When you get to the Park, Make sure you ask for a Trail Map. The best trails for beginners is trail number 1. It is the most scenic and takes you right around the gorge. Best to start at the upper falls, walk the wooded bridge and work your way down to the white water rafting! The best time of the year to go is in the fall. With the leaves changing, the bright colors and views are absolutely breathtaking!
Another nice little side trip is to Wolf Creek. This is a pleasant place with a creek and picnic grounds. From here, one can see the top of Wolf Creek Falls. A better view can be seen from one of the nearby overlooks.
Near the Visitors Center is a small museum. It's only about the size of a modest house, but has an impressive collection of historical memorabilia from the area. This is an excellent way to learn about this park, and the man who set this land aside for future generations.
Letchworth offers Hot Air Balloon rides!!! The ride is actually very intimate, taking only about 4-6 people at a time, Your up for about an hour, and they take you over all the beautiful acres of the park. They offer this only from about May- September. If your there, you should defintely check it out.
This sign post was my first introduction to the story of Mary Jemison. It told very little about her other than that the flats on which I was looking down had been her home for 50 years and she had been known as the white woman of the Genesee; a statue of her stood in "the Council Grounds near Glen Iris".
I thought no more about it but the following morning I woke early in our room in the Glen Iris Inn and went out for a walk in the lovely gardens and grounds surounding the hotel. After a while a path led to a clearing in the trees and I came to the statue, a large bronze, and striking figure of a young woman in the traditional dress of a Native Indian, carrying a baby on her back
The stillness of the place and the beauty of the figure captured my imagination. I walked on to find two log cabins - the Council House and the cabin built by Mary for one of her children.
Back at the hotel in the shop I bought a brief history of Mary. Born at sea to migrating Scots-Irish parents in 1743 Mary lived with them in Philadelphia until she was 14 years old.
Then, in a clash between French soldiers and Shawnee warriors, Mary was abducted by the Shawnees, all her family killed.
Mary was sold to the Senecas who adopted her and later she married one of the tribe. They fled together fearful that she, like other captives would be "returned " now the "Indian" wars were over. Carrying their baby on her back they trekked 700 miles but the young husband died as they reached his relatives who cared for her.
Mary remarried and had 6 more children but her troubles were not over . The American War of Independence brought more fighting; the Seneccas were one of the tribes that backed the British. Mary survived endless losses and privation, never losing the respect of the Senerca people. She died in September 1833 aged 90.
To learn more about the missing bits of Mary's story see -
This trail takes you past Letchworth's three waterfalls, around the Big Bend, and downstream from there. It's a long hike, but you don't have to follow all of it. Just pick out the parts you really want to see.
Being the ‘Grand Canyon of the East’, Letchworth has its own Inspiration Point, just like the real Grand Canyon. The view from here reminds me more of the view from Inspiration Point in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. You do have a superb view from here over the highlights of the Park - Middle and Upper Falls as well as the high rail trestle standing high above Portage Canyon.
Roughly a half mile further upstream from the Middle Falls, the 70 foot high horseshoe-shaped Upper Falls starts out the cascading fun along the Genesee River. Trails lead to nice vantage points of the falls and the towering rail bridge high above.
This is a side trip off of the main trail, which takes you all the way down into the depths of the gorge. Down here, one gets a different perspective. The climb in and out is fairly steep, but not too long. It's well worth it, if you have an hour to spare.
Proceeding south along Park Road from Letchworth Dam, Lower falls is the first of the three main falls found along the Genesee River. There is every evidence that the Lower Falls area is a big center of visitor activity before Labor Day in early September - large swimming pool, campgrounds, restaurant, gift shop. A trail leads to an overlook of the canyon with eroded hoodoos jutting out of the river just above the small falls - some 70 feet .
Standing high above the Genesee River just upstream of the Upper Falls is the Potage Bridge. The present trestle replaced an earlier wooden structure which when built in 1852 was the World’s tallest wooden structure. The current bridge is actively used by the Norfolk & Southern Railroad.
A view of the Genesee gorge. Genesee is an Indian name meaning "Great and Beautiful River". The river is mild-mannered an is almost one city block wide when it enters the park at its south end (info from www.gorp.away.com).
The park has good camping facilities and is an ideal place for outdoor, active holidays with numerous trails.
As we were there for only a short time we spent our first afternoon following the river to the Lower Falls.
The walk to the Council Grounds and Mary Jemison's Memorial is no distance, very close to the Glen Iris Inn.
The trail to the Upper Falls at river level takes you to the Partage Viaduct which is an amazing construction with a railway line crossing the canyon.
A very long, slow moving goods train crossed as we stood beneath the viaduct. We gave up counting the containers and it was not until several years later when we were in Flagstaff Az that we saw goods trains as long as the one that passed above us that day.
It was quite a sight with the slow,distant rumble of the mightt train barely heard against the sound of the water below.
The State Park extends for about ten miles north from the Portage Gorge - waterfall center for the Park. A trail extends above the east rim of the canyon - composing of a section of the 562 mile long Finger Lake Trail - while on the west rim, motorists roll along the Park Road. Here and there, trails take off from the road, but he main highlight of the northern part of the park is the overlook of Mt Morris Dam. The dam provides flood control for areas downstream along the Genesee River.
This is the main waterfall of the Park. Conveniently located directly opposite the Glen Iris Hotel, trails take you right to the rim of the falls letting you watch as waters leap out over the brink, some 107 feet above the next stop. There is a large parking lot from which you can set out to both the Middle and Upper Falls as well as table where you can settle in for a picnic.