Six Mile Creek – Ithaca, New York - Atlas Obscura

Six Mile Creek

In upstate New York, gorgeous waterfalls and a watermill are slowly being reclaimed by nature. 


A tour of Ithaca’s souvenir shops reveals no shortage of pride in its natural scenery, particularly its gorges. While many of the gorges are prohibited to swimmers because of their dangerous rapids, Six Mile Creek remains a safe alternative for nature lovers.

Nestled between Ithaca Commons and Cornell’s Collegetown, Six Mile Creek contains two main dams, aptly named First and Second Dam, that are a popular spot for locals and students alike. The waterfall feeds into a shallow brook that forms the perfect fishing spot, or just a place to observe the abundant wildlife.

First Dam is especially intriguing for the abandoned water mill that quietly sits on the cliff face. While nature has begun to reclaim the structure, its boarded windows and antique architecture nevertheless act as a reminder of modern civilization in an otherwise rustic oasis. Many a person has tried to explore the structure, though the door has long since rusted shut. Regardless, the mill still adds a certain touch of mystery and uniqueness to First Dam, suggesting a more interesting and complex history than now meets the eye. 

To reach the dams is easy, and the view from the bottom is truly worth the 10-minute walk. For those looking for a little old-fashioned adventure, Six Mile Creek is the place to explore. 

Know Before You Go

When heading out of Ithaca, cross the bridge and park at the clearly marked Mullholland wildflower Reserve lot. Exit the parking area and walk back over the bridge. When you reach the other side of the bridge, walk past the first (improvised) trail and on to the second trail. It is broad and marked by a sign and a gate. From here, the walk down is easy.

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