Category Archives: Family Fun

Empire State Native Pollinator Survey – You Can Help!

Summer is in full swing, with flowers blooming and bees buzzing. Our native pollinators, which also include flies, butterflies, and beetles, are an important part of New York’s ecosystems. They work hard to pollinate our trees, wildflowers, gardens, and crops. Some of these native pollinators appear to be declining. To learn more, scientists have been evaluating the populations of pollinators throughout New York as part of the four year Empire State Native Pollinator Survey (ESNPS).

The ESNPS is a project that aims to determine the distribution and conservation status of target pollinator species in New York. This project is made possible through work by both scientists conducting statewide surveys and community members submitting pollinator pictures and specimens they have observed.

In the last few years, zoologists with New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) have visited more than 60 State Parks throughout New York State searching for a variety of target pollinator species. Community scientists have also been contributing their finds with photos added to the ESNPS iNaturalist project page.

More than 21,000 observations had been submitted to this multi-year project byMarch 2021, with the project constantly growing. These observations have been submitted by over 600 people and represent over 1,400 species. The Empire State Native Pollinator Survey is accepting photo submissions through September 2021 and you can help!

Be A Community Scientist

Do you want to help contribute to pollinator survey efforts? The project is accepting photo submissions through September 2021! Photographs can be submitted through the ESNPS iNaturalist project page or through the iNaturalist app after joining the project online. This can be a fun activity to do solo or with friends and family the next time you visit a State Park. Pollinators can be found in a variety of habitats – keep an eye out for wildflowers on warm and sunny days to see what you can find.  If you are able to snap some good pictures and upload them to iNaturalist, experts can help you identify the species you have found. It is a great way to learn, too.

What to Look For

Below are some pictures of the target species for this project that have been found in New York State Parks. New York’s pollinators have so much variety! These are just a few examples of what to look for and photograph.

Cuckoo Bee


One of the interesting bumble bees we have in New York is Fernald’s Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus flavidus=fernaldae). Cuckoo bumble bees are a group of parasitic bees that are unable to collect pollen or raise young. These bees will take over the already established nests of other bumble bees by invading and incapacitating or killing the queen. The Cuckoo bumble bee then forces the workers to raise its young.

Fernald’s Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus flavidus=fernaldae) Photo Kevin Hemeon

Bee Mimics

Look closely at the Bare-eyed Bee-mimic Fly (Mallota bautias) and Eastern Hornet Fly (Spilomyia longicornis); these are flies that are called bee mimics. Bee mimics can look very similar to bees, hornets, or wasps. Imitating insects with stingers is a defense mechanism for these harmless flies. 

Bare-eyed Bee-mimic Fly (Mallota bautias) Photo Paweł Pieluszyński
Eastern Hornet Fly (Spilomyia longicornis) Photo Laura Shappell
Greater Bee Fly (Bombylius major) Photo Alan Wells

Longhorn Beetles

The project is also interested in information on the 100 species of longhorn beetles. These beetles generally have very long antennae and come in a wide variation of colors and patterns. They too are pollinators.

Strangalepta Flower Longhorn Beetle (Strangalepta abbreviata) Photo Alan Wells
Banded Longhorn Beetle (Typocerus velutinus) Photo Alan Wells

Where Should I Look?

You can find native pollinators all over. State Parks have a great variety of natural habitats where you can find interesting pollinators. Sunny days with not too much wind are ideal. Some of the counties that would benefit from additional surveys are Chenango, Cortland, Fulton, Lewis, Montgomery, Orleans, Tioga, and Yates.

Look for flowers along trails through fields, meadows, dunes, forests, or even in marshes and stream sides if you kayak or canoe. Stop and look for a bit to see if any pollinators settle down on the flowers. Photograph from a distance first and then try to move in for some close-ups. The insects are often so intent on feeding that they don’t fly away.

If you can help, sign up for the Empire Pollinator Survey ESNPS iNaturalist project page and submit your photos on that project page or the APP before Sept. 30, 2021. The results from the project are anticipated to be available in spring 2022.

Post by Ashley Ballou, Zoologist, NY Natural Heritage Program  www.nynhp.org

Resources

Read more about State Parks and our efforts with pollinators in previous posts in the NYS Parks Blog.

Protecting Pollinators

Across New York, State Parks staff is working hard to help support the diverse populations of pollinators from bees to butterflies, beetles, wasps, and more.  Here’s a sample of the pollinator protection projects going on this year in State Parks. Rockefeller State Park Preserve Wild Bees Photo Exhibit Working from their photographs from both Rockefeller … Continue reading Protecting Pollinators

Celebrate a Centennial At Allegany State Park 1921-2021

A century ago this week, thousands of people flocked by car and even horse carriage to remote, wild and forested hills in southwestern New York’s Cattaraugus County, near the border with Pennsylvania, to celebrate the opening of a new State Park.

According to a contemporary account in the local Salamanca Republican-Press newspaper, the visitors to the new Allegany State Park used a roadway that had been quickly built over the bed of a former lumbering railway in the region, which also had been part of the state’s 19th century gas and petroleum industry. With people coming in from as far as Buffalo, parking was quickly filled and some people walked a great distance to reach the dedication site, located near an old lumber camp.

Enjoying a picnic of sandwiches, doughnuts, cookies, coffee, iced tea and “milk in unlimited quantities” as reported by the newspaper, the crowd listened as Albert T. Fancher, a former state senator from the region and chairman of the new park’s commission, vowed that Allegany was poised to quickly grow, with areas nearby suitable for creation of a man-made lake and game preserve.

Another speaker, Franklin Moon, dean of the state college of forestry, said the creation of public parks like Allegany were the best remedy for “national irritability,” as he reflected some of the trepidation in the U.S. over the then-recent rise of Bolshevism in Russia.

Some of the Opening Day crowd at Allegany State Park on July 30, 1921.

Today, Allegany State Park welcomes more than 1,500,000 visitors a year to explore western New York’s premier wilderness playground, created thanks to the vision of Fancher, a petroleum industry executive who was a political force in Cattaraugus County for several decades, as well as Hamilton Ward, a Spanish-American War veteran who later founded the Erie County Park Commission and became New York State Attorney General, and Chauncey Hamlin, president of the American Association of Museums and founder of the Buffalo Museum of Science.

Fancher became the park’s first director until his death nine years later in 1930. Fancher’s original cabin, where he stayed at the park with his wife, is still there. Hamlin supported the creation of a science camp at the park.

Starting out in 1921 with about 7,100 acres purchased for $35,800 (equivalent to about a half-million dollars today, or about $70 an acre), Allegany State Park has grown over the years to encompass more than 64,800 acres and includes rare remaining portions of old growth forest with trees more than 100 years old that were left undisturbed during the area’s lumbering and petroleum boom that ran from the early 19th century to the 1920s. Park naturalists have mapped more than 5,200 acres of old growth forests of hemlocks and hardwoods, with the majority of that in the Big Basin area. Some experts believe this is the state’s largest contiguous track of old growth outside the Adirondacks.

Given the uncertainty of planning during the pandemic, the park is not holding a mass gathering like was done in 1921, but is hosting a virtual celebration on July 30th 2021 that will include a library of digital content. The park is also offering a summer series of interpretive programs highlighting the park’s history.

The virtual celebration and other digital content can be viewed HERE starting noon on July 30, 2021.

Additionally, a set of four self-guided interpretive booklets are for sale at the park which guide visitors to 100 points of interest within the park, and includes topics of interest such as early European settlement, the petroleum and lumbering industries, early ski facilities in the state, and the work of Civilian Conservation Corps crews during the Great Depression.

Now New York’s largest State Park, Allegany has a wide variety of recreational resources certain to foster tranquility and soothe any irritability. Due to its size, this sprawling park is divided into two distinct areas – Red House and Quaker Run. Red House has 133 campsites, 130 cabins, 16 full-service cottages, two group camps, five miles of paved bike paths, many miles of hiking and horse trails, and swimming at man-made Red House Lake, with boat rentals. Its historic Tudor-style administration building, completed in 1928, includes a museum of park natural history

A canoeist paddles past the park’s historic Administration Building.

One of the new cabins at Allegany State Park.

The Quaker Run Area has two lakes, 189 campsites, 230 cabins, 37 full-service cottages, two group camps, many miles of hiking trails and horse trails, swimming at Quaker Lake, a boat launch at the Allegheny Reservoir, which has 91 miles of shoreline and is popular for boating, fishing, kayaking and waterskiing. Named for Quaker missionaries and settlers who came to the area in 1798 at the invitation of Seneca Chief Cornplanter to assist with agriculture and education.

The new bathhouse at Quaker Lake.
A fishing pier on Quaker Lake.

Hikers have a wide variety of trails to choose from, with some highlights including:

  • Located on the park’s Quaker Run side, the Blacksnake Mountain Trail is one of the oldest trails in the park with a unique history. Parts of the trail follow the 1888 section of A&K Railroad (Allegheny & Kinzua), which is evident in the gentle slope on the north side of the three-mile loop. In 1933, the professors of the Allegany School of Natural History, also known as “the School in the Forest”, (located near Science Lake) mapped out a hiking trail they officially named the “Nature Hiking Trail” to conduct their field studies with their students.  It was later renamed “Blacksnake Mountain Hiking Trail” in 1980 after Governor Blacksnake, an Iroquois Indian chief for the Seneca Nation of Indians, who allied with the United States in the War of 1812. The trail crosses several streams with new bridges, and a short steep climb leads to mature black cherry trees estimated to be between 100 and 130 years old. Cucumber magnolia, tulip trees and hemlock are other trees of interest along the way. This is a favorite trail for spring wildflower lovers. Trillium, Dutchmen’s breeches, squirrel corn, and spring beauties are just a few of the ephemerals that announce the changing of the seasons. Near the top of the trail, look for a granite milestone marker which represents the border of New York and Pennsylvania, where you can put a foot in each state.
  • Bear Paw Hiking Trail is named after a style of snowshoe used by Native Americans and was originally designed as an interpretive snowshoe trail in 2015 by park naturalists. The 2.4-mile trail starts at the rear of the Summit Area parking lot. Look for brown numbered markers which highlight unique flora such as ground cedar, various hardwoods, and lowbush blueberries. Halfway along Bear Paw, at the end of the loop, hikers will be treated to the masterfully built Stone Tower, an Allegany State Park landmark, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934. The tower offers beautiful views of large open valleys, the city of Salamanca and Red House Lake. The second half of the trail traverses the south side of the ridge, through beech and maple forests and into a meadow. Depending on the time of the year, hikers may get to sample low bush blueberries or wintergreen growing in this area. The last section has a short, steep incline that adds a bit of challenge. Bear Paw ends at the Summit Warming hut.
  • The 5.2-mile Robert C. Hoag Bicycle Path is named after the former Seneca Nation President and was dedicated in June 1990. Starting at the Red House entrance of the park, the path passes old apple trees and large stands of spruce and Scotch pine, along with many varieties of hardwoods, shrubs and wildflowers. The most used part of the path is around Red House Lake, where a 3.4-mile trail offers the potential to spot such wildlife as beaver, muskrat, great blue heron, and many species of waterfowl. Spurs off the trail lead to the Red House Wetland Interpretive Complex, Beehunter Cabin Trail and Camp Allegany. Several benches are located along the way to relax and enjoy the surrounding beauty.
  • Work on the new Quaker Multi Use Trail began in the summer of 2020 between the Taft cabin and the Quaker General Store. The second phase is in the final design stages and will continue the trail to Quaker Lake Beach.  Once complete, the trail will offer five miles of accessible paths winding though woodlands and fields along ASP Route 3 and Quaker Lake, including several scenic crossings of Quaker Run.

For birdwatchers, Allegany State Park contains a Bird Conservation Area, which provides breeding and migratory stopover habitat for forest-interior species such as Swainson’s Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, and Scarlet Tanager. Of the 75 neotropical migratory songbird species that breed in New York, 64 have been observed within the park. The park supports a large breeding population of Osprey and one of the largest breeding concentrations of Cerulean Warblers found in New York, both of which are state species of special concern. The BCA also provides habitat for other state-listed species, including Bald Eagle (threatened), Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawk (all species of special concern). Find a map of the BCA here.

A birdwatching blind in one of the park’s wetland areas.

During the winter, the Art Roscoe Cross Country Ski Area boasts 26 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails. The area is named for an early park forester and ski advocate who later became assistant park manager and worked there from 1928 to 1968, earning the nickname “Father of Skiing” in western New York. For other winter sports enthusiasts, the Quaker Run and Red House areas also have a combined 90 miles of snowmobile trails.

Art Roscoe uses an axe to cut the ribbon to open up the new cross country ski trail network in 1972.
With 90 miles of snowmobile trails, Allegany State Park is popular with sledders.

Allegany also was the site of numerous fire towers, where observers would watch for signs of wildfires in the forests. One of those 60-foot towers, built in 1926 at the 2,365-foot summit of South Mountain, was restored and reopened to the public in 2006, and now offers a spectacular view of Red House Lake and the surrounding area.

The fire tower at the South Mountain summit offers panoramic views of the region.

For another gorgeous view, the Stone Tower, built between 1933-1934 by crews from the Civilian Conservation Corps, stands at 2,250 feet and overlooks the city of Salamanca. On a clear day, the view can stretch for up to 20 miles.

CCC crews also helped establish the park as a regional center for skiing, building a downhill ski center and two ski jumps, which allowed for competitions that would draw thousands of spectators through the 1970s, when the jumps were closed.

Top, one of the Civilian Conservation Corps crews stationed at Allegany State Park. Below, the Stone Tower that was among the projects built by CCC members.

Allegany also has a unique geological and natural history compared to elsewhere in the state. The park is part of a geological region called the Salamanca Re-entrant, which is the only area in New York that was never reached by glaciers during the last Ice Age some 12,000 years ago. This gives the region its distinctive soils, topography, surficial geology, and flora and fauna.

The well-known “Thunder Rocks” in the park’s Red House area may appear to casual observers to be some of the massive boulders scattered throughout much of the state by  Ice Age glaciers but this unusual “rock city” is actually bits of ancient inland seabed created some 400 million years ago, and revealed through geological uplift and erosion.

Thunder Rocks are sections of an ancient inland seabed that has been exposed through geological uplift and erosion.

Wild turkeys, now widespread throughout New York, owe that comeback to Allegany State Park, the Regional Park Commission, and the Conservation Department. These birds were largely absent from the state by the beginning of the 20th century, due to overhunting and habitat loss, but in the 1940s, a small population of birds had come into the park, likely from Pennsylvania to the south. From the 1950s to the mid-70s, wild turkeys in the park were live trapped by wildlife officials, who used net-firing cannons to safely capture the birds, which were then taken to the Catskills, Adirondacks and elsewhere in New York state to reestablish the birds in the wild. Some turkeys were even sent to other states in the Northeast and to Canada as part of wildlife restoration efforts there.

All this only begins to scratch the surface of the park’s fascinating history and what it has to offer. So, in honor of the venerable park’s centennial and its next century to come, plan a visit to explore. Interactive maps of  Allegany State Park can be found here and here.

Above, wildlife managers fire a net from a cannon to trap wild turkeys as part of restoration efforts in New York and throughout the Northeast. A plaque now marks the location of the first efforts.

Cover Shot – A colorized historic postcard of Thunder Rocks in Allegany State Park. All photos by NYS Parks.

Post by Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer, NYS Parks

Early morning mist rises from Quaker Lake.

Stewardship Saturdays At State Parks Long Island

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation offers the opportunity for environmental volunteers to get to work!  Stewardship Saturdays are a great way to come together with a community of people that care about the environment and want to give back to nature.

For example, this spring at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park along the Connetquot River on the southern shore of Long Island, volunteers guided by Parks employees kicked off the season by trimming the historic Rhododendron bushes that line the paths.  Rhododendron bushes can grow as tall as small trees if they are not trimmed once a year, but thanks to volunteers, the trails were ready for summer. 

The original bushes were planted by the Bayard family during the turn of the 20th century.  Gilded Age financier and philanthropist William Bayard Cutting wanted people to “Think of us as a museum of trees, not a park.”  The family donated the 691-acre estate in Great River to New York ” to provide an oasis of beauty and quiet for the pleasure, rest and refreshment of those who delight in outdoor beauty; and to bring about a greater appreciation and understanding of the value and importance of informal planting.”

The arboretum has many miles of trails to explore the grounds. Find a trail map by clicking HERE.

Our volunteers have a range of reasons for wanting to help on Stewardship Saturdays.  They also come with different levels of knowledge about plant life, so people who are not experts can still contribute by learning from others.

Volunteers this spring take a break from cutting back Rhododendron bushes at Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park. Below, evidence of their efforts to reopen a pathway for visitors.

One such volunteer, named Laura, said, “We volunteer as a family because we care about conservation and we are always looking for opportunities to give back to the community. George (also a volunteer) invited us to Stewardship Saturdays and we are glad to be here.”

Another volunteer, James, who was there with his wife Jeanette, said, “I am retired so I have a lot of time and like to keep busy.  We are involved with Island Harvest, Long Island Cares and help with the flower garden at Planting Fields Arboretum in Nassau County.  I volunteer about three days per week.  I don’t know about the plants but I’m here to help with anything the park needs.”

Joe has a lot experience volunteering with New York State Parks with his family.  He found out about Stewardship Saturdays through the State Parks’ web site: “We went to a meeting and it sounded like a great opportunity to give back to the community and get out into nature for a change.  After the first time, we were hooked and we now show up for about 95 percent of Stewardship Saturdays.  My family has been to around six different state parks so far and it’s fun.  I have lived on Long Island for 45 years and had no idea that this beautiful park existed.  When I was in college I worked for Habitat for Humanity and my job was to build houses for people in need.  When there is an opportunity to get away from electronics, I jump on it.  It’s easy to pick up your phone, but here at Bayard, we are giving back and having some downtime which is nice.  I volunteer all year.”

According to research, Rhododendron, meaning “red tree,” refers to the red flowers and woody growth of some species, but Rhododendrons range from evergreen to deciduous and from low-growing ground covers to tall trees.  Flowers may be scented or not and are usually tubular to funnel-shaped and occur in a wide range of colors—white, yellow, pink, scarlet, purple, and blue.

The collection of “Taurus Red Rhododendron” plants were named in honor of former Bayard Cutting Board of Trustees member Doris Royce.

 One Stewardship Saturday volunteers, Jenna, has some knowledge about the history and how to care for these plants “The Rhododendron plants are from the 1800s brought by boat from England.  They started planting them when Frederick Law Olmsted designed the park.  These specific ones grow very tall so we have to cut them back when they start to get too big and before they push buds, which helps with next year’s growth.  You can cut them but they will grow right back and very fast.”

Two other volunteers contributed to the conversation.  Josh said, “I have no knowledge of plants.  I am here so that I can help to maintain the historic park which is important to people who live on Long Island”.  And another man named Joe who was volunteering said “I love nature.  I have my own garden at home.  When you volunteer, it is a way to meet like-minded people.”

Everyone in the Long Island community is welcome to volunteer during Stewardship Saturdays! For more information, visit website: https://parks.ny.gov/environment/nature-centers/6/details.aspx or contact us at 631-581-1072.

Come join the fun!

All photos by Melissa Hunter, NYS Parks

Post by Sage Saperstein, State Parks Long Island Region

Get Out and Explore … The Niagara Region of New York State Parks

Home of the awe-inspiring and world famous Niagara Falls, this region stretches from the shores of Lake Ontario to the shores of Lake Erie, encompassing sand dunes and waterfalls, old growth forests and reclaimed agricultural lands, grasslands and gorges, urban and rural greenspaces, rivers and wetlands.

Covering Niagara and Erie counties, this diverse region includes 18 parks, two historic sites, and many miles of hiking trails, as well as several Bird Conservation Areas, an Internationally Significant Important Bird Area, and a Ramsar designation for the Niagara River as a wetland of global significance.

To start, any successful hike starts with a good map. Maps for hiking trails and a variety of other useful information on State Parks, including those in the Niagara region and other regions, are now available on the NYS Parks Explorer app. The free app, which is available for use on Android and iOS devices, is easy to download, user friendly and allows patrons to have park information readily available every State Parks facility across the state.

Trail maps are also available on each individual park website page at parks.ny.gov and at the main office of each park. Links to maps are also included in the trail descriptions in this post. Be sure to download maps ahead of time to your phone or tablet, and maybe even carry a paper copy as a back up to aid your hike.

As with all hikes, there are a few things to remember beyond carrying a mobile phone. Check the weather forecast before you go, and dress appropriately. Wear sturdy, yet comfortable shoes or boots, bring enough water and snacks, and perhaps carry a camera to capture what you see. Be mindful of wildlife and give it appropriate space, particularly in areas marked as protected, such as for shorebird nesting.

Always be aware of your surroundings and mindful of hikes on steep terrain or those that go near cliff tops. Having a small first-aid kit available in case of an emergency is never a bad idea.

Hiking poles are also useful on longer hikes and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back.

Hikers should plan their route in advance, know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. If weather conditions change for the worse, be prepared to turn back. Don’t let a desire to reach a specific destination make you press on. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, even in summer when days are longer, tossing a flashlight or headlamp into your backpack is a good form of insurance, should you unexpectedly find yourself on the trail as dusk approaches.

State Park facilities are carry-in, carry-out, so don’t leave trash behind. Follow Leave No Trace principles to keep trails clean for everyone.

Additionally, as incidents of tick-borne diseases surge in the state, it is always important to check yourself for ticks after being outside, even if it is only time spent in your own backyard.

Lastly, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, remember to practice safe social distancing, particularly in parking lots and at trailheads, and use face coverings when a distance of six feet cannot be maintained, even if you have been vaccinated. To learn more about important COVID safety guidelines, click HERE.

Erie County


Buffalo Harbor State Park, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo, (716) 822-1207 – The only state park in the city of Buffalo, this park is located within Buffalo’s Outer Harbor area and covers about 190 acres on the shoreline of Lake Erie. It has a nautical themed playground for the kids and slips for up to 1,000 boats.

The Shoreline Trail along the waterfront is a multi-use trail for walkers, runners, cyclists, and people of all ages and abilities. Visitors can enjoy the brisk breeze coming off the lake on a hot summer day while watching kites and gulls soar high above, see the sailboats, kayaks, and motorboats gliding across the waves, and witness stunning sunsets.

This trail is particularly important for its connection to a larger trail system. The Shoreline Trail connects all the way through Niagara Falls to Fort Niagara State Park, and also links to the Empire State Trail, the  750-mile trail from Buffalo east to Albany and New York City, and north to the Champlain Valley and Adirondacks.

The Gateway to the trails at Buffalo Harbor allows access to a larger trail network, including the new Empire State Trail. The park’s trails are paved to provide universal access to those of differing abilities. (Photo courtesy of Niagara Region Interpretive Office)

Evangola State Park, 10191 Old Lake Shore Road, Irving, (716) 549-1802 – Located 24 miles west of Buffalo, this Lake Erie shoreline park has more than five miles of trails within its 733 acres of forest, marsh, meadows and vernal pools.

Starting behind the Evangola Nature Center, the half-mile Rim Trail traverses high bluffs with picturesque views of Lake Erie. During summer, trail hikers experience a leafy canopy overhead and a moss green carpet trailside, while enjoying cooling lake breezes and the the sound of waves crashing far below. Belted-Kingfishers, Bald Eagles and a variety of gulls can often be spotted soaring above the water here.

During the winter, the park’s plentiful lake-effect snow provides cross-country skiers and snowshoers with a chance to glimpse unique ice formations and spot artic ducks found here seasonally. The trail is a place to watch a sunset, catch a cool breeze or see the power of a storm rolling in across the lake.

A storm blows in from across the lake as seen from the Rim Trail, while below, in winter shoreline vegetation and ice for intricate formations. (Photos courtesy of Niagara Regional Interpretive Office)

Find a trail map here.

Knox Farm State Park, 437 Buffalo Road, East Aurora, (716) 652-0786 – Covering 633 acres, this park is the former country estate of Seymour H. Knox, a Buffalo businessman who co-founded the F. W. Woolworth stores. He purchased the property in 1890s to train standardbreds and carriage horses. Primarily grasslands that are home to a variety of grassland bird species, the site includes some woodlots and wetlands.

The park contains about seven miles of trails, including the Library Trail, which is reached directly from the parking lot. It leads into a field active in summer ith bobolinks, a grassland bird related to blackbirds and orioles. From there, the trails leads to a small woodlot with towering sugar maple trees and a small library in the woods.

Find a trail map here.

Niagara County


Golden Hill State Park, 9691 Lower Lake Road, Barker, (716) 795-3885 – This park contains Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse, built in 1875 to warn ships of a rocky shoal and shifting sandbar in Lake Ontario. There were several shipwrecks in the vicinity; the most famous being the HMS Ontario, a British warship that sank Halloween night in 1780. An active light until 1958, today the upstairs cottage is rented year-round and the foghorn building is now a visitors’ center with displays on the lighthouse and local maritime history.

There are three trails at Golden Hill, with the likely favorite being the scenic Red Trail which travels along the lakeshore and leads to Golden Hill Creek. Along the creek is an oak grove with trees up to 300 years old. Bald eagles are known to frequent this area, as well as great blue herons and wintering waterfowl. After crossing the creek on the footbridge, the trail branches off – east to the marina or west along the creek with stands of apple, beech and hop hornbeam trees.

The Red Trail travels along the lakeshore for continuing inland along Golden Hill Creek. (Photo Courtesy of Niagara Region Interpretive Office)

Find a trail map here.

Wilson Tuscarora State Park, 9691 Lower Lake Road, Barker, (716) 795-3885 – Established in 1965, the park on Lake Ontario encompasses 476 acres bordered by the east and west branches of Twelve Mile Creek. It has approximately seven miles of trails.

Nestled along the east branch of Twelve Mile Creek is the one-mile Interpretive Trail, which moves through several habitats, including wetlands, successional fields (a field transitioning to a forest), shrub lands, and ending in a mature beech-hemlock forest. This trail is best known for its spring wildflowers – notably white trillium, New York’s largest flowered trillium – that appear on the forest floor in May.

White trillium are found on the forest floor starting in May. (Photo courtesy of Niagara Region Interpretive Office)
The Interpretive Trail along Twelve Mile Creek, where pileated woodpeckers can be spotted. (Photo courtesy of Niagara Region Interpretive Office)

Find a trail map here.

Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park, 450 South 4th Street, Lewiston, (716) 754-7766 – Founded to promote the visual and performing arts, this park is on the lower Niagara River below the world famous falls. It contains two trails that are a part of the Niagara Gorge Trail System.

Trail 7, also called the Artpark Gorge Trail, takes a path through the Niagara Gorge, providing views of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, the New York Power Authority, and the vibrant blue green waters swirling in the lower Niagara River. Along this trail are seen fossils from the era of the Silurian Sea, before the time of the dinosaurs. After a climb around boulders and a waterfall view, a set of stairs leads down to the river’s edge to Trail 8, which is popular with fishermen who seek the river’s salmon or lake trout.

A view of the Lewiston-Queenstown Bridge from Trail 7 in Artpark. Below, a New York Power Authority hydropower plant is visible from the trail. (Photos courtesy of Niagara Regional Interpretive Office)

If the stairs are not taken, the trail traverses a shale slide and woods before emerging in a flourishing grassland ecosystem that connects to Trail 2 heading toward Devils Hole State Park.

Find a trail map here.

Get Out and Explore Other Regions in New York State Parks


The “Get Out and Explore …” series outlines staff-recommended hikes in State Parks across the regions of New York, including GeneseeFinger LakesLong Island, Central, Palisades, Taconic, Saratoga/Capital and Thousand Islands.

Cover Shot – Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park.

Seek and You Might Find: Geocaching In NYS Parks

I am not stealthy. This is not new information, but I didn’t realize how sloppy I was at sneaking around until I tried geocaching—a worldwide game of locating some of millions of little hidden stashes.

This outdoor activity relies on the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, where participants place caches of trinkets, also known as “hides,” in various places, and record locations with GPS coordinates to the website geocaching.com. Cache-seekers then use those coordinates with their own GPS devices to locate the caches, and can take some trinkets and leave some of their own for subsequent seekers to find.

And there are a lot of little hidden treasures out there. For example, the website above indicates there are more than 2,800 caches hidden around the Albany region.

On my first go at it, I found myself lifting low-lying tree limbs and creeping around bushes in search of tiny containers along a busy section of the Empire State Trail, the new 750-mile multi-use trail that connects New York City to the Canadian border, and Albany to Buffalo. While I was doing this, a woman in an SUV noticed me and I could tell I was acting a bit too suspicious for her taste. She stopped her car, watched me, and didn’t continue driving until I left that section of sidewalk.

After this inauspicious start, I was in awe of more experienced hobbyists, known as geocachers or cachers. After examining the map on the official geocaching app, it turned out there was a cache hidden close to my home. Strangers had been snooping around the area to try to find it and I hadn’t even noticed them! Luckily, the 2021 New York State Geocache Challenge is here this summer, so I will have plenty of time to hone my skills.

Volunteers and New York State Park workers have concealed more than 230 geocaches with items like stickers, toy cars, and figurines in 56 State Parks and Historic Sites in Central New York, the Saratoga-Capital Region, and the Hudson Valley. Adventurers who find at least 45 caches (at least 35 in a specific region, and up to 10 in either of the other two regions) will receive a geocache challenge geocoin representing the primary region.

The obverse of the geocoin for the Saratoga Capital Region.

The geocoins are trackables, each with a unique identifying number that can be activated online and then tracked as coins are located, reported and moved to new locations by subsequent geocachers.

So far, the geocoin that has traveled the furthest from a State Park is from the 2015  Saratoga-Capital District Region Geocache Challenge. Now settled outside Salt Lake City, Utah, the token (TB6Y60Y) has so far trekked 160,500 miles to such places as the Mediterranean island of Malta, Germany, the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in India, Japan, Israel, and nearly three hundred other places.

Some geocachers are nearly as well-traveled. Larry Eaton is the Saratoga-Capital region’s geocache volunteer coordinator and during his two decades, he has logged about 17,500 caches, with about 1,500 of those found in State Parks. Though this seems like a daunting number to some, Larry knows cachers who have found hundreds of thousands of caches.

Eaton and his companion, Sadie, out on the trail.

But most geocachers start with smaller beginnings. David Brooks is the education manager at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site and serves as the park’s liaison for this year’s Saratoga-Capital District Regional Geocache Challenge. As more geocaches came to his site, he became more interested in the hobby. He decided to try it with his son after being inspired by a volunteer at his historic site named Barbara, who used the hobby to spend more time with her son.

When putting out caches in the historic site, Brooks likes mixing the environment and history of Schoharie Crossing, which focuses on the history of the Erie Canal. One year, he and Barbara put created an innovative cache that involved a small boat on a pulley system.

Some geocachers take pride in creating such clever hiding places. Eaton said once a geocacher in the Capital Region built a replica of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz out of an old furnace and hid a cache inside of it. There are also different kinds of caches for folks to get creative with, including puzzle caches and different types of challenge caches that require specific skills and tasks to obtain.

A cleverly disguised cache made from an owl decoy.

All the State Parks geocaches that are part of the challenges are free to find and access, though there may be fees to enter the parks. To participate, you can download the pick up a passport in person from a park or historic site or find it on their website.

For passports, click on the name each region involved to download a PDF, which outlines which Parks contain the geocaches: Central, Saratoga-Capital and Taconic.

To find the caches, download the Geocaching app or follow the coordinates of the caches listed on the Geocaching.com website. When you find a cache, stamp your passport with the stamp inside each cache the turn it in to the state park indicated on the passport. Remember to leave the stamp behind for others that come after you. The challenge runs through November 11, 2021.

Stay on or near trails, take care not to trample vegetation, put everything back as you found it.

And please, don’t set up your own geocaches without checking with your Park manager first. State Park rules require that any geocaches in State Parks must be approved beforehand and follow rules to protect sensitive environmental or historic areas and public safety. Keep it safe, keep it fun! Happy seeking!



Cover shot – The reverse side of the 2021 New York State Parks Geocache Challenge. All photos by NYS Parks.

Post by Jessica Andreone, Environmental Educator, Central Region of New York State Parks.