The Cohoes Falls - The Place of the Falling Canoe

Thursday, March 26, 2015
Good Morning!  Well now that our series on spring is over, it's time to get back to our roots.  Speaking of our roots........If you've read my About page, you know that the goal of my blog is to acquaint my readers about the treasures that often go unexplored right in our own backyards.  So often we travel to other cities, states and even countries (well, not me, but maybe you) to find beauty, excitement and history, when it's often right in our neighborhood.  That's exactly the case when it comes to today's post!
I was born in Cohoes and lived there for 13 years.  I knew the Cohoes Falls existed.  My parents drove past it on our way to our summer camp at Saratoga Lake, but I never paid much attention to it.  The thing that excited me more about the falls was the mastodon that was discovered in this area and is displayed in the NYS museum.  That's a whole other story.  As for the falls, well it was just a part of the landscape that, as a kid, I didn't really give much attention to.   Like other local landmarks which vacationers come to the area to see, I now realize there's something pretty special about the Cohoes Falls and its history.  And when we take the time to research - what a story it has to tell.
The Hiawatha tales tell this story....(taken from the official City of Cohoes website)
"Once long ago before the White Man came, the land of the trees and rivers was free to all Red Men. Life was good, the Great Spirit smiled, peace reigned in the Wilderness of the Savage. The braves hunted, the squaws labored, as was the way.
Once a young maiden, the beautiful daughter of a chief and the pride of the tribe, was working at the river's bank. She tired in the heat of the day and sought the shade of one bark riding at the water's edge. She sat, and quickly fell into a deep sleep from which no motion of the craft would wake her.
The canoe slipped from its mooring, was caught quickly by the river's swift current, and glided silently toward the white water at the brink of the Falls. The rapids and the tumbling water's roar woke the slumbering maiden. She screamed to no advantage, attempted unsuccessfully to right the bark's course and finally resigned herself to her fate, death at the Fall's edge. The mists covered her, the Falls claimed her, and no remains were ever found.
The Tribe mourned its loss and all Red Men marked this place, for a princess...daughter of a warrior, died there. All called the place Coho, the place of the Falling Canoe." 
In 1655 a Dutch explorer, Adrienne Vander Donck, in his "Description of the New Netherlands" retells the incident with a slightly different twist of an Indian travelling with his wife and child and six beaver skins
in the area of the great falls of the Macques Kill (Mohawk River) which the Indians name the Cahoos Falls when he carelessly came too close to the falls and got swept over.  His wife and child were killed,
But his life was preserved. The Cohoes Falls is one of the Iroquois most sacred sites due to the Peacemaker's miraculous emergence after his plunge into the Falls.
 There are many different versions of the word Cah-hoos as it filtered through the many dialects to the Indian language. "Cohoes Falls: in Mohawk dialect Ga-ha-oose, means ship-wrecked canoe."  
" In April of 1660, Jasper Dankers and Peter Sluyter, two Dutchmen seeking areas for prospective colonization also recorded their impressions.
..."We rode to visit the Cahoos, which is the falls of the great Macquas Kill (Mohawk River) which are the greatest falls not only in new Netherlands, but in North America, and the whole world.
As you come near the Falls, you can hear the roaring which makes everything tremble, but on reaching them and looking at them, you see something wonderful, a great manifestation of God's power and sovereignty of his wisdom and glory. 
In 2011, the importance of the Cohoes Falls in Iroquois history resulted in Brookfield Renewable Power ceding part of their land holding at the Cohoes Falls to allow the Iroquois access to their sacred site for the first time in 300 years.

 In 1804 the great Irish poet, Thomas Moore, wrote to his mother in Ireland:
"I was to see the Coho Falls or the Mohawk River and was truly gratified. The immense fall of the river over a natural dam of thirty or forty feet high, its roar among the rocks and the illuminated mist of spray which rises from its foam were to me objects all new, beautiful and impressive...
He was so moved that he chose to immortalize the sight in a 34-line poem entitled "Lines, Written at the Cohoes Falls of the Mohawk River."

This is just a sampling of the many accounts of this majestic sight right here in our area.  Yet I'm betting that only a handful of you know of its history or have visited.  If you haven't, now would be the time.  In the past several years,  Brookfield’s School Street Hydroelectric Plant, the City of Cohoes and National Park Service’s Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor have teamed together to create the Falls View Park.  Containing an upper and lower level, the park provides a beautiful area not just for viewing the falls but for community events to take place.  The lower level - accessed by a long staircase, is only open from May-November, due to the slippery conditions that would make stair access quite dangerous.
Last summer we decided to check out the lower level for the first time because it gives provides a great view of the falls.  Let me say now, this is not for the faint of heart or weak of heart.  The descent to the bottom is long and and not as easy as one would imagine, but the trip back up - well, let me just say if you're not in great physical shape, these stairs could very well be the 'stairway to heaven'.  I won't tell you how many times I stopped to catch my breath, each time reminding myself that the EMT's would have a devil of a time rescuing me from my peril.

This is the first part of the descent  doesn't look so bad, right?  Well...scroll down and have another look!

This is an idea of what it looks like coming back up.  I'd advise visiting on a day when the temperature is in the 50's, not the 70's and when the humidity is such that allows you to take in air more efficiently.

 The Cohoes Falls became an important source of power for the local factories, in addition to being a great tourist attraction back in it's day.  A very interesting history of the damming process can be found on the Cohoes website using this link:  The information I've already shared was taken from their article.   Here's an interesting tid bit for you....  The Niagara Falls discharges 100,000 cubic feet of water per second, the Cohoes Falls discharges 27,000 cubic feet per second.   Obviously this varies depending on the conditions based on weather.  At times the falls is quite sparse.

compared to this
Regardless of the time of year you visit, or which vantage point you choose to view the falls, the Cohoes Falls is a sight to behold and it's right in our own backyard.  It is an important part of the history of Cohoes and an important source of power too.  Next time you're sitting around thinking there's nothing to do, take a ride to Cohoes and take in the beauty of this magnificent view!  To learn more about the Falls Park, use the link below for more information.
Thanks for visiting Life As I See It.   Come back soon.


  1. fantastic history with the photos make this a great read ! My sister ( Cheryl Sagendorph ) mentioned you a number of times . I love going to the Falls , and see the different seasons and how it changes the action at the Falls . Your photos are fantastic and well composed . thanks for sharing .
    Ron B.

  2. Thank you Ron - I love your sister! She's a great supporter of my blog and a faithful commenter. Sounds like we're fellow Cohoesiers. Glad you enjoyed the blog and hope you come back to read more. Have a great day!

  3. We used to swim on top of the falls all the time back in the 70's and 80's. It was very dangerous but was a good time in the summer..we never got in any trouble. Now I live up the street and I can hear the falls every night.


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