This small waterfall located in the Shale Creek Preserve along a section of the Chestnut Ridge Park, near Buffalo New York has rather interesting phenomena associated with it. The aptly named “Eternal Flame Falls” sits on a pocket of natural methane gas, which seeps out through a fracture in the rocks behind the waterfall. The gasses produced during the decomposition of the organics within the rock deposits are under pressure and push out through cracks and loose layers within the rock. One large fissure is located right within Eternal Flame Falls, in a small grotto that protects the gas seepage from the falling water and any wind, enabling it to sustain a flame when lit. Two other, smaller seepages within the grotto can be lit, although they can’t hold a flame as large or as long as the primary flame. There are several other gas seepages, or springs, around the falls, but locating them can be tricky and lighting them often impossible. Some are located underneath the pool below the falls and can be seen as bubbles rising up from the bedrock below.
Eternal Flame Falls is highly dependent on rainfall and meltwater. It is usually only flowing in early spring, or after long bouts of heavy rain. It reaches 30 ft high, cascading over sloping shale in two segments. A small grotto, 5 ft up from the creek bed, to the right houses the natural gas spring that can be ignited to create a flame of 4-8 inches in height. When a flow is high, the water pours over the grotto, covering the flame and diffusing the light like a lampshade. Eternal Flame Falls is truly one of the most unique waterfalls in the country and one of the few remaining natural areas that we find on our planet. It is said that the falls may be the only one of its kind on the planet. Unfortunately, weather conditions or lack of methane escaping can put the flame out now and then (perhaps not quite eternal) but it doesn’t take long before the locals or a visitor relights the flame once again. No one is quite sure who first discovered the fracture and set fire to it first