Most everything we want to do from Sampson State Park requires a drive. That’s fairly unusual for us as we prefer to do our activities in the park where we are staying and hike/bike/kayak from there. But that’s not as possible at Sampson and it is centrally located for many other wonderful things.
Today we head over to Dresden. If we could go by boat, Dresden would be about 2 miles away and we’d just bike since it is almost directly across the lake from the park. BUT of course we can’t bike across the lake so we drive 29 miles around the lake to get there.
It turns out to be totally worth it. What we find is a great bike trail. It’s nearly all naturally wooded and the surface, although it varies, is easy to ride. Some up hill, but gradual until the end and no problem for anyone without a heart condition. No cars, no towns, a few houses just off the trail and two old mills. Almost no noise! One of the best bike trails I’ve ridden.
The trail runs for 7 miles between Dresden and Penn Yan on the track bed of the old Fall Brook Railroad which ran from 1884-1972. The track bed follows the towpath of the historic Crooked Lake Canal (1830-1878) that once connected Keuka Lake to Seneca Lake by dropping 270 feet over 8 miles through the ravine created by the Keuka Outlet Creek.
Today's trail runs between the old canal bed and the creek. The trail surface is a combination of dirt, grass, gravel, and ballast from the railroad bed; It’s a fine ride.
Technically a stream, the 8-mile Keuka (KYOO-ka) Lake Outlet physically connects Keuka Lake to Seneca Lake in the east, the only two Finger Lakes in New York connected by a natural waterway. The outlet also connects the historic lakeside village of Penn Yan on Keuka Lake (settled in 1833 by Pennsylvanians and New England Yankees) with Dresden on Seneca Lake.
We began the trail at the trailhead outside Dresden and rode into Penn Yan so that the city part was last on our ride rather than first. This enabled David to stop for raspberries very soon.
The stream is on our left as we pedal along. It looks low and brown but with its song it is a happy and wonderful companion. I stop to take its picture.
According to the history of the trail: At its height of development in 1830, the 8-mile Keuka Lake Outlet, then called Crooked Lake, supported as many as 40 mills and 12 hydropower dams.
Think about that – FORTY mills AND TWELVE dams in EIGHT Miles. That’s more than the 25 wineries in 13 miles yesterday. Ok back to the history and another WHAT?
The dams powered lumber mills and, to a lesser degree, tanneries, distilleries and mills producing linseed oil, grain and plaster. As the boon of canal transportation took hold, New York state built the Crooked Lake Canal along the length of the outlet. It was a colossal venture. Twenty-seven locks were built of stone and wood along the 8-mile waterway. WHAT-in EIGHT miles? By comparison, the 360-mile Erie Canal has only 90 locks. After an initial positive impact on the economy, the canal required constant repair and construction. The state legislature eventually sold the land in 1878 to businessmen who converted the canal corridor to the Penn Yan and New York Railroad Company. New York Central ran the railroad until 1972 when floods from Hurricane Agnes destroyed the corridor.
After pondering those amazing statistics, our next surprise on the trail is the ruins of an old mill. Although there are no signs or information plaques, we think this is the Cascade Mills.
All but the 1.3 miles of the trail in the city of Penn Yan is owned and maintained by a volunteer organization the Friends of the Outlet, Inc., “a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving the lands and waters of the Keuka Lake Outlet Preservation Area”. They have clearly opted to spend their limited funds and energies keeping the trail in excellent shape rather than paying for information signs. Fine with me.
They have put in this interesting rest stop David is standing in front of in the picture above and must obviously keep this area mowed in more normal rain years.
After the locks were removed, a number of waterfalls naturally developed. The water flow is controlled by a dam at Penn Yan and can change drastically from week to week, or even day to day. We found that out after we rode the trail. There definitely appeared to be more water here than in the stream/river when we began. The friends have not cleared this view recently but you can go up closer to the mill as the folks on the top right of the 2nd picture below are doing.
Looking back at the building from the point where the people in the last picture were standing, I am right above the falls.
At some point, not toooo long ago there was apparently a small town here. We’re not sure what this building was but it is built right next to the falls.
Some people don’t obey signs.
Also part of the town and on the trail are these abandoned buildings.
We’re stumped as to whether a road actually came here to Outlet Tire. There isn’t much indication of one. We didn’t notice going off the railroad bed which was abandoned in 1978.
As we pedal on past the rest of the buildings, on my right I see an old visitor center sign which seems to indicate that perhaps this was once the town of Euka. Google had never heard of it so maybe I’m not reading it right. What do you think it says?
Looking back at Euka? and the sign.
On along the river we go.
This we believe is the site of the former Seneca Mills and might be Seneca Falls although the town of that name is actually on the Cayuga and Seneca Canal further East. Very confusing. But the falls are gorgeous and there is no problem with the views here.
I’m ready to stop and stay but I guess we have to finish the trail. But then we get to turn around and ride back. All righty then!
While I’m enjoying the falls I also catch my two wildlife sightings of the day. This guy was pretty amazing. Not sure if he’s related in anyway to the pedaltail from yesterday other than they both appear to be dragonflies. He was very nice to pose for me until I could get this shot.
Chicory has been all along the trail. It’s mostly considered a weed I guess but it’s a wildflower for me and a lovely one. Guess these two thought so too.
Just look at those colorful stamens. There really aren’t very many naturally blue wildflowers. They are lovely.
We pass by this sweet spot and make a note to stop back by for lunch on our return trip.
There are other fun things along side the trail like this bridge to nowhere.
An interesting two tone house just beyond the trail through the trees draws me up to consider whether they are painting it beige and have just the entry way to go or painting it lavendar and have just started or intended the striking two tone look.
When we come to the end of the “rural” section, the 5.7 miles owned by the non profit, there are these fun things. First is a sign for those leaving the city. I suppose Penn Yan’s lawyers thought this one up. Or maybe it was the non-profit. User beware!
Is this a bike size stop sign? Does it make me look tall?
In Penn Yan, the trail is mostly paved and goes over several bridges, through a tunnel and under an overpass as it wends its way along.
Just before you reach the very unscenic end of the trail which didn’t warrent a picture as it was a gravel parking lot by a baseball field, it winds through a short wooded park section.
Luckily on the city sections are these Village Signs telling you which way to go for what. We kept wondering where the end of the trail was as the signs always had an arrow on either side of the Outlet Trail pointing out. but this time there is only one arrow, one way to go now and that’s back
And back we go where we stop at the sweet picnic table and have our lunch by the river.
I’ve always said I don’t need a loop trail since going the other direction on the same trail is a whole different adventure.
That’s very true today since I didn’t even see this green water and turtle brigade on my way TO Penn Yan. They are that green straight line near the far shore.
Boy are their mothers going to make them take a bath when they get home.
Back to my favorite falls.
Back through “town” and by Outlet Tire.
When he stops for berries this time, I do too. This is my technique for picking low hanging fruit. It’s the only thing left if David gets here first.
Interestinly enough the steepest hill is right at the very end if you begin in Dresdin. I really had to do some stiff pedaling to climb up. David thinks better of it.
The Keuka Outlet Trail is a multiple-use trail, open free to the public year-round between sunrise and sunset for hiking and other forms of foot-travel (snowshoeing, cross-country skiing) as well as for bicycling, horseback riding, and dog-walking. Snowmobiling is allowed during the winter months.
For most of our ride, we had the trail to ourselves and met up with only a few other riders who were either going the opposite direction or passed us by as we ambled along. We bike about like we hike, in rather slow motion.
It was a lovely day on a mostly shaded trail. Well worth the drive and we highly recommend it if you are in this area. If you don’t want to bring a lunch, there are restaurants in Penn Yan and apparently not too far from the Dresden entrance.