Western New York is home to some pretty incredible natural sights and wonders—and not just Niagara Falls. This region is blessed with scenic drives, natural beauty, and impressive earthworks thanks to the glaciers of the ice age. But one of our many hiking trails in the area has scientists scratching their heads… and it all has to do with a tiny dancing flame.
Eternal Flame Falls is located on the Shale Creek Reserve (part of Chestnut Ridge Park) just outside of Orchard Park. The hiking can be a bit rugged and dangerous, but if you manage to make it to the waterfall, you’ll be treated to one of nature’s little peculiarities: the eternal flame.
Hidden behind a waterfall, the flame is believed to have been lit by Native Americans thousands of years ago (but just to be on the safe side, bring your own lighter in case you need to reignite it). Now at first, there doesn’t seem to be anything too bizarre about this. There are naturally fueled fires found all around the world, the most famous one being the Darvaza gas crater (more colorfully known as the Door to Hell) in Turkmenistan which has continuously been burning since 1971. However, there is something peculiar about our little eternal flame: no one can explain how it’s there. According to scientists, the rocks at Eternal Flame Falls should be near the boiling point of water to break down carbon molecules in the shale to create the natural gas. However, the rocks surrounding the flame are nowhere near that hot.
This unexplained phenomenon is accompanied by a few ghostly stories as well.
While standing near the flame, many hikers claim that if you stand still and listen carefully, you can hear the sound of chanting, humming, and drumming somewhere in the distance. And those foolish enough to visit at dusk or even at night have reported seeing shadow figures darting around the flame and also on top of the waterfall.
Despite Eternal Flame Falls once being an obscure attraction in Western New York, it has become a popular hiking trail for locals. While visiting, please be respectful of your fellow hikers and nature—don’t litter, don’t venture off the trails (especially in spring when flooding is more prevalent), and leave no trace.
Learn more about Eternal Flame Falls and other haunted hiking trails in the Haunted Atlas of Western New York, out now!
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