WHEN I INTERVIEWED Scott Ensminger last year about his book, "A Waterfall Guide to Letchworth Park," he told me about his search for all of the waterfalls in Western New York and invited me to accompany him on one of his expeditions. Early this month, he called, and we arranged a trip to Wyoming County.
As we drove down through the rapidly greening countryside, Scott talked excitedly about his recent journey to the Brazil-Argentina border.
He spent several days there exploring and photographing Iguazu Falls, a waterfall that dwarfs Niagara. It is 270 feet high and more than two miles wide.
Then, he turned to plans for the day. He showed me a topographic map on which he had marked several small x's. He pointed to one and told me he had visited that falls from upstream and now wanted to approach it from below.
I was shocked. His "x" was within the limits of the Village of Warsaw. I once taught there and lived within a quarter-mile of the location Scott had marked, yet I had never heard of this waterfall.
Warsaw sits in a deep valley, and incoming highways from east, west and south all descend into town.
Any stream here must also descend several hundred feet, and some of that drop would be precipitous.
We parked at the end of a lane and walked up along a small branch of Oatka Creek, almost immediately finding ourselves in a steeply walled gorge.
It was so narrow that we often had to wade in the creek itself; occasionally, however, there were deeper pools to skirt. Into one of these a fly fisherman was casting, his fine line making exquisite figure eights in the air. I was surprised to learn from him that this tiny stream had been stocked with trout.
We had only climbed a few hundred yards when the roar ahead announced the falls. We rounded a bend, and there it was, a spectacular 65-foot cascade.
Over the centuries, the falls had taken different routes over the cliff above us and had carved out a bowl.
Now the stream dropped over a 20-foot lip, and its separated freshets bounded down over the eroded slate face to fall finally into a round pool 30 feet across.
While Scott climbed to various vantage points to take pictures, I merely stood and tried to absorb the beauty of the scene.
The effect was indeed hypnotic. At the same time, I could witness the falls as a grand and powerful force slowly grinding away at solid rock.
And now another movement caught my eye. Two tiny birds flew up and entered a hole in the moss beside the falls. The nest builders were rare Louisiana waterthrushes, shy little cousins of the ovenbird.
One dropped down the bank to walk on pink legs along the stream edge, jerking its tail nervously; the other flew up into a tree to sing. Its high-pitched whistle carried clearly over the deep roar of the falling water.
We finally tore ourselves away from this spectacle and went on to visit two other falls in the area.
Each was remarkable: unique in form, setting and even in sound.
Now I understand what draws this young man on his quest for waterfalls.