Eternal Flame Falls

12 November 2012

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At the base of a waterfall deep in the forests of the state of New York an eternal flame burns. A small grotto between the layers of shale protects this everlasting fire. Although it glows brightly throughout the year it radiates light and warmth more on Midsummer’s Night than on any other time on the calendar. Then, it is said that the fair folk…

No, hold on. It isn’t quite like that. Although it would be great to believe that this flame is eternal and that it attracts Tinkerbell and the rest of the cohabitants of her trailer, the fact is that this is a natural phenomenon. In fact, the flame doesn’t burn eternally – it occasionally needs a helping hand.

The area around the waterfall does have a different aroma to the surrounding forest.  It is natural gas seeping from the layers of shale. Most dissipates in to the air but some of the gas, enclosed by the grotto, is concentrated enough to burn.  It is said to be the only place in the world that through the trickle of a waterfall, a flame (sometimes two or three) up to eight inches in height can be seen.

Yet geology (and other sciences) aside, there is no denying the fairy-tale charm of the place. Eternal Flame Falls on the Shale Creek is tucked deep inside Chestnut Ridge Park and the surrounding forest is one of great beauty.  It is home to some of America’s rarest species of flora. Surely those who first stumbled on the waterfall with the light shining from within could have been forgiven for believing that the place was the home of the very spirit of nature?

Visitors sometimes have to give the flame a helping hand and re-ignite it.  For obvious reasons, when the water flow is too strong then it will not burn – neither when it is too windy.  Yet for those lucky enough to see this extraordinary natural phenomenon, this place has a magic all of its own.

First Image Credit Flickr User Linden Tea

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