Letchworth State Park Letchworth State Park - ImagesGram

Letchworth State Park


A happy confluence of geography and generosity has created Letchworth State Park, a long swath of parkland on the western edge of the Finger Lakes region of New York. The Genesee River has carved a magnificent gorge through this area, including a series of three large waterfalls, earning the park its nickname, The Grand Canyon of the East. It's one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in the entire Northeast.

Understand

A popular destination for day-trips and camping alike, the vistas of Letchworth State Park have entranced since human eyes first sighted them. Today, outdoor enthusiasts use bikes, skis, snowshoes, horses, or just their feet to traverse the trails, while sightseers gape at the three magnificent cascades of the Genesee and the abundant foliage. It's well worth a side trip for anyone visiting nearby, or even as the main destination for travelers from afar.

History

The Seneca Indians called the area Sehgahunda, meaning the "Vale of Three Falls," forming several villages within what are now the park boundaries. Many of the trails in the park today are based on original Seneca trails, which were used for river access.

In the middle of the 19th century, when the Erie Railroad needed to bridge the gorge, they built the world's tallest wooden bridge right above the Upper Falls. The view from above was so spectacular that trains would stop and let passengers off to take in the sight. On one such voyage was Buffalo industrialist William Pryor Letchworth; he so enjoyed the view that he bought over a thousand acres of gorge land and built himself a summer home. He called the estate Glen Iris after the rainbow that often formed in the mist of the Middle Falls. As his death approached, the elderly Letchworth decided to protect the gorge from hydro-power or other commercial development by deeding it to the State for use as a park in 1906.

Flora and fauna

Unlike the Grand Canyon of the West, Letchworth's gorge walls are covered in trees, making for spectacular sightseeing in the autumn, as the leaves change color. Birdwatchers love the rim of the gorge for spotting hawks, eagles, and vultures soaring overhead.

Climate

Like much of the northeastern U.S., the park lies in the humid continental climate zone, with four seasons. Normally summer highs are around 70-80°F (20-27°C), whereas the winter temperatures are generally around freezing or a bit below. There aren't radical differences between the monthly precipitation throughout the year. In the winter you can expect it in the form of snow, in the case of lake-effect snow, quite a lot of it.