The Owens Falls Sanctuary
The Owens Falls Sanctuary is one of Western New York’s best kept secrets. A tranquil hemlock forest where a cool, clear stream meanders through a deep ravine and cascades over dark shale ledges.
Over the rush of two spectacular waterfalls, springtime brings a chorus of spring peepers and on a warm summer day you can hear the eerie flute-like song of the wood thrush.
On the coldest winter nights, you can hear the wind passing through the snow-draped trees.
The 57-acre property’s creek, its headwater forests, vernal pools, and wetlands provide a haven for rare wildlife and improve water quality throughout our region.
The property had been listed for sale and was a very tempting spot to clear the trees to put in driveways and build houses. The Land Conservancy had less than a year to prevent this treasure from being lost. The community rallied around this cause and, together, we protected this magical place forever.
Protected for all to enjoy
Access to The Owens Falls Sanctuary, known to some as Jackson Falls or Mother Falls, has always been limited, but now that the land is protected, the preserve is open for all to enjoy.
There is a new trail for walking and snowshoeing, and new benches allow visitors to experience a quiet moment in nature. We bring visitors to participate in nature walks and environmental programs, and carefully steward the land for current and future generations.
Creating the Owens Falls Sanctuary preserved a part of our heritage. East Aurora is home to the world-famous Roycroft Campus and Arts and Crafts community. The romance and idealism of the Roycroft way of life drew one of the Roycroft’s earliest artisans, Cecil Jackson, to purchase the Owens Falls property more than 100 years ago. From here, he could look over the entire Village of East Aurora.
Few places are as serene as Owens Falls. The breathtaking views of the forest and the falls are a magnificent backdrop for a walk or a snowshoeing adventure. The preserve is now a wellness resource for the community, where people of all ages can enjoy year-round recreational outdoors. It is a place where people can be immersed in the wild and to learn about our natural world.
The creation of this preserve has economic benefits as well. The Owens Falls Sanctuary supports tourism, bringing visitors to the community who spend money locally. It is part of what makes East Aurora and our region a place where people want to live, work, and play.
Open spaces boost local property values, increasing tax revenues without increasing tax rates. They save taxpayers money by providing ecosystem services like flood control and clean drinking water without having to build expensive infrastructure to do the same.
An ecological gem
Owens Falls’ incredible waterfalls, headwater forests, wooded wetlands, and vernal pools are home to many rare and declining plants and animals. Migratory songbirds like the brilliantly colored Cape May warbler and scarlet tanager can be found singing in the trees. Frogs and salamanders are frequently spotted in the Sanctuary’s woodland pools and wetlands. Protecting their habitat is vital to their survival.
The Great Lakes Basin contains 84% of the surface freshwater of North America and 21% of the world’s surface freshwater. Owens Falls is an important part of this much larger system. Mann’s Creek flows through the property, over the two waterfalls, and into the East Branch of the Cazenovia Creek. The East Branch later combines with the West Branch of the Cazenovia Creek and runs into the Buffalo River and ultimately into the Niagara River. Protecting Owens Falls’ headwater forests and wetlands ensures that we can drink, swim, and fish from our Great Lakes.
Do you want to learn more about headwater forests?
Find out Where Rivers are Born
The Owens Falls Sanctuary is part of a corridor of conserved open space along the Cazenovia Creek in Aurora that connects Aurora’s Major’s Park, an undeveloped nature preserve, and the East Aurora’s Cazenovia Creek Nature Sanctuary.
At our 25th Anniversary Gala on September 21, 2016, we announced that The Owens Falls Sanctuary fundraising goal had been surpassed. The Golden Ballroom at Statler City was filled with thunderous applause and cheers as hundreds of guests celebrated this milestone in the journey to create the new nature preserve.
The Land Conservancy and the Friends of Owens Falls, a 30-person group of community members committed to protecting the property had only 10 months to raise the $600,000 needed to purchase the property. This was a daunting task, as it took two and a half years to raise a similar amount to protect Aurora’s Mill Road Scenic Overlook. The group, led by Nancy Smith of the Western New York Land Conservancy and Kerrie Gallo of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, was up to the challenge.
Hundreds of donations from the community, as well as contributions from the Gallogly Family Foundation and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, and a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service brought the fundraising campaign past the halfway point.
It was the $200,000 donation from Barbara and Don Owens, neighbors to the preserve, that brought the campaign over the fundraising goal. The property is named The Owens Falls Sanctuary in honor of Barbara and Don.
Many thanks to the Friends of Owens Falls & Advisory Committee Members
Martha Augat; Bill Bernhardi; Barry Boyer; Larry Brickman; Rachel Chrostowski; Mike Croft; Alexis Dickerson; Kateri Ewing; Deb Fenn; Kerrie Gallo, Co-chair; Jean Hughes; John Hughes; Grace Meibohm; Ellen Moomaw; Dale Morris; Ellen Neumaier; Joyce Ortman; Rick Ohler; Tom Pafk; Kim Phillips; Tony Rupp; Nancy Smith, Co-chair; Martha Townson; Michael Tunkey; Sue Tunkey; Judy Weidemann; Mary Flickinger; Kathy Lasher; Libby Weberg