one of the many scenic beauties of the Adirondack Forest Preserve in upstate New York. Situated about twenty minutes south of Plattsburgh, next to Lake Champlain, this natural wonder has been enjoyed by over ten million visitors since 1870.

Brian’s been on the road for his job for the past several weeks and has often remarked how glad he was to be given this region at this time of the year, with the leaves turning to their autumn colors. He’s usually just passing through on his way to the next job site and doesn’t have time to stop and take it all in. But he did have a spare hour last week as he was driving through the quaint village of Keeseville, New York (birthplace of famous Civil War photographer William Henry Jackson) so he jumped on the chance to see Ausable Chasm.

He took these photos so I could get a quick taste of how gorgeous it is. The feature photo (upper right) shows Rainbow Falls, which is part of the Ausable River (originally spelled Au Sable).

Ausable Chasm

Ausable Chasm

Brian was there on a sunny day and it must have been hard for him to get back in the car and continue his drive to the next job site. He said, “I really, really wished I could have done the hike. And the museum looked interesting too.”

The North Star Underground Railroad Museum reveals “the hidden history of the Champlain Line of the Underground Railroad” and includes a multimedia production of the story of John Thomas, who escaped from slavery in Maryland to settle with his family on a mountain farm in the Adirondacks.

Ausable Chasm offers a number of trails where you can see unique rock formations, such as Elephant’s Head and Column Rock. On the Inner Sanctum trail you can descend “deep into the chasm for riverside views from natural stone walkways, bridges and stairs.”

The classic tour also gives you views from cliff-side overlooks and explores ancient, dried-up river beds. The tour continues by raft, where you get to sail through both the narrowest and the deepest parts of the chasm. A trolley at the other end will take you back to the Welcome Center if you don’t want to take a trail back.

On a one-hour tour, you can take the old Upper Chasm trail into the Devil’s Oven Cave, see the ruins of the Horseshoe Nail Factory and walk beneath the mist of Rainbow Falls.

Brian didn’t get to do any of that, but he did get this cute picture of a chipmunk next to the trail. The little guy was so tame Brian could get right up close before he turned tail and fled.



There’s lots to do besides just walk the trails and take a hundred photos. You can do a float tour or go tubing, try gemstone mining or play disc golf, rent a mountain bike or camp in the Chasm Campground (sites from $20). Cabins are available for $70 per night, or you can stay in the Chasm Motel for roughly the same price.

In the summertime you can do the Lantern Tour where you get to see Ausable Chasm at night while carrying a lantern. After the tour, participants sit around a campfire and roast marshmallows.

Wintertime offers the Waterfall Walk, Chasm Ice Tours and cross-country skiing.

During his travels Brian has seen some of the destruction caused by Hurricane Irene, which did not reach us here in Ohio. At Ausable Chasm he saw a side road that had been torn away by the storm just below the first level of the falls.

Damage from Hurricane Irene

Damage from Hurricane Irene

The Chasm’s official web site currently sports a bright yellow button labeled “We survived Irene! Click here.” Clicking takes you to a special page of conditions updates, where it proudly says “Ausable Chasm has been open for over 140 years. We survived Irene and we are open today!”

Ausable Chasm
PO Box 390, 2144 Route 9
Ausable Chasm, NY 12911
Chasm Phone: 518-834-7454

Brian Williams

Brian in Russia


Brian R. Williams, spouse of Milliver, is often the photographer (including video) for the stories Milli writes. An electronics and RF engineer, Brian writes emergency communications software for his company, Comtekk. Milliver counts it among her victories in life to have published reluctant writer Mr. Williams as a guest blogger, with a fascinating story from his stint in Russia: A Sakhalin Road Trip.

Milli at Devi, Montreal

Milli at Devi, Montreal

Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.



  1. Wow! I’ve always been fascinated by what water can do to rock, and these photo’s are absolutely stunning. Thank you Brian for having the camera on hand!

    And I love love love chipmunks! What a fluffy little bundle of cute! 🙂

    • Jo – Glad you loved the photos from my staff photographer. 😉 He comes in handy when I can’t be there myself . . . but it sure makes me wish I’d been there.

      Isn’t that little guy adorable? I almost didn’t put him in because they’re so common in parts of the U.S. (we have them in our yard here in Ohio). But then I thought about overseas readers like you who would probably love to see them. I’ve got another travel story I can do where I’m literally covered in them (they were that tame, even though it was in the wilderness). I’ll have to see if I can dig those photos out.

      • Aww I hope you can find them, I’d love to see that!

        There used to be a pet store near my parents place with a massive cage in the corner full of chipmunks. My sisters and I used to just stand there and watch for ages.

  2. Beautiful photos! I love the little chipmunk! (just like a kid…take them to the zoo and their favorite part? Pigeons!) Given the chance, I’d do the tubing down the river….sounds like fun! Plus it would be summer and WARM there!

    • Annie ~ That’s funny about the pigeons. 😀

      I would love to do the tubing as well. We got to go cave tubing in Belize and it was a blast. (Hmm, must dig out those photos and do the story for MT.)

      Given a sunny, calm day, I would also maybe even try the Float Tour. They didn’t call it “whitewater rafting” (which you couldn’t pay me to do) and the river looks pretty tranquil in the pictures. That’s about my speed at this age in life. . . .

  3. Wow! What a blast from the past!
    I use to live in Ausable Forks, and Upper Jay when I was a child. I went to kindergarten in Ausable. My father at the time worked for “Lockheed Martin” in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
    I have been to visit many times since then. I love the area, and if not for their winters Id be tempted to go back to live. Its a very beautiful place. I have done the tour you described and its a lot of fun and very informative.
    Thanks for bringing back great memories!

    • Wow, Betsy, I had no idea you lived in that area! Brian has been working in Plattsburgh.

      After spending lots of time in upstate NY and the Adirondacks for his current job, Brian has come to the conclusion that we would want to live there too . . . but, as you say, definitely not in the winter.

      Glad to hear that the tour I described from my research is as good as it sounds. I want to go there sometime when Brian doesn’t have to work and do as many of the activities as I can.

  4. Spectacular. For us that are not local, we never really see the countryside of New York. Good to see the view from outside the city.

    • Jason ~ I only wish I hadn’t had to write this post vicariously. My husband has been all over upstate NY during the past month for his work and he keeps seeing gorgeous scenery – and great places to eat. He’s really made me want to go there – especially the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain.

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