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Posts Tagged ‘Sterling Nature Center’

People in Oswego interested in exploring nature may feel like the closest options are in the Adirondacks hours away, but Oswego actually has a few places of its own that give students a taste of nature.

It may be surprising to some Oswego State students that there are impressive hiking trails close to campus.  On the site of Rice Creek Field Station, less than a mile and a half there are trails that might at first appear untouched for years. However, that is also what gives Rice Creek its appeal. There are a few indications that civilization has touched the area, like the occasional telephone pole and some foot bridges to cross streams.

For students looking to explore trails that make them feel like the only living things around are animals, Rice Creek is perfect. With the scenery flying by, and the feeling of pure nature, these trails are great for an outdoor run.

Unfortunately, not many students actually know about the existence of Rice Creek, or its trails. Nature paths as beautiful and pure as Rice Creek are resources that provide a lot for students, and since it’s so close to campus, and now accessible via the Green Laker Shuttle, maybe the trails will be used and appreciated to the fullest.

For students willing to take a short trip, Sterling Nature Center, about 10 miles away, has even more to explore.  Sitting on 1,200 acres, the park features over 10 trails equaling 1.9 miles along the untouched shores of Lake Ontario. The park also offers major attractions during the year, ranging from canoeing and watching the sun set in summer, to snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter.  Whether you are going to take a run, take photos, or just escape from everyday life, a trip to either of these sites is definitely worth the time.

Interactive map of Oswego hiking options

source: The Oswegonian

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by David Figura | Syracuse.com, link to original post

Central New York is an outdoors wonderland. The diversity of eye-opening and mind-clearing settings a little more than an hour’s ride from Syracuse is incredible.

There’s picturesque waterfalls; lush, green hiking trails; multi-facted nature centers; the breath-taking scenery around the Finger Lakes; Adirondack-like woods; nationally recognized birding areas – ocean shore-like settings on Lake Ontario.

There’s 15 weekends, beginning with this weekend and extending through Labor Day. With that in mind, here are 15, great Central New York outdoors destinations that will reveal how generous Mother Nature has been to us.

Take the Figura Challenge. Visit them all this summer.

Take your family, your significant other or just check out the spots yourself. Pack a lunch or dinner. Make a morning, an afternoon or a day of it. Take pictures.

Send your experiences and photos to me at dfigura@syracuse.com. Briefly note what you liked, what you didn’t like and recommendations for others who are planning to visit there. I’ll compile your impressions each week on my outdoors page on Syracuse.com.

Have I left out any of your favorites? Drop me a line. The guidebooks from Footprint Press can provide maps & all the details you’ll need to explore these and other places. Meanwhile, here’s my list:

Birding in Central & Western NY

Birding in Central & Western NY

1). Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge: A mecca for bird lovers. Enough said. The refuge headquarters and visitor’s center is off Route 20, west of Auburn. For more, see fws.gov/refuge/montezuma or call 568-5987.

2). Fair Haven State Park: Features high bluffs above sandy beaches and hilly woodlands. Inland, there is Sterling Pond. Fishing is excellent and very accessible. Rowboats, paddleboats and canoes are for rent. The park is located off Route 104A in Fair Haven. For more, see nysparks.com/12 or call 947-5205.

3). Sterling Nature Center: This 1,400-acre nature center located in the northeastern corner of Cayuga County in the town of Sterling on Jensvold Road boasts more than 10 miles of hiking trails and two miles of lake shore. The center is open dawn to dusk. One particular highlight is its huge great blue heron rookery (nesting area). For more, see cayugacounty.us/web/Departments/Parks/Sterling or call 947-6143.

200 Waterfalls in Central & Western NY

200 Waterfalls in Central & Western NY

4).Taughannock Falls: The hiking trails at this state park offer spectacular views and unique geological formations, including the 215-foot falls, which is 33 feet taller than Niagara and is the highest vertical single-drop waterfall in the Northeast. It’s located on the western side of Cayuga Lake off Route 89.For more, see nysparks.com/parks/62 or call 607-387-6739.

5). Fillmore Glen State Park: This park is an oasis of cool, dense woods crowding into a long, narrow gorge. Its hiking trails offer great views and unique geological formations, including five waterfalls and a botanically rich glen. Located off Route 38 in Moravia. For more, see nysparks.com/parks/157 or call 497-0130.

Take Your Bike - Finger Lakes

Take Your Bike – Finger Lakes

6). Bear Swamp: A picturesque state reforestation area in Sempronius, in southeastern Cayuga County off Route 41A, with several vantage points overlooking Skaneateles Lake. It contains about 15 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Enter by the Colonial Lodge restaurant/tavern in Sempronius. (It’s also a good place for a meal or drink afterward).

7). Baltimore Woods Nature Center: This outdoors gem, located off Bishop Road in Marcellus, features more than six miles of hiking trails, numerous outdoors-related programs and an interpretative center. A great place to check out woodland wildlflowers along hiking trails and also at the center’s Faust Garden. A heads up: no dogs allowed. For more, see baltimorewoods.org or call 673-1350.

Take A Hike - Finger Lakes

Take A Hike – Finger Lakes

8). Beaver Lake Nature Center: The popular, county-run facility offers nine miles of hiking trails and more than 400 annual nature/outdoors-related programs. It offers a rich mix of habitats, that create the possibility of seeing more than 200 species of birds and more than 800 varieties of plants. It also features a small lake, which visitors can enjoy with rented kayaks and canoes. For more, see onondagacountyparks.com/beaver-lake-nature center or call 638-2519.

9). Labrador Hollow Unique Area: Nestled in a valley on the Onondaga/Cortland county line on Route 91 east of Tully, this area offers an Adirondack-like, forestry feel and picturesque Tinker Falls in one part — and an expansive, bio-diverse wetland and pond made accessible by a raised boardwalk in another. The area’s 1,474 acres is a favorite spot for hikers, birders, nature lovers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts.

10) Highland Forest: This county run park, which is tagged the “Adirondacks of Central New York,” is located in southeastern Onondaga Couny in Fabius. It features more than 20 miles of year-old trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. It also overs group camping sites for youth and a huge lodge with an eye-opening view of a valley below. A self-guided nature trail is the perfect introductory hike. For more, see onondagacountyparks.com/highland-forest or call 683-5550..

11). Pratt’s Falls: Scenic trails leading to a 137-foot waterfall beacon visitors to bring a well-stocked picnic basket and a sense of adventure at this county park, located on Pratt’s Falls Road in Manlius. In addition to hiking, Pratt’s Falls offers an archery range. This park has been used for national, state and local orienteering events that allow participants to navigate through a marked course using only a map and compass. For more, see onondagacountyparks.com/pratt-s-falls-park or call 435-5252.

12). Chittenango Falls State Park: An eye-opening, 167-foot waterfall is the main attraction. Glacial sculpting of 400-million-year-old bedrock is responsible for this scenic feature. An interesting variety of both plants and wildlife may be found along the trails. Located off Rathbun Road in Cazenovia. For more, see nysparks.com/parks/130 or call 655-5205.

13). Green Lakes State Park: The highlights of this popular park in Fayetteville include two glacial lakes surrounded by upland forest. The lakes offer opportunities for swimming, fishing and boat rentals. Hikers, joggers and mountain bikers can take advantage of more than 10 miles of trails. Camping facilities are available. And yes, there’s also an 18-hole golf course. For more, see nysparks.com/parks/172 or call 637-6111.

14). Clark Reservation State Park: This park is a geologic wonder of the last ice age and a botanist’s paradise. The park’s natural features include rugged cliffs and rocky outcrops, woodland meadow, a wetland and glacial plunge basin lake in which surface waters and bottom waters do not mix. Features include five hiking trails. Fishermen and birders are frequently visitors here. For more see, nysparks.com/126 or call 492-1590.

15). Selkirk Shores State Park: This state park’s campsites overlook a bluff on Lake Ontario. In addition to Great Lakes swimming, visitors can expect outstanding fishing and sunsets, plus hiking and biking trails. Birders take note: It’s on the direct migration route for a wide variety of bird species. It’s located off Route 3 in Pulaski. For more, see nysparks.com/84 or call 298-5737.

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by Susan Peterson Gately

Along Upstate New York’s Seaway Trail between Rochester and Oswego there exists an unusual landform found in only a few locations in North America. Known by geologists as a drumlin field, hundreds of elongate north south oriented hills shape the countryside. Near Fair Haven a number of these drumlins come to an abrupt end by the lake in a series of highly eroded steep bluffs. The best known of these cliffs of clay is Chimney Bluffs east of Sodus Bay, now a State Park. Its outstanding feature is a series of knife-edged ridges, spires and chimneys whose improbable shape attests to the durability of mere sun-dried clay. (A trail map and details are available in “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region”) However, several other bluffs with public access and hiking trails also show lesser, but still spectacular sculpting. Sitts and Scotts Bluffs east of Fair Haven and Port Bays respectively, present scenery nearly as interesting as the more often visited Chimney Bluffs. Another interesting badlands site is the located along the shore of the Sterling Nature Center just east of Fair Haven.

A visit to one of these sites will probably turn up something of interest at anytime of year though spring and fall are ideal times for hiking. Bugs are few, temperatures ideal for mild exertions, and you are likely to have miles of empty beach to yourself at any of these sites. These cliffs of clay are one of the most dynamic and changeable landforms in central New York. Signs of the clash between lake and clay are obvious and sometimes dramatic. Yet the bluffs are also surprisingly tough and tenacious. Their resistance to erosion results in vertical slopes and strange shapes.

As you walk along the foot of these clay cliffs, they loom above, austere and seemingly lifeless. Erosion proceeds rapidly, with up to three feet a year of land being carried away by water and wind. Outwashes of silt and clay form like miniature deltas at the foot of each gully carved by runoff. Sometimes a cliff is laced with dozens of shallow channels or rills, running down its face. Other times, several tons of clay has simply slumped off the main face in a big chunk, or you may see peculiar “caves” 4 or 5 feet deep formed by undercutting at the bluff’s foot. Dead trees slide inexorably down the face to become driftwood on the beach below, and in early spring you may note a darker horizontal streak running along the cliff face showing the presence of ground water. Often you’ll encounter a sizable rock, freshly dislodged from the clay that has then tumbled down onto the beach. Unlike the smooth water rounded beach stones, a rock that has recently washed out of the bluff still shows angles and corners. Sometimes you can even see scratches on its surface left by the passage of grit laden glacial ice over it 6,000 years ago. Though they look different with their water-rounded finish; the beach stones are identical to those from the bluff since the cliffs are the source of the beach. As you search for that ideal flat skipping stone, each rock tells its own story.

The beach tells a story too, one of storms and pounding waves cutting, shifting, sorting, and ceaselessly transporting sand, clay and rock. Waves carve away at the beach when they fall as breakers upon it. They also move the stones, flinging them forward and upward, then in subsequent storms with different water levels, moving them back out into the lake again. After a season of storms the beach shows a series of ridged berms, each one representing a past storm. The berms contain cobbles or small pebbles thrown up by the waves. The winter berm, formed by the season’s biggest waves, is often the steepest and made up of the largest stones. The sorting of stones by size is very pronounced, and you may sometimes see several parallel berms of similar sized cobbles running along the beach. (These cobbles were used pre-Civil War as a building material. For details, see “Cobblestone Quest – Road Tours of New York’s Historic Buildings.”)

The contrast in geological time scales seen along the lake shore is also striking. The clay cliffs are the insides of drumlins, piles of glacial till dating back a few thousand years to the last ice age. Inside the drumlin are rocks representing tens or hundreds of millions of years of earth history? And the beach underfoot and the gullies, rills, slumps, and slides of the bluff represent hours, days or weeks worth of erosion and form one of the most ephemeral of all local landscapes.

There are a half dozen places between Oswego and Sodus Bay off the Seaway Trail with access and hiking on and by the beach. Lofty Scotts Bluff north of Wolcott at the end of a gravel drive that runs off Broadway Road features an impressive column of clay projecting twenty feet or more from its surrounding face. You’ll also get a superb vista of the lake’s shoreline curving away to the west on a clear day. A set of steps leads down to a long stretch of state owned beach backed by the Red Creek marsh area, offering excellent beach combing and bird watching opportunities. Chimney Bluffs, a State Park just east of Sodus Bay off Lake Bluff Road is certainly the best known cliff along this stretch of shoreline. And with reason. Its spectacular spires and ridges reach 150 foot above the lake. It, too, offers a number of hiking trails to explore beach and bluff.

A smaller state-owned bluff lies at the end of Dutch Street running north off Lummisville Road just west of Wolcott. Here several hiking trails meander through the woods or follow Beaver Creek just east of the bluff though hemlock groves. Though not as lofty as Scotts or Chimney Bluffs, this bluff still offers an attractive overlook of the lake.

Fair Haven State Park offers a view of privately owned Sitts Bluff just east of it, while a few miles further east, less spectacular, but more accessible McIntyre Bluff lies within the bounds of the Sterling Nature Center. The Nature Center is well worth a day’s visit as its volunteers have laid out over 15 miles worth of trails (find a map in “Snow Trails – Cross-country Ski in Central & Western New York” and in “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region”) through the varied terrain of 1,400 acres. The Nature Center also boasts nearly two miles of Lake Ontario beach to explore and hosts a series of programs throughout the summer and fall at its lakeside year-round headquarters facility. It is a comparatively new tourist attraction, having opened just a few seasons ago, but the volunteers and staff have done a splendid job trail building. Recently the Nature Center also built a launch site on Sterling Creek for canoes and car toppers. You can put in here and then float down the east branch to Lake Ontario (find a map in “Take a Paddle – Finger Lakes Quiet Water for Canoes and Kayaks”).

The Fair Haven area boasts a half dozen private camp grounds as well as RV camping at the state park. Grants Vacation Park in Fair Haven absorbs some overflow from the nearby park and Holiday Harbor on Blind Sodus Bay offers waterfront views and access. Another waterfront RV park option is Shon’s Boat Basin 1-(800) 524-9878, also offering waterfront cottages. This is also the home port of Silver Waters Sailing. We offer day trips on the lake that provide views of the shoreline cliffs east of Fair Haven aboard our 32-foot sloop. Call (315) 594-1906 for Silverwaters Sailing.

Editors note: Susan Peterson Gately is the author of “The Edge Walker’s Guide To Lake Ontario Beach Combing” and several other books as well as a newsletter called the Lake Ontario Log. Find out more about both at her web site www.silverwaters.com.

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From now into early June, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway, with 518 miles of open water, feeder streams, backbays, and diverse shoreline habitat, becomes a fabulous flyway for spring bird migration.

(Photo: Watch the Great Lakes Seaway Trail waters and shoreline for the Wood Duck – one of only a few North American ducks that nest in trees.  Photo by Dave Beadling)

Ornithologist Gerald Smith says, “Spring migration in the Great Lakes Seaway Trail region is exciting because of the intensity with which the birds head north to their nesting grounds.”

Smith should know. A professional birdwatcher, Smith has spent a lifetime studying the birds and their migration, nesting and breeding habits along the shoreline route that encompasses the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania.

“There is always something in the air over the Great Lakes Seaway Trail whether it be warblers in the spring or raptors in the depths of winter to warm the cockles of a birder’s heart,” Smith says.

This spring Smith suggests one “look up for diurnal migrants and check even unlikely sites for extraordinary rarities that have appeared in unexpected places on the byway.”

The best time to view the greatest number of birds and different species is dawn to mid-morning.

Smith is author of the new, fully-illustrated Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail field guide published by Seaway Trail, Inc., the nonprofit organization, based in Sackets Harbor, NY, that promotes travel and tourism along the route that is one of America’s Byways.

Here are some tips from the guidebook for spring birdwatching on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway-flyway:

·      Duck Run Ravine at the 540-acre Erie Bluffs State Park is one of the few places the Cerulean Warbler may still nest along the Seaway Trail Pennsylvania shoreline – look closely in late May through early June, but quietly so not to disturb the nesters. The park is 12 miles west of Erie, PA, near Lake City.

·      Tifft Nature Preserve in the Buffalo metropolitan area is one of the largest remaining marshes in Erie County, NY. The area is popular with land bird migrants and wetland breeding birds and is a fine example of the benefits of reclaiming former landfill areas.

·      The far western end of Lake Ontario has several New York State Parks (Four Mile Creek, Wilson-Tuscarora, Golden Hill, and Lakeside Beach) that fill with melodic warblers by the end of April. The colorful Neotropical long-distance fliers are seen here in May.

·      From mid-April to early June, sites near Lake Ontario can be abundant with migrant songbirds. Many species of warblers, vireos, thrushes and flycatchers feed here in preparation for a nocturnal crossing of Lake Ontario. Keep a sharp out in such areas as Sodus Bay and the Lake Shore Wildlife Management Area.

·      A perennially favorite Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway birdwatching spot along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario is Derby Hill, east of Oswego, NY. Smith calls Derby Hill “one of the finest areas for observing spring migration in all of North America.” He says Derby Hill can match such Great Lakes birding hot spots as Point Pelee and Whitefish Point and, on spring days when the wind is out of the south-southeast, gives Cape May, New Jersey and Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania a run for the birding tourism dollars.

·      May and June are marvelous months for birding from Henderson Bay to Chaumont Bay along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. Watch for rare and declining grassland breeding species such as Henslow’s Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper. Farther east, along the St. Lawrence River, the grasslands at Hammond and Lisbon provide habitat for Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlark, Savannah Sparrow, Horned Lark and Sedge Wren.

As you travel the byway-flyway also watch for a series of 18 birding-theme Great Lakes Seaway Trail “outdoor storyteller” interpretive signs that offer fascinating facts about the birds and the byway habitat that attracts them. Find the locations of the signs online at http://www.seawaytrail.com/interpretivepanels.html.

A Great Lakes Seaway Trail birding itinerary and fact sheet are posted online at http://www.seawaytrail.com/birding.html. The Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail field guide and an audio tour CD are available for sale at www.seawaytrailstore.com or call 315-646-1000. #

Great Lakes Seaway Trail birding attractions include:
·      Presque Isle State Park
·      Asbury Woods Nature Center
·      Ripley Hawk Watch
·      Jamestown Audubon Society
·      Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History
·      Dunkirk Harbor
·      Artpark at Lewiston
·      Braddock Bay Bird Observatory
·      Owl Woods and Raptor Banding Station
·      Chimney Bluffs State Park
·      Sterling Nature Center
·      Oswego Harbor
·      Mexico Point Town Park
·      Black Pond Wildlife Management Area
·      Cape Vincent Grasslands
·      Wellesley Island
·      Indian River Lakes
·      Chippewa Bay
·      Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area

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