State parks have a lot to offer in the great outdoors - The Buffalo News
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State parks have a lot to offer in the great outdoors

Who isn’t looking forward to enjoying nice weather after the long, frosty winter we’ve just endured? And there’s no better way than to participate in the many outdoors programs the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has to offer at a state park near you.

The state parks staff has designed a series of evening history walks this spring, with the next planned from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Friday at Buckhorn Island State Park on Grand Island, homing in on night creatures found in the Buckhorn swamp, from screech owls to nightjars and leopard frogs.

Earth Day will be celebrated from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the New York Power Authority’s Power Vista where children may make a craft. Call 286-6661 for more information.

Also on Saturday, Boom Days at the LaSalle Yacht Club will celebrate spring and the removal of the ice boom from 6 to 10 p.m., sponsored by LaSalle Pride, with participation from the state parks. For more information, call 425-4005.

“I Love My Park Day” activities will be held at several area parks on May 3. Participants will meet from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Golden Hill State Park and join the Friends of the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse, as they stage a cleanup of winter’s debris, plant flowers and stain a split-rail fence. There also will be a treasure hunt for younger volunteers. Call 795-3885 for more information.

Activities continue from 10 a.m. to noon that day at Whirlpool State Park, where volunteers will be asked to help clean up the parklands along the Niagara Gorge between Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole State Park, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Wilson Tuscarora State Park, where volunteers will clean up the beach and plant flowers.

Take a Woodland Wildflower Walk from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on May 9 at Wilson Tuscarora State Park, where a naturalist will lead a hike looking at old-growth trees, listening for birds and enjoying a Lake Ontario sunset.

A number of hikes are planned for the Niagara Gorge, with the first one set for the Artpark Gorge Trail from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 10, where a naturalist will discuss the various rock layers and geography as well as plants and animals found where Niagara Falls actually began more than 12,000 years ago.

“People love the gorge hikes,” said Carol Rogers, a naturalist with the state parks office. “People like to travel with someone who knows the trail and we always keep it safe. We always stay on the trails.”

An evening history hike is planned from 7 to 8:30 p.m. May 16 at Beaver Island State Park. It offers a chance to find out how the park was named, understand early archeological finds and learn about President Grover Cleveland’s life here on his uncle’s farm.

Dust off the bicycle for a Niagara River Bike Ride from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 17 starting at Devil’s Hole State Park and meandering to the Grand Island Bridges and back. This leisurely ride along the river will offer stops along the way to view what is missed by car.

Another gorge hike will be offered from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 24 at Devil’s Hole State Park, where hikers will explore the park’s rich history, geology, flora and fauna, as well as some breathtaking views.

And if you enjoyed that, you might like the gorge hike on the Whirlpool Rapids Trail planned for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 31. This is one of the program’s most scenic and challenging hikes, taking hikers past the whirlpool to see the rapids, with discussions of its many unique features and events that have taken place there.

“This is the most difficult of all of the trails and people need to call and register for this so that we can be in direct contact to give them any necessary information,” Rogers said.

Celebrate National Trails Day with a hike of the length of the gorge from Artpark to the American Falls from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 7. Participants will hike the gorge rim and trails from the mouth of the gorge in Lewiston to Niagara Falls. National Trails Day is an annual event celebrated across the country. For more information about it, visit:

“People absolutely must call us to register for this one, too, so that we can tell them where we’ll meet,” Rogers said. “This is for those ages 8 and up and everyone brings a lunch. The whole gorge trail is about seven miles. It’s not really that difficult, but it’s lengthy and we stop for breaks. People really enjoy it.”

A Fairy House Festival, sponsored by Artpark and Co., will be held from noon to 4 p.m. June 8 at Artpark. Visit fairy houses and participate in several fun activities, including bird track and fossil rubbings. Talk to park naturalists at their displays about local mammals and Niagara-area minerals and fossils. For more information and fees, call Artpark at 754-4375.

An evening history hike is planned for 7 to 8:30 p.m. June 13 at Fort Niagara State Park in Youngstown, with an overview of the river, Old Fort Niagara, the lighthouse, the former POW camp, and new Fort Niagara.

The Great Gorge Railway Loop Trail will be the site of a hike beginning at the Suspension Bridge Trailhead from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 14. This hike will follow the gentle incline of the Great Gorge Route with excellent views of the falls and rapids, returning on the rim trail.

One last Niagara Gorge Rim Trail hike is planned for the spring series for Niagara Falls State Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 21. The program will take hikers along the rim trail to Prospect Point, Luna Island and Terrapin Point, as well as Three Sisters Island.

Kayak adventures also are planned for Wilson Tuscarora State Park, from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. on June 21 and on June 28. State parks naturalist Tina Spencer, who is a certified kayak instructor, will lead an easy paddle along Twelve Mile Creek. Water safety, paddle techniques and wetland interpretation are among the topics to be discussed. Participants must have their own kayak and a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. The class is limited and fills quickly, so early registration is recommended.

For more information and to register for any of these events, (unless otherwise noted), call 285-0516.

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