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First day hikes afoot in state parks

New York State Parks will once again kick off the New Year with “first day hikes” planned throughout the region on Friday, New Year’s Day.

State parks naturalists will lead hikes from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at DeVeaux Woods State Park in Niagara Falls and from 1 to 3 p.m. at Niagara Falls State Park. The Officer’s Club will be open from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at Fort Niagara State Park in Youngstown, and a first day history walk will be conducted there from 2 to 3 p.m.

The DeVeaux Woods hike will feature a walk through the old-growth woods to the Niagara Gorge Rim Trail to see the Whirlpool and Rapids. And, naturalists will have plenty of material to discuss as they lead hikers through Niagara Falls State Park – the oldest state park in the country.

New Year’s Day also will offer a rare glimpse inside of the historic Officer’s Club at Fort Niagara, along with a stroll along the Niagara River, a stop at the War of 1812 cemetery, a look at the lighthouse and the site where prisoners of war were held during World War II.

Nature hikes continue from 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 16 at Bond Lake Park – a Niagara County park in Lewiston. The event, called “Animal Tracks Galore,” is co-sponsored by the Bond Lake Nature Center and state parks. Participants will learn about animal tracks in an indoor/outdoor setting, which will include making a track plaster cast and playing animal track bingo.

State parks naturalists also will be on hand from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 17 and March 13 at Reservoir State Park in Lewiston to explore “Niagara’s Nature.” Those sledding or ice skating are invited to stop into the warming pavilion to learn about the wildlife found in the Niagara Region. The program is weather dependent.

Snowshoes will be the mode of transportation from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 23 at DeVeaux Woods State Park. Snowshoes will be provided for those interested in taking a hike through the field and old-growth habitats, after a quick demonstration. If there is not enough snow to use snowshoes, the trail hike will still be held.

Niagara Ice Bridges will be the topic from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 30 at DeVeaux Woods State Park. This is the time of year ice forms in the Niagara River and creates this spectacular sight most winters.

Bring your binoculars for “Birding on the Niagara River” from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island. Parks naturalists will be on the lookout for migrating waterfowl and other wintering birds found along the river.

DeVeaux State Park will be the site of the Valentine’s Evening Candle Lantern Walk from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 14. Sip some hot chocolate, make a lantern and discover the night through folklore and star-gazing.

A Winter Scavenger Hunt is planned for 10 to 11:30 a.m. Feb. 16 at DeVeaux Woods State Park, during school break. Participants will finish the morning with a simple winter craft.

The history of the Underground Railroad will be the topic from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at DeVeaux Woods State Park. The program will feature a presentation and display of African and southern U.S. cultural items.

“Empty Nesters” is the name of the program presented from 10 a.m. to noon March 19 at Buckhorn Island State Park on Grand Island, when naturalists will lead participants on a search for bird nests. For information and to register for this hike, call (716) 549-1050.

The first day of spring will be celebrated with a walk from 1 to 3 p.m. March 20 at Artpark State Park in Lewiston.

“Signs of Spring” follows from 10 a.m. to noon March 26 at Joseph Davis State Park, Lewiston.

Call (716) 282-5154 for information or to register for any of these programs, unless another number was noted.