Posts Tagged ‘glaciers’

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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Hiking: Eskers and Exercise, Glaciers and Growing Old

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Take A Hike - Finger Lakes

If you’ve never been to Chimney Bluffs State Park, you should plan to go there. It is a truly unique and gorgeous place that was created by the force of glaciers and fine tuned by wind and water.

Click here for gorgeous photos and detailed information about Chimney Bluffs.

It’s one of the many special places we lead you to with the guidebook “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.”

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Cornell Plantations is pleased to announce the successful protection of a ten-acre addition to the Caroline Pinnacles Natural Area in the Town of Caroline. The addition, which was acquired through a land trade and donation, increases Plantations’ protected lands within the Bald Hill and Caroline Pinnacles Natural Areas to 254 acres.

“Our interest in protecting the Caroline Pinnacles originates from the educational value it possesses and the significance of its unique natural features,” stated Todd Bittner, director of the Cornell Plantations Natural Areas program.  “For the past 150 years, naturalists, botanists and Cornell students have explored the steeply sloping hillsides to study the area’s unique environments.”

Caroline Pinnacles derives its name from one of the region’s most dramatic examples of a valley slope over-steepened by glaciers, which gouged at the valley-side as they moved back and forth through the White Church Valley over the millennia.

The west-southwest-facing aspect found there promotes harsh, dry growing conditions.  Near the pinnacle’s top, rock outcrops are present, and the stature of the oak forests is dwarfed by exposure.  The resulting open forests are dominated by chestnut oak (Quercus montana), red oak (Q. rubra), and black oak (Q. velutina).  Of particular significance is the presence of two plant species, hair grass (Deschampsia flexuosa) and lyrate rock-cress (Arabidopsis lyrata), which have their only known occurrence in the Cayuga Lake basin here.  At least 18 locally rare or scarce species of vascular plants and vertebrates, including mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), pitch pine (Pinus rigida), and coal skink (Eumeces anthracinus), are also found in this unusual dry, warm, rocky habitat.

For more information on Caroline Pinnacles, including maps and directions to the site, visit the Plantations website at cornellplantations.org. The mission of the Cornell Plantations Natural Areas Program is to preserve and maintain natural areas in the Central Finger Lakes region, in order to foster natural heritage conservation, research and educational efforts.

Cornell Plantations is the botanical gardens, arboretum, and natural areas of Cornell University, and is a member of Ithaca’s Discovery Trail partnership. Plantations is open to the public year-round, free of charge, during daylight hours. For more information call 607-255-2400, visit cornellplantations.org, or find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornellplantations.

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by Sue Freeman

Cemeteries, as a rule, aren’t the first place hikers and bikers think of as destination for outdoors fun. But, Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY should be an exception. The topography was sculpted by glaciers long ago, leaving kettle holes and eskers. It’s the rolling topography that drew urban planners to the site back in 1838 when a cholera epidemic hit Rochester. At the time, this site was a mile and a half from Rochester. Today it’s squarely inside the city and is home to many famous and infamous past citizens, and a forest of large, old trees.

The cemetery is criss-crossed with narrow, winding paved roads that see little car traffic, but make great biking or skiing trails. Walkers and snowshoers  can wander the grounds at will, exploring the glacial landscape to hunt for special grave markers. Two guidebooks will help. One is “Buried Treasures in Mount Hope Cemetery” which resurrects the stories of some 500 individuals buried here. The other is “Take Your Bike – Family Rides in the Rochester Area” which shows how to find the cemetery, where to park, and provides a map of the narrow roads. This cemetery is fun to explore any season of the year.

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By Christine Smyczynski, The Buffalo News, link to original article

One of the prettiest parks I’ve been to is Taughannock Falls State Park, located on the shores of Cayuga Lake seven miles north of Ithaca, about a three-hour drive from Buffalo. We stopped here for only a few hours, but one could easily spend the entire day here.

The park, as well as the whole Finger Lakes region, was formed more than 10,000 years ago, when glaciers receded, leaving deep, steep-sided troughs. Water filled these troughs, forming the 11 lakes in the Finger Lakes region.

taughannockTaughannock Creek, flowing into Cayuga Lake, formed the three-quarter-mile gorge found in the park. The park’s most spectacular feature is the 215-foot waterfall located deep in the gorge. Three stories taller than Niagara Falls, this waterfall plunges through a rock amphitheater which has walls over 400 feet tall.

The area was once inhabited by the Cayuga Indians, who were at war with the Delaware Indians. There are a couple of theories as to how the falls got its name. Some say it was named after the Delaware chief, Taughannock, whom the Cayuga’s killed and threw over the falls. Others say the name comes from the Delaware word “taghkanic,” which means “great fall in the woods.”

After European settlement, a village located here was a stop for steamboats, which traveled Cayuga Lake in the early 1800s. In 1873, when the railroad came though the area, it became a popular summer vacation destination, with two resort hotels in the area. In 1925 the area became a public park, with many of the park structures built in the 1930’s from the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Great hiking

While we could have driven the park road to the overlook to view the falls from above, which we actually did later in the day, we decided to hike the three-quarter- mile-long trail along the floor of the gorge. It’s a flat, easy to walk trail, with a slight incline in a few spots. It took us about 15 to 20 minutes to get to the falls walking at a leisurely pace. It is stroller accessible and dogs are permitted on a leash.

Along the trail there are reference boards with information about the geology, ecology and history of the area. We learned that 380 million years ago this area was once the bottom of an ancient sea and that the gorge floor is made of limestone that was once lime-mud made from the skeletons and shells of algae and marine organisms.

The walls of the gorge are made of shale, which was formed from clay and silt that settled on the lime-mud and hardened into rock. While you may see some fossils, you must leave them for others to enjoy, as fossil collecting is not permitted in the park. Some of the creatures that now inhabit the gorge include brown bats, rough-winged swallows and pigeons.

Once we reached the falls, we decided that the hike was well worth it. From the gorge floor the falls appeared to be coming right out of the gorge wall; it’s a very pretty view. If you don’t have the time or the ability to hike the gorge trail, you can view the falls from an overlook, located on the upper rim of the gorge right near the park road.

In addition to the gorge trail, there are several other hiking trails located within the park. You can hike a 1n-mile trail along the south gorge rim and a 1z-mile trail along the north rim. There is also a two-mile multiuse trail, which doubles as a cross-country skiing trail in the winter.

The part of the park along the water’s edge is also very pretty. I walked around snapping photos of the lake, while my youngest two children enjoyed the playground in that area. The park has seasonal boat slips as well as overnight transient slips. There is also a swimming area and a fishing pier.

If you enjoy camping, the park has 16 electric and 60 nonelectric campsites. Camping facilities are open late March to mid-October and can be reserved by calling (800) 456-2267 or at www.reserveamerica.com . For those noncampers, like me, there is a lovely country inn, Taughannock Farms Inn, right next to the park. It has 22 guest rooms along with a dining room overlooking the lake. The main building of the inn was built in 1873 as a private residence. Many of the original furnishings are still part of the inn’s decor. It would definitely be a great place to stay for a romantic getaway weekend.

If you go
Taughannock Falls State Park, 2221 Taughannock Road, Trumansburg; (607) 387-6739).
“200 Waterfalls in Central & Western NY – A Finders’ Guide”

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Click here for some great photos of Chimney Bluffs State Park.

If you plan to go visit this remarkable spot in person, grab a copy of “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region” so you have directions to it and a map of the trails.

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