Free fall programs begin Saturday at New York State parks throughout the Niagara region, and organizers have included outings that will appeal to all ages.
The outings include children’s programs about nature, bike rides, dog walks, a lighthouse tour, historical talks about shipwrecks and bridges that spanned the Niagara River, and a crafts festival.
Here’s what’s planned:
A new Where the Wild Things Grow Eco-Kids series will kick off from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at DeVeaux Woods State Park in Niagara Falls with the topic, “Why Do Leaves Change Color?” Parks interpreters will help provide the answer to this and related questions. The new series also offers children of all ages a chance to get active with a game or short hike, as well as a craft, influenced by a different topic each month.
The free series continues with “How Does the Moon Change its Shape?” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at DeVeaux Woods State Park. The children’s series concludes with “Where Do Birds Stay?” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at Reservoir State Park in Lewiston, with a chance to build a bluebird house for the holidays.
“We added this kid-centered series because a lot of our public programming is geared to adults and we wanted to give families a chance to come out and learn together,” said Angelina Weibel, a state parks interpreter.
“These programs are for the young and the young at heart,” she added.
The fall public programming also includes a bicycle ride along the Niagara Gorge from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday , beginning at Niagara Falls State Park and traveling to Devil’s Hole State Park and back. Registration is required.
State parks interpreters also will lead a “dog-friendly fall foliage walk” from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday , at Buckhorn Island State Park on Grand Island. Dogs must be on a leash and under control at all times while on the walk. If you miss this outing, it will be repeated from 10 a.m. to noon next Sunday at Whirlpool State Park in Niagara Falls and from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 15 at Artpark State Park in Lewiston.
The annual Christmas at the Lighthouse event also is planned for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Sunday at Golden Hill State Park in Barker. This popular event is sponsored by the Friends of the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse and will include lighthouse tours, a baked goods sale, basket auction, sale of souvenirs, and a state parks display and craft. Food also will be available for purchase, including a chicken barbecue. Admission to the park and lighthouse is free for the event, but a donation to the Friends Group would gladly be accepted, as the event is a fundraiser for the volunteers who help maintain the lighthouse. For information, call (716) 795-3885.
A new program called “Bridging the Gorge” is planned for 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at Artpark, one of a few new evening programs, according to Weibel. The focus will be the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, with a look at the remnants of the former bridge.
This is a two-part program highlighting the history and tales of the bridges spanning the Niagara Gorge. The next one will be offered from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at Niagara Falls State Park, with discussion of the Rainbow Bridge and a hike to the Whirlpool Bridge and back along the gorge rim.
The “Fall Into Fitness” program gets underway from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at Artpark, with a hike to the trails where Niagara Falls first formed.
A Night Prowl will be featured from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Oct. 16 at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island, with a special “after hours” walk lit by a nearly full moon.
A Fall Into Fitness Fall Foliage Hike is set for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 22 at Whirlpool State Park, with a walk planned to the Whirlpool flats to see the changing colors from a unique perspective.
The Fall Into Fitness Evil Spirit Hike will have more diabolical leanings from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 29 at Devil’s Hole State Park.
“We thought this might spark a little interest, with the traditional stories and myths and natural history of this region,” Weibel said.
A new “Nature Puppet Story Walk” is set for 4 to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Wilson Tuscarora State Park. The audience will learn about the lives of various animals and birds, with the use of puppets, but everyone will also keep an eye out for real field and forest friends on a discovery hike.
The Fall Into Fitness program heads back to Whirlpool State Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 5 for a program entitled, “High Above the Gorge at Low Water.” A hike along the gorge rim will offer a peek at the changing water levels of the Niagara River down below with a state naturalist.
Two more opportunities to view the Niagara Gorge after the water in the Niagara River has been reduced by 25 percent will be offered from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 and Nov. 19, both at Whirlpool State Park.
A “Shipwreck Stories of Lake Ontario” presentation will be offered from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at DeVeaux Woods State Park. Organizers hint that all of these stories have some basis in fact and a parks naturalist will give the presentation in costume to heighten the excitement.
A holiday crafts event is planned from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 3 at DeVeaux Woods State Park, with a variety of free, simple crafts on the agenda.
Call 282-5154 to register for any of these programs.