Help mark the 129th anniversary of Niagara Falls State Park from 6:30 to 8:30 Tuesday, with a guided walk around historic Goat Island and some of the best viewing spots at the falls.
This walk celebrating the oldest state park in the United States is one of the many events the staff of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has in store for locals and tourists this summer.
Thursday, Tina Spencer, a state parks staffer and certified kayak instructor, will offer a beginner’s class on “Smart Paddling Orientation for Your Kayak” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island. Participants must have their own kayaks and Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices. The same class continues at the same time and place on July 24 and 31 and on Aug. 7, 14, 21 and 28. She will also offer the same class from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. on July 27 and Aug. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 at Wilson Tuscarora State Park. For information and required registration, call 285-0516.
“You don’t need to go to every class – Tina will go over a lot of the basics each time, and if people see something along the way, she will offer interpretation, as well,” said Michael Drahms, a state parks naturalist. “At Wilson Tuscarora, for example, people often see painted turtles and Great Blue Herons.”
Also on Thursday, naturalists will lead Wellness Walks at Reservoir State Park in Lewiston, from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. They continue Aug. 1, 15 and 29. Staffers will engage participants in a leisurely walk and lead up to a brisk walk while enjoying the outdoors. The walks are offered regardless of participants’ level of exercise.
“There’s been a real commitment on the part of our commissioner [Rose Harvey] to get people outdoors,” he said. “We’re trying to promote better health. Not everyone likes to hike in the gorge, so they can come out to Reservoir, which has nice little trails. It will start with a casual walk and we’ll try and work the pace up a bit.”
On Friday, another popular Niagara River Ride has been planned for 6 to 8 p.m. along the Niagara Gorge. Bicyclists will ride from Niagara Falls State Park up to Devil’s Hole State Park and back in time to enjoy evening festivities on Old Falls Street and the 10 p.m. fireworks. Registration is required by calling 285-0516. The ride will be repeated Aug. 1, 15 and 29 at the same time and place.
“It’s about a six-mile round trip, on the closed portion of the Robert Moses Parkway,” Drahms said.
Staffers plan a leisurely stroll around Goat Island from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. July 25 and Aug. 8 and 22. Enjoy hearing of the history of Niagara Falls State Park while taking in the breathtaking sights.
An evening stroll along the Niagara Gorge rim is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 30, while naturalists point out scenic vistas and discuss the history, wildlife and vegetation of the gorge.
“We stay on the rim at the top of the gorge for this one, which gives a different perspective of the gorge,” said Drahms. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Hikers are encouraged to bring their cameras to a special series of guided walks in four different parks in August. Called “Picture This,” the series is offered at 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 2 at Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park in Lewiston, where participants will learn about the formation of Niagara Falls and visit scenic vistas. It will continue from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at Devil’s Hole State park, where participants will be asked to imagine a waterfall, trolley route, an uprising and much more during the naturalists’ presentation of the park’s colorful past.
This series continues from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 16 at Whirlpool State Park, where naturalists will discuss the history of the gorge. And the series’ final installment is planned for 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 23 at Niagara Falls State Park, with a great opportunity to photograph plants, rock layers, bridges, rapids, the falls and more. Historic photos of the area will be presented, as well.
“This is kind of a play on words, because we encourage people to bring their cameras, but we’re also asking them to ‘picture this’ or use their imaginations to picture things in their minds, like that the falls 12,000 years ago was where Artpark is now,” Drahms said. “You don’t have to have a camera to take these hikes. We modeled them after a series we did in the spring and we found people returning for the next hike as we broke the whole gorge down into sections for each hike.”
The special Beach and Woods Candle Lantern Walk is scheduled for 8:30 to 10 p.m. on Sept. 12 at Golden Hill State Park in Barker. A stroll along the Lake Ontario beach and a hike on a trail through the woods will be featured, with a return by candle lantern light. Bring your own lantern or borrow one of the staffers’.
An Old Growth Woods Candle Lantern Walk will be featured from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Sept. 19 at Wilson Tuscarora State Park. Participants will be led through fields and woods to see old growth trees and return by candle lantern light.
In addition, Artpark State Park offers Free Family Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. through July 26. Call the Artpark box office for more information at 754-4375. Four Mile State Park Campground offers free summer programming on Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 31.
Interpretive centers are open until Sept. 1, unless otherwise noted, at the following parks: Beaver Island Nature Center, noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday; Fort Niagara Nature Center, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday; Historic Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park, for fees and hours of operation, call 795-3885; Niagara Gorge Trailhead Building at Niagara Falls State Park, open daily 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and the Niagara Gorge Natural History Room at Whirlpool State Park, open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.
Call 285-0516 for more information or to register for any of these programs.