Benson Lossing described the falls in his book The Hudson From the Wilderness to the Sea.
"At Cozzens Dock, (West Point) we procured a waterman, who took us to several places of interest in the vicinity. The first was Buttermilk Falls, half a mile below, on the same side of the river. Here a small stream comes rushing down the rocks in cascades and foaming rapids, falling more than a hundred feet in the course of as many yards. The chief fall, where the stream plunges into the river, is over a sloping granite rock. It spreads out into a broad sheet of milk-white foam, which suggested its name to the Dutch skippers, and they called it Boter Melck Val-Buttermilk Fall. The stream affords water power for flour mills at the brink of the river. The fall is so great, that by a series of overshot water-wheels, arranged at different altitudes, a small quantity of water does marvellous execution. Large vessels come alongside the elevator on the river front, and there discharge cargoes of wheat and take in cargoes of flour.
Rude paths and bridges are so constructed that visitors may view the great fall and the cascades above from many points. The latter have a grand and wild aspect when the stream is brimful, after heavy rains and the melting of snows."