The Middle and Upper falls at Letchworth State Park

The Middle and Upper falls at Letchworth State Park, New York. (Paige Impink photo)

On a recent trip to central New York, the foliage was doing its best to show off its potential despite a very wet summer. The chasm at Letchworth State Park was a perfect place for some good walking, na­ture observing, and en­joyment of the season.

Slightly warm weather was a contrast to the fall colors but welcomed none­theless. The gorge at Letch­worth, carved into the shale by millions of years of work by the Ge­nesee River, has created a stunning canyon two miles wide, three magnificent waterfalls, and a series of pools and runs that make it a recreation destination as much as a scenic one right near Mount Morris, New York.

Part of a larger state park and recreation area, Letchworth supports cam­pers and cabins, and hosts day trippers and weekender alike. For a modest $10 entrance fee, the park and gorge are yours to ex­plore.

Built out by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the 14,350 acre park was a gift by New York businessman William Letchworth in 1910. In 1933, during the depression, Franklin Roosevelt commissioned the corps to build out infrastructure projects in the United States and camps were established at Letchworth, housing hundreds of corps members who worked to create trails, stone walls, road systems and picnic areas.

While much of the work has been updated for plumbing and electricity, the accessibility of the park would not be so great were it not for this work over 80 years ago. Monu­ments to corps are dotted through the park.

The Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls are spectacular as they roar through the 17 mile shale and sandstone gorge, though over 30 falls of all sizes are scattered throughout the park. 66 miles of hiking trails are available to use, including the rim trail which provides for up close views of the river.

Some of the trails have steps that descend down from the rim to the river, but they are steep and the incline back to the top may be a strain for some.

The Mount Morris dam was built starting in 1944 to hold back the waters of the Genesee, which flooded downstream Rochester year after year and is a sight in itself. The dam, which is the largest concrete dam east of the Mississippi River, does not generate power.

When we visited, the wa­ter was quite low, offering a view into the basin be­low the gorge that was fascinating. Bird watchers abound, hoping to catch a glimpse of a bald eagle or one of the 25 species of warblers that call this area home. A nature center, museum, and Seneca tribe council grounds are all part of the extensive interpretive history that is available throughout the park.

If you have the chance to visit sometime, bring your binoculars, hiking boots and curiosity as Letch­worth is a gem of a spot and worth every minute of exploration.

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