Sunday, July 17, 2022

What’s in a Name: O.K. Slip Falls

OK slip falls

One of the most popular destinations for those who seek out waterfalls is O.K. Slip Falls in the Town of Indian Lake, Hamilton County.  From the parking area on State Route 28 between North Creek and Indian Lake, it is just over a 3-mile hike over a well-maintained, marked trail to get to a viewing area where one can gaze upon this natural wonder.  O.K. Slip Falls is considered one of the tallest waterfalls in New York State, having a 250-foot drop.  On several occasions I have seen or heard the following inquiry:  how did O.K. Slip Falls get its name?

I have found claims in a book, blogs, and a newspaper article that “O.K. Slip” (as in the falls, brook, and pond) comes from loggers yelling “OK, slip!” to warn those below that logs were about to be released down a long, wooden chute called a slip (or gangway, slide, or sluiceway), akin to yelling “Fore!” before hitting a golf ball.  My research found this claim to be incorrect.

OK slip falls newspaper clippingI came across a May 8, 1890 newspaper account of two river drivers who drowned while trying to break up a log jam. The two drivers, Russell Carpenter and Edward Rebatoire (or Rabiteau) attempted to cross the Hudson River in their separate boats to break up a log jam that formed on the other side. The current was so swift that Carpenter’s boat capsized. Rebatoire, in his attempt to rescue his co-worker, also drowned in the raging current, while fellow workers helplessly witnessed the fatal event at the shore. As the newspaper account notes, the drowning occurred at a place between “O.K. Slip” and “P.K. Slip” on the Hudson. Thus, “O.K.” and “P.K.” were place-designations for particular slip sites for logging operations along the Hudson, like “Point A” and “Point B.”

But there’s more to this tragic story, beyond the peculiar name. Although Rebatoire’s body was recovered shortly after the incident, Carpenter’s was not. After an exhaustive search for over a month, a funeral was held for Carpenter in July of 1890. Carpenter’s skeletal remains were found on January 4, 1891, by Stony Creek on the Hudson, about forty miles away from where he met his fate; he was identified by his clothing.  A January 8, 1891 newspaper account of the discovery of Carpenter’s remains is shown.

Prior to the 1890 drowning, a river driver by the name of Patrick Gibney drowned at the O.K. Slip site on May 6, 1872. River driving was a dangerous business.

Images: 

O.K. Slip Falls from a lookout off the trail. (Credit: Lisa Porcelli Shorts)

Portion of an account from a May 8, 1890 newspaper of two river drivers who drowned between locations “O.K. slip” and “P.K. slip” on the Hudson River, in the area of today’s O.K. Slip Falls. (Source: Old Fulton New York Post Cards, https://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html)

Related Stories


John Sasso is an avid hiker and bushwhacker of the Adirondacks and self-taught Adirondack historian. Outside of his day-job, John manages a Facebook group "History and Legends of the Adirondacks." John has also helped build and maintain trails with the ADK and Adirondack Forty-Sixers, participated in the Trailhead Steward Program, and maintained the fire tower and trail to Mount Adams.




One Response

  1. Raymond P. Budnick says:

    I have now read 2 recent articles about OK Slip falls.
    In neither article is anyone warned of the historical danger that the top of these falls has played.

    I believe people have died having been lured to look over the edge of the falls. They attempt to see the view from the lip of the falls and have walked to a point of no return on the incline. Because of the pitch and the slippery rock they eventually slid without stop over the edge.

    Upon a Google research I could only account for 1 death in 2018. Oddly though, I recall an article years ago about several separate incidents that resulted in deaths???

    Please, if you are going to bring attention to this beautiful waterfall. You also bear the responsibility to warn of the potential danger and to educate all as to the sad reality of it’s past.

    Thank you

    Ray Budnick

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!