Western New York: Secret Places: The Eternal Flame

Chestnut Ridge County Park is located in Orchard Park, NY, not far from where the Buffalo Bills play their home games. The park itself is wonderful containing miles of trails, an 18-hole frisbee golf course, tennis courts, a historic Casino, an awesome sledding hill, toboggan chutes, great views of the City of Buffalo and tons of picnic shelters.

We love spending the day there slacklining, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking and enjoying nature. But the most remarkable part of the park, is a natural gas jet “flame” that emerges from behind a waterfall, called The Eternal Flame. Although you may be singing it in your head, it has nothing to do with the Bengals.

The Eternal Flame Falls is one of Western New York’s Secret Places named by the late Bruce Kershner’s book by the same name.

The Eternal Flame waterfalls are found in an isolated part of the park called the Shale Creek Preserve. This is a primitive wooded ravine section home to hemlock, maple and pine forests. The Shale Creek Gorge is a 150ft. deep ravine that contains The Eternal Flame Falls.

The Eternal Flame is found in a grotto on the lower third of a 35ft. waterfall. The actual flame varies from 3-9″ depending on the natural gas pressure. A portion of the waterfall drapes over the grotto giving it a magical effect.

Contrary to its name, the flame occasionally goes out. This could be due to a high water event flooding out the grotto or and ice over in winter. You can re-light the flame by sicking a flame in to the grotto’s left side, way in the back. Don’t worry it does not explode, more like the poof your gas grill makes. My suggestion is to re-light it using a cotton ball saturated in petroleum jelly affixed to the end of a stick as seen in the video below.

I personally think the best time to see the flame is in the winter after a deep freeze. The waterfall completely freezes over and if the flame is lit, is reminiscent of the Game of Thrones. It is an interesting contrast between fire and ice.

It is very important to stay on the trail around the gorge. There have been a few deaths in and around The Eternal Flame. The park has several signs indicated to stay away from the ravine’s edge. Please adhere to these rules, they are there for your safety.

Chestnut Ridge Park Map

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