Category Archives: Family Fun

Babies Abound! Little Critters in State Parks

Spring is in the air and baby animals abound in our State Parks. Look and listen for some of these young critters in our parks. Remember, it is best to watch them from a distance so you do not scare the young animal or its parent. If you see a young animal that looks like it is abandoned, please leave it be. It is most likely fine on its own or has a parent close by and waiting for you to back away. It is fun to explore and watch, but don’t stay in one spot too long so that the animals can go back to their daily activities.

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A class gets a close-up look at a young box turtle at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve. The turtle was handled briefly and then released where it was found. If you find turtles crossing the road or trail, you can move them to safety by putting them on the side where they were headed.
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A pair of young raccoons peek out from behind a tree at Fort Niagara State Park.
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Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is one of the monarch caterpillars preferred plants. You can find milkweed in along unmown trail edges and in meadows in many State Parks
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A red fox vixen keeps a watchful eye over a pair of kits at Letchworth State Park.
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Warm weather brings the honey bees back into action. Here, a drone honey bee (at left) is hatching from the hive at the Taconic Outdoor Education Center.
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Canada geese and goslings at Jones Beach State Park. Adult geese can be pretty aggressive about protecting their babies, so watch quietly from a distance. The goslings can be a lot of fun to watch as they scurry about.
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Mother mallard and her many ducklings.
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A white-tailed deer fawn hiding in the brush at Letchworth State Park. The mother is close by, watching you and waiting for you to move on. You have to look hard and move quietly to get a chance to see these youngsters in the woods.
Red Eft at Thacher -Photo by Lilly Schelling
Red efts are the young stage of the aquatic eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens). You can hold this one gently, but keep it close to the ground as it will run right out of your hand. This one was seem at John Boyd Thacher State Park.
BarnSwallow Chicks-Photo by Lilly Schelling
Red efts are the young stage of the aquatic eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens). You can hold this one gently, but keep it close to the ground as it will run right out of your hand. This one was seem at John Boyd Thacher State Park.
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Black-capped chickadees nest in tree cavities or will use birdboxes as seen here.
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You might see Eastern cottontails in your back yard, local park or in the campground or picnic area in many of the state parks.
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Bald eaglet are really big baby birds. This one has been banded by wildlife biologists. The blue and silver leg bands help identify the bird when it is seen elsewhere over the course of its adult life.
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Young killdeer on the run at Allegany State Park. They have a really loud call and may be seen in open areas like lawns and parking lots! Killdeer are precocial birds, meaning they leave the nest shortly after they are hatched.
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Eastern phoebe nestlings getting a little too big for their nest. Time to try out those wings.
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Northern rough-winged swallow fledgling.
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Young snapping turtle covered in duck weed from its pond. Remember that bigger snapping turtles bite, so keep your distance.
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A very tiny wood frog, identifiable by the dark mask on its face. It’s ok to hold them gently for a bit, but let them go so they can grow up in their home in the woods.
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Woodchuck mom and her pups in Allegany State Park. The white one was known as “Marshmallow.”
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A young American woodcock hides in the underbrush, so well camouflaged and thus seldom seen.
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A young dusky salamander found in a wet log at Allegany State Park. It is great to explore and find young animals. Keeping hands off can keep them safe and allow you to observe their behavior in their natural habitat.

Take time this spring to enjoy our State Parks little critters!

Thank you to all staff who contributed to this post.

Staff Favorite Ski Trails

If there is six inches or more of snow on the ground, get those skis ready to hit the trail in a State Park.  Across New York, there are 105 state parks and state historic sites that have cross-country ski trails.  If you are looking to try a new cross-county ski trail, try one of State Parks staff member’s favorite trails.

Nicandri Nature Center staff member Tracy mentions that there are over five miles of trails wind through the woods and along the St. Lawrence River in Robert Moses State Park, Massena, NY. The center offers free ski and snowshoe loans for all ages as well as ski instruction. Post ski, skiers can head into the nature center to enjoy a hot beverage, check out interactive exhibits, and warm up in front of the fire.

State Parks volunteer Judy notes that all of the trails at the Higley Flow State Park  just west of the Adirondacks, have their own unique scenic character and are popular with different ability levels for different reasons. The Overlook Trail is the most heavily used trail at the Park because it is a comfortable length (1.3 miles), relatively flat with a few smaller hills, and passes through a pine and spruce forest.  Skiers are never further than ¾ miles from the Lodge if they want to cut their ski short.  It links with the Woods’ backcountry trail (1.9 miles) and the Warm Brook trail (1.6 miles) for those wishing to challenge themselves further.

Higley Flow
A skier enjoys new snow in Higley Flow State Park.

With over 20 miles of groomed ski trails located in the Art Roscoe Trail system at Allegany State Park in western New York, State Parks staffer Adele finds it hard to pick a favorite, but for a fun fast ski, recommends Christian Hollow.  This 1.5-mile loop starts .7 miles from the trail head. After a mild uphill to get the heart pumping, the trail mellows into a long level area where a skier can find that sweet smooth rhythm – ride and glide, ride and glide- click on this link to learn the ride and glide technique.

A short heart-pounding downhill leads to the well-marked entrance of Christian Hollow. This old logging road rolls past hemlocks, maples, beech and oak. Look for squirrel, mice and deer tracks  and other animal signs along the way.

Although it is marked as an intermediate trail, there is something for everyone. Easy descents lead to short steep uphills where the herringbone or duck-walking technique is key! This video can help you master going uphill on skis.

The reward for the hill climb is a gorgeous view of the Allegany plateau from highest picnic table in the park (2,242 feet). Back in the tracks, the loop continues with a long fast downhill and more rolling terrain with views along the ridge before winding back to Ridge Run. It’s an easy one mile ski back to the trail head. Taking only an hour which includes time for photos and a snack, this trail is exhilarating for both body and soul. Find out more about the trails www.alleganynordic.org.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve, located in the bucolic Hudson Valley, offers over 16 miles/26 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, groomed for both classic and skate skiing.  Skiers of all levels of ability will find a route they can enjoy, with breathtaking clifftop views and scenic carriage roads that meander through pristine forests featuring two sky lakes. You won’t find more picturesque and exciting skiing this close to New York City and Albany anywhere else. State Parks staff member Laura notes that the prices make skiing here affordable for the family, at $10 per adult, $9 per senior and $7 per child.

We have the perfect cure for the winter blues at Fahnestock Winter Park – 20 km of ski trails for beginner to expert extend out in every direction from our lodge.  Fahnestock is the perfect location for your first skiing experience. You can rent you all the gear you need and right out the door of the lodge is our most popular trail the Lake Trail.

Ice conditions permitting, we groom two kilometers of trails on our lake, a perfect place to learn to ski as it is flat and safe. Advanced skiers also love it because they can go fast on the groomed trail.

The trail will take you by a beaver lodge, over the dam built by the Civil Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, and past many small islands. Ice fishermen, skaters and snowshoers can also be found on the lake.

State Parks staff member Declan finds that gliding west towards the sun on a January day is spectacular way to experience the park in winter in a safe environment.

Skiing on the beach in the winter, and then returning to swim at the beach in the summer, is one of the best ways to experience all the seasons in Fahnestock!

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Family fun at Fahnestock Winter Park.

 

February Staycation Fun in New York State Parks

February vacation is a great time to get out and explore our state parks. Many parks are offering free programming to keep you and your family occupied this February break.  Here is a sampler of just some of the many programs State Parks is offering this year. Our programs include active outdoor fun, wildlife ID, and parties!

Got a hankering to try ice fishing?  Then head out to Glimmerglass State Park in central NY on February 21, Moreau Lake State Park, north of Saratoga Springs, on February 22, or John Boyd Thacher State Park, Thompson Lake just west of Albany, on February 24 for a free fishing clinic led by Department of Environmental Conservation staff. All the fishing gear will be provided during these workshops. Remember that proper clothing is critical for safe ice fishing outings.  Dress warmly, paying extra attention to your head, feet and hands – dressing in layers is essential.

Perhaps you are hoping to get to know our natives.  Many parks are offering wildlife and plant identification walks, ranging from seal walks at Jones Beach State Park on Long Island to an owl prowl at Max V. Shaul State Park in the northern Catskills, as well as a winter tree identification workshop at Knox Farm State Park in western New York.

If you are looking for a little adventure, check out the snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails at Parks across the state or join in on a guided hike. The Lake Erie ice volcanos are particularly exciting, and you can visit them at Evangola State Park in western New York.

Many state parks across the state will be offering programs for preschoolers during February vacation.

Tiny Tot Clay Pit Ponds
February is a great time to get the young explorers outdoors, photo by State Parks.

Maple sugaring starts in February! Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve on Staten Island Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve on Long Island, and Letchworth State Park south of Rochester will have maple programs this week. Visitors can learn how to identify and tap maple trees, and the sugaring process.

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Tapping a maple tree, photo by State Parks.

You can also celebrate George Washington’s 286th birthday at Washington’s Headquarters, Knox Headquarters, New Windsor Cantonment or John Jay Homestead State Historic Sites all located in the Hudson Valley.

Winter Sunset, Allegan State Park Toners
Perhaps you can catch the sunset in a State Park, photo by State Parks.

Skating in New York State Parks: Ice Ice Baby!

As the 2018 Winter Olympics kick off in PyeongChang, South Korea, figure skating, speed skating and hockey will be among the marquee events. Generations of young skaters will be inspired by the aerial feats, athletic prowess and teamwork showcased on the ice, while dreaming of standing on the medal podium proudly representing their country.

For amateur and recreational skaters who want to enjoy some quality ice time with family and friends a little closer to home, select New York State Parks offer a variety of locations and experiences throughout the winter months, including rinks and many frozen ponds. From Riverbank’s roof-top skyline in Manhattan to the oval at historic Bear Mountain to the quiet beauty among the pines in Saratoga, these scenic settings are the perfect backdrop to embrace the weather in the northeast and stay active in the outdoors.

Whether your specialty is a triple lutz, or you skew closer to a full-time klutz (or somewhere in between), ice skating is a fun way to exercise for people of all ages. The New England Baptist Hospital and M. Kathryn Steiner, M.D., the physician for the Skating Academy of Boston, recently noted the many fitness benefits of skating including strength, flexibility and balance.

For ice enthusiasts who prefer a net and some action, pond hockey is more popular than ever before.  Both Chenango Valley and Saratoga Spa State Parks host annual multi-day tournaments that draw visitors from across the U.S.  These, together with parks such as Schodack Island, Grafton Lake, and Glimmerglass, hold winter festivals and regular programs throughout January and February with some offering instruction to help grow new legions of skaters.

Along with inspiration for general winter recreation, the State Parks’ website (parks.ny.gov) offers a full list of State Parks with ice skating.  Many sites offer skate rentals, lessons, special events, warming huts and refreshments.  Call ahead for conditions and hours, and be sure to carve out some ice time for yourself this season!

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Letchworth State Park Snowmobile Trails

Snowmobile trails at Letchworth State Park offer more than 25 miles of trail passing through some of the most beautiful scenery in Wyoming and Livingston Counties.  The corridor trail (C3) extends through most of the length of this 17-mile-long park.  Entering the park in the North from the Genesee Valley Greenway, the corridor trail follows along the main park road.

Between the Perry and Castile entrances, the trail is the main park road.  This stretch of the corridor gives riders spectacular views of park gorge overlooks not seen by many patrons during the winter months.  On the corridor, south of the Castile entrance, riders can view the iconic Archery Field Overlook of the Genesee River Gorge.  Continuing south, the corridor trail passes by the Humphrey Nature Center and Trailside Lodge where it then traverses the mature oak-hemlock forests of the park.

Parking areas to offload snowmobiles are located at the Highbanks Recreation Area, the Highbanks Campground Parking Lot, and at the Trailside Lodge.  The South Highbanks Shelter and Trailside Lodge are available as winter warming shelters with comfort stations available nearby.

Riding at night requires a Genesee Region night time snowmobile riding permit.  For more information regarding snowmobiling, winter accommodations, trail conditions, and permits online or call the Letchworth State Park Visitor Center at (585) 493-3600.

State Parks reminds all snowmobilers that their machines must be registered and insured to enjoy the trails in Letchworth State Park and the over 10,000 miles of additional trails throughout the state. The bulk of the registration fees is directed to the many volunteer-run snowmobile clubs across the state for trail development and maintenance. For information on joining a snowmobile club, visit New York State Snowmobile Association.

To help ensure a safe and enjoyable season, OPRHP offers the following tips:

– Young riders are required to attend a snowmobile safety course, but all riders can benefit from safety education. State Parks maintains a list of snowmobiling safety classes, check for course availability and age requirements.

– Use caution while traveling across frozen waterways. Check local ice conditions (ice should be at least 5” thick,) carry or wear a flotation device and self-rescue picks, limit travel at night, and “if you don’t know, don’t go.”

– Use the buddy system, leave a travel plan, and emergency contact information with someone at home.

– Wear proper clothing and remember that helmet use is required whenever operating a snowmobile. Using of a rigid chest and back protector is also recommended.

 

Grafton Lakes State Park is another great place to go snowmobiling. Grafton Trail Blazers will be offering free snowmobile rides during WinterFest, January 27, 2018.

Post by Bennett Campbell and Doug Kelly, State Parks