My wife & spent two incredible days at Letchworth State Park,
Western New York from 9/29-30/08. My wife had been there once
when she was
a very young girl, and this was my first time there. We decided
to stay at
the Glen Iris Inn:
I highly recommend this very nice Bed & Breakfast for all
Ents who wish to
spend some serious time in this area. Expect to pay ~$100 a
night, a bit
pricey, but you'd pay close to that for a chain hotel anyway.
They have a
nice dining room downstairs and a large common room with old
the 3rd floor. Remember to take a look at the old pics of old
in the ravine located on the walls here. The oaks and tulips
must have been
incredible here before the logging operations of the 1800's.
While at the Inn, we purchased a small pamphlet/book entitled
State Park: A Self-Guided Driving Tour'. It includes commentary
overlooks, points of interest, and attractions for a nominal
benefits the Friends of Letchworth State Park. For someone
who's never been
there before and wants to streamline there time at the hotspots,
it is a
MUST purchase. I will be taking several excerpts from this
throughout the post. So, here's the first excerpt about the
Glen Iris Inn:
"The Glen Iris was the home for many years of Mr. William
the Buffalo businessman and philanthropist responsible for
Letchworth State Park. In the years before the Civil War. Mr.
became wealthy as a partner in the Malleable Iron Works, but was
his health with his workaholic habits. He was looking for a
to use as a summer home. He traveled to the Genesee Valley and
train across the High Bridge. From there, he could see the
Upper and Middle
Waterfalls and the tavern that was to become the Glen Iris. The
area by the
river was a booming industrial spot. The hills had all been
provide lumber to build the wooden railroad bridge and cabins
and shacks for
the workers. On the eastern bank, a canal was being
Genesee Valley Canal was intended to connect the Erie Canal, in
with the Alleghany River near Olean so canal boats could reach
the Gulf of
Mexico. There were mills on the river and side streams, and
hotels for the residents and travelers on canal and railroad. A
the area in those days is on display in the W.P.L. Museum.
Mr. Letchworth saw the beauty that was not hidden by the
bustle. He purchased land, and continued to buy until he had
including all three of the waterfalls on the Genesee. The Glen
remodeled and the 3rd story added. He had the shacks and mills
river removed, and planted trees and gardens. Other trees were
gifts from friends or to mark special occasions. Several of
Trees remain on the Glen Iris lawns and some are marked with
Mr. Letchworth, who never married, was generous with his
came from the cities to spend weekend days walking in the woods.
estate was threatened with the prospect of a dam being built at
that would have silenced the waterfalls and recreated an
industrial scene in
his sylvan paradise, Mr. Letchworth turned to the State. He
property to the people of New York to become a Park, with the
such a dam would never be allowed. When MR. Letchworth died, in
Letchworth State Park was created.
After Mr. Letchworth's death, his home was used as the first
office for the park, and was remodeled into an inn that park
The Glen Iris has been remodeled many times since its
building in the
1830's. Late in this series is the extensive work done in 1991
to hide as
much as possible the necessary modernization, to restore the Inn
to its turn
of the century appearance.
The name "Glen Iris" has a couple of possible sources. One,
and the most
likely, is that Mr. Letchworth, well versed in mythology,
combined the name
of the Greek Goddess of the Rainbow, Iris, with the Welch term
for a secret
and mysterious valley, glen, into an appropriate name. Another
is that he was courting and trying to impress a lady named Iris
this is the case, his effort was unsuccessful........"
The Inn is located right at the apex of the Middle Falls.
The view is
spectacular. The Middle Falls very much reminded me of a "mini"
Falls. I must stress that there is just so much to see here,
the park is
over 14,000 acres, that there's no way you can see it all in a
alone two, but my wife & I gave it a pretty good try.
I've been wanting to hit Letchworth State Park for years,
ever since Bruce
Kershner gave me the bug to visit ALL of Western New York's
and old growth forests. I haven't hit them all yet, but this
will give future Ents a good place to start to further document
tree sites within this gorge system.
In short, it's like a large scale Zoar Valley. Absolutely
only accessible for the newcomer by a well established trail
Matthew Hannum and Doug Bidlack briefly spoke of their past
trips here, but
neither had yet collected any hard tree height data:
Their comments sparked interest, and so my wife & I decided
to go there for
our yearly vacation instead of the general Lake Placid area in
Just the geology of this river gorge system is worth the trip
"The canyon of the park came into being long before Mr.
discovered it, though in a geological sense, it's quite young.
years ago, the last of the great Pleistocene glaciers melted
from the land
leaving the ancient valley of the Genesee River blocked with
debirs. A lake formed, and when the water rose high enough, the
escaped, to find a new course around the end of the blockade.
As the river
flowed north again, it carved the hills and canyons we now
process of the river being dammed by glacial debris and then
repeated itself several times, thereby cutting three separate
now distinguish Letchworth State Park.
Around 350,000,000 years ago, in the Devonian era, there were
mountains far to the east. These mountains are known as the
today. Fine sand and clay mud washed westward from the
mountains into a
tropical ocean. The ocean filled with sediments and the rock
visible as the cliffs of the canyon were compressed from those
Because these outwashed materials were fine sands and clays,
the rocks that
make up the gorge are soft, and erode easily. Even with soft
rocks, it can
be hard to imagine the river below carving such a space, but
erosion is more
event-based than a steady process. The great changes occur in
cloudbursts. When you see the Genesee River in spring flood,
you gain a
different image of its power than from watching it gently ripple
the summer. Visit the William Pyror Letchworth Museum and ask
to see the
video of the Flood of 1972 to see the river at its most
Now, the canyon changes mostly by growing wider, as rocks and
from the cliffs, and side streams cut their own channels..."
Here's some basic facts about the park:
"Size: Letchworth State Park is about 17 miles long and
averages a mile in
width. It contains 14,342 acres and is the 5th largest of New
more than 150 Parks....
Location: The Park is about 35 miles SW of Rochester and 45
miles SE of
Buffalo and sits on the border between Livingston and Wyoming
Once my wife & I had a hearty breakfast, we set off for a day
of the park. First stop was to check out the Lower Falls
mentioned in 'The Sierra Club Guide to the Ancient Forests of
Northeast', by Bob Leverett and Bruce Kershner:
"At 550 feet, the Genesee Gorge in Letchworth State Park is
vertical-walled canyon in the Northeast. Like Niagara Falls,
it's also a
good place to see communities of ancient trees growing on its
Perhaps the easiest place to visit is Lower Falls Terrace
Woods, a 7-acre
parcel of impressive ancient hemlock and sugar maple near the
Falls. Many trees are taller than the huge falls, with one
reported to be more than 130 feet.
The cliffs harbor the most ancient trees. At the Great Bend
vista along the
west rim, people have marveled for decades at the yawing abyss
curving layers of canyon walls. Use binoculars to see
cedars attached to those walls..."
The following is quoted from the pamphlet about the Lower
"The Lower Falls is not visible from a roadside overlook.
One must earn a
glimpse at it. A peek may be obtained from beyond the picnic
to see more, one must follow the Footbridge Trail. Many steps
down lead one
into the gorge that was once the riverbed. At the bottom of the
the right, is a groove in the forest floor that is the remnant
thousands of years ago. The forest here, above the river, is an
forest. A half-dozen hemlocks exceed 250 years in age. A
died in the 1950's was more than 400 years in age. The stairs
one down the bank were rebuilt in the 1993 and are a close
replica of those
built by the CCC. The Footbridge was also rebuilt at that time,
original designs and with concrete formed to resemble the
Continuing to the left and down a few more stairs leads to an
rock known as Table Rock. Upstream is a view of the Lower
fastest changing of river's three major drops. Sketches from
show its lower portion downstream from the footbridge site.
river continues to cut the downstream sections of the Lower
lack the layer of resistant sandstone that caps the upper drop.
eroding upstream much in the last century, this lip is wearing
river will eventually erode the Lower Falls upstream, out of
view from the
Footbridge. Table Rock is this same layer of sandstone, and
fossil waves from when it was ocean floor.
Table Rock slopes slightly towards the south bank, so the
concentrated there and cut through the sandstone and into the
exposed on the path to the Footbridge. The narrow channel, or
quickly carved. The promontory across the river, below the
called Cathedral Rock. Below it, the river swirls into a large
Sorry about all these quotes, I'm sure many of you are having
"Leverett's Lounge" of never ending diatribes about his trips
triple mocha lattes and the like... but, I figured it would give
good idea about the general background of the site put together
with many years of intimate experience at the park. Yeh, Bob's
off on me...
So, for all the tree stat nuts out there... we did get some
found the reported "130+ foot" white ash... I put it at 9.1ft
CBH x 119.4ft
high. It had a dead top, and is on its way out. It probably
was in its low
to mid 120's at best before dieback. There IS a little old
here though as reported. My wife & I went to work trying to get
heights on what appeared to be the tallest hemlock and other
tree species in
Am. basswood 6
Am. beech 4.2
E. hemlock 8.4
E. hemlock 8.9
E. white pine N/A
E. white pine N/A
N. red oak
shagbark hickory 4.9 102.1+
shagbark hickory 5 102.1+
sugar maple 8.5
I made the following mental notes for eyeball age guestimates
of trees here:
Estimated Age on the low end*
Other species present but not measured:
American yew! Wow, I never get to see these growing
naturally in PA. They
were growing on steep banks though were the deer couldn't get to
Also, black birch, yellow birch, cucumbertree, E. hophornbeam,
quaking aspen, black walnut, big tooth aspen, E. red cedar,
staghorn sumac, and chestnut oak.
I believe the old growth area was infested with non native
duff and infested with garlic mustard
Well, I figure that plenty of typing for one post. That
ought to be enough
to put most of you to sleep for the night.
Continuing the thread on Letchworth State Park...
Once my wife & I had had some basic tree measurements, we started
the various trails in the vicinity of the Lower Falls. In
took the trail from Table Rock down to the river, crossed over the
footbridge and proceeded to Cathedral Rock. While admiring the view
the bridge, my wife & picked up the unmistakable order of *Mephitis
*, A.K.A. striped skunk. As we crossed the bridge, the trail hugs
wall ravine. It reminded me of a smaller version of the trail near
'Groundhog Slide' at Chimney Rock Park in North Carolina. Anyway,
walked down the steps about half-way down the cliff, we found were
stench was coming from. A striped skunk had fallen off the high
above and landed on the trail. Since there weren't going to be any
rangers around for awhile, I thought I'd do everyone a "community
by giving the skunk a "burial at sea". The skunk only missed
next 40 vertical feet into the river by about 1horizontal foot. So,
picked it up with a nearby lambs ear leaf and dropped it over the
some reason, my wife wouldn't hold my hand after that... I tell ya.
good deed and see how you're treated?
We continued along trail, passed Cathedral Rock and worked our
way up to the
next flat about 75 more vertical feet. It was here that the
were growing along the cliff edge. We decided to backtrack from
head back to the vehicle. I wanted to check out Dehgayasoh Creek,
to the Mary Jemison Monument.
The story of Mary Jemison is well known during the French &
Indian War era.
It is quite noteworthy that Letchworth State Park is where she
spend a great part of her life, as well as it being her final
place. The pamphlet states:
"One of the primary stories of Letchworth State Park is that of
Jemison. Subject of historic treatise and popular novel, Mary's
that of a born survivor.
Mary was one of a family of Irish immigrants who settled in the
near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. When she was about 14 years old,
French and Indian wars, when France and Great Britain fought for
North America, a combined French/Indian raiding party attacked the
homestead. All the family members except Mary and two of her
were not at home were killed. Mary was made captive, taken to the
stronghold at Fort Duquesne and was eventually given to two Seneca
replace a relative they had lost in the War.
As such a replacement, Mary could have been tortured, used as a
sold to another tribe. Instead she was adopted as a family member,
the language and given such courtesies as existed in the hard life
Seneca woman during war. She was named Degewanus, meaning two
falling, or mingling, to symbolize her speaking both the English and
languages, and the end of the two Seneca sisters' mourning when she
Mary adapted to the Indian lifestyle and married a Young Delaware
She bore him a son whom she named Thomas, for her father. In the
matriarchal Seneca society, women had more status than in white
the time, and Mary, speaking English and Seneca, became a noted
The Seneca sisters moved north-east to a village on the Genesee,
present day Cuylerville, called Little Beard's Town, for the Chief,
Beard. Mary, carrying all she owned, walked about six hundred miles
joining them from where she was living along the Ohio River. It is
trek, with her son and her supplies, that is depicted in the statue
Mary, waited at Little Beard's Town for her husband to come, but
arrived that he had died during the winter. After living alone
years, Mary took a second husband, the warrior Hiakatoo. A Seneca
famous for his strength in battle and his cruelty to captives, he
gentle to Mary, and to the end of her life, she did not speak ill of
In the Revolutionary War, Colonial forces were sent to combat the
who were allied with the British. Troops lead by General Sullivan
many Seneca villages, including Little Beard's town, and destroyed
stored for winter. Most of the villages moved to the British
Fort Niagara to seek help from their allies. Had Mary done this,
have been forced to leave her family and join white society as a
becoming a servant. Instead, Mary took her family, now numbering
children, and went to a cabin she remembered from her travels on the
of the Genesee, at Gardeau. There she settled and lived most of her
life. When Seneca properties were divided at the Treaty of Big Tree
1797, Mary was awarded the Gardeau Tract, as told under the
Mary chose to live the Seneca lifestyle, watching and helping the
settlers who came in increasing numbers, but never entirely
trusting them. The whiskey the pioneers brought contributed to the
tragedies that marred her old age. Mary's son John killed his
Thomas and his brother Jesse in drunken battles and later was
in a fight with some Squawkie Hill Indians, after all had been
Saddened by the deaths of her sons, and burdened by age, Mary
wished to live
with the native people she understood. She had been leasing land to
settlers. In 1823, she sold all but a two mile square piece to land
agents. This sale required an Act of Congress to be legal, since
Mary, as a
non-citizen, born mid-ocean, and as a Seneca woman, had no legal
hold the land she was selling.
In 1831 Mary sold the remainder of her property and moved to the
Creek Reservation, inside the present boundaries of the City of
Before she moved, she told her life story to Dr. James Seaver, who
book that Mr. Letchworth later read. She died in 1833 and was
buried in a
little cemetery on the Reservation. The growing city engulfed the
cemetery on the no longer existent reservation. Souvenir hunters
away at her gravestone, and her resting place was nearly lost, until
Letchworth, learning her story, brought her home to the Genesee.
original tombstone is preserved in the William Pryor Letchworth
part of a display about her."
Dehgayasoh Creek runs adjacent to the Mary Jemison memorial. The
"The stream that flows by the Council Grounds before leaping into
was named by Mr. Letchworth in honor of a literary society to which
belonged called "The Nameless". In the Seneca language, Dehgayasoh
"nameless spirits". The stream and falls are best viewed from the
side of the park, from the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail (#7). The
of the tumbling water, dropping 150 feet in three cascades, framed
high, arched stone bridge, is well worth the short walk from the
Grounds Picnic area. The falls and bridge can also be seen from the
restored, railed walkway that leads to the base of the bridge."
I wanted to check this stream out, since the New York Old Growth
Association listed it as "old growth". I would think the site might
better characterized as a type of secondary old growth forest as per
definition. There was some scattered old and white oaks that should
approach 150 years. The scattered white pine in the site were not
remarkable in age. I would estimate them to be no greater than 150,
closer to 125. The stream was a heavily dominated hemlock glen of
small stature, but not really showing any features of advanced age.
my visual estimate of 150 years for hemlock here is probably being
generous. Still, the heavily shaded hemlock gave it a "cathedral"
it. It would be nice to get a couple cores from the small hemlocks
get an idea of their age class. Trees were not remarkable in
again, this whole trip was an attempt to get some baseline data at
Letchworth, and also spend some strongly needed quality time with my
After the hike down & back up from the Lower Falls, my wife
decided to take
a car nap near the Jemison monument while I went tree hunting. In
hr I was able to scope out the entire southern side of this drainage
bridge above the "three cascades" mentioned earlier, then back up
opposing ridge coming in from behind the Jemison monument (a
circle). Stats for Dehgayasoh Creek follows:
black cherry 4.1
E. white pine 8.5
E. white pine 9.7
N. red oak
N. red oak
This completes Part2
After leaving Dehgayasoh Creek, we drove the Upper Falls Loop
Road to view
the Upper Falls, the Railroad Highbridge, and Middle Falls (see
scans from pamphlet). The following is quoted from the pamphlet:
"Middle Falls and Upper Falls Loop Road
The one-way loop road provides closer access to both the Upper
Falls. The Middle Falls are the highest, widest, and most stable of
major waterfalls in the Park. They drop 107 feet, more than thirty
further than either the Upper or Lower Falls, and have changed
the days Mr. Letchworth enjoyed them from the porch of the Glen
Rainbows still form in the mist on sunny days, as they did then to
the name "Glen Iris". At the foot of the Middle Falls the swirling
has carved a cave into the cliff face. Across the river is a
that is the bed of an interglacial river filled with debris by the
advance of ice.
The Upper Falls drop of 70 feet is made more dramatic by the
highbridge towering over the tumbling water. When river flow is
can see the concrete edging placed at the lip of the falls in 1878
prevent it from eroding upstream. At the brink of the Upper Falls a
stream joins the river. Named Degewanus, after Mary Jemison, the
voice joins the river's, as the English and Seneca languages mixed
The Railroad Highbridge is part of an active rail line, the right
now owned by the Norfolk-Southern Line. Twelve or more trains may
on a busy day. Even though it adds much scenic interest to the
area, it is
private property, and off limits to park visitors.
The metal trestle was built in 1875 to replace a wooden structure
burned dramatically one night. Mr. Letchworth witnessed the fire
Glen Iris and wrote an account that tells of the sparks, cinders and
timbers falling, and rocks exploding from the heat.
The bridge stands 234 feet over the river, with the Upper Falls
another 70 feet almost directly below."
I actually measured the trestle to 243 feet. Could their stated
be a clerical typo?
Here are some measurements my wife & I took from the large picnic
the Upper to Middle Falls:
CBH Height Comments
bitternut hickory 6.8 105
N. red oak 12.6
Norway spruce 7
Norway spruce 8.7
129 42 35.016N x 78 2.638W
The tall planted Norway spruce was a splendid surprise. Norways
upper 120ft class are very difficult to find in NY & PA. The 129
be the 2nd tallest ENTS documented in the Northeast.
I've also attached pics that should go with the first two posts.
We decided to continue our exploration of the area and move to
side of the gorge. This side of the park is very lightly traveled.
think we saw one person on this side. You'll need a decent park
road eventually works its way adjacent to the edge of the gorge for
spectacular views after first passing the 'Parade Grounds'.
"The *Parade Grounds* is where the New York State Dragoons
trained and where the Civil War Monument was originally erected.
is a large boulder with a plaque commemorating the Dragoons...
Downhill from the Parade Grounds, the East Park Road crosses the
Valley Greenway Trail where the Genesee Valley Canal carried boats
1848 and 1878. A pull-off on the left side of the road provides a
the Lower Falls area and is the trailhead of the Portage Trail.
The road passes a swamp that is a remnant oxbow bend of the river
time in the past as the canyon cutting progressed after the glaciers
A small parking area on the left beyond the swamp provides access
Footbridge Trail which leads to the Lower Falls.
Beyond here, the road is rougher, as landslides and slumps have
pavement... After the 'E' Cabin area, the trail is known as Big
Trail. It curves uphill allowing a few looks through the trees to
Creek and an overlook pull-off at the deepest point of gorge across
Great Bend Overlook."
I was hoping to have time to possibly get a closer look down into
Bend portion of old growth as described in an excerpt Ed sent me
Davis' book, 'Old Growth in the East: A Survey (online ed.):
"*Great Bend Gorge Bottom*. Twenty-five acres of old growth on
terrace at the bottom of the Great Bend portion of Letchworth Gorge
(Kershner 2002; Bassett 1993)."
Here are some other old growth sections mentioned in the same
"Within a 14,000 acre park, some 12 stands of old growth. The
York Old Growth Forest Survey team has visited and confirmed five
totaling approximately 75 acres. Park naturalist Doug Bassett has
that the park has an additional seven stands totaling 100 to 150
Sites confirmed by the Survey are:
*Eastern red cedar* growing in clusters on the canyon face and
rim over a
distance of seven miles. The red cedar are 200 to 500 years in age.
cliff face total approximately 30 acres.
*Lower Falss Terrace Woods*. Seven acres of old-growth hemlock
maple on a terrace between the canyon top and the Genesee River.
very tall and include a 140foot white ash.
*Dehgayasoh Woods*. Twelve acres of hemlock, beech, sugar maple,
pine, over 200 years in age, in a deep side ravine."
I spoke earlier on the Lower Falls Terrace and Dehgayasoh Woods.
didn't have time for all the exploration we wanted to do, so we
to drive far enough down this road then hoof it down into the
ravine. I was
actually just about on the verge on having to deal with a "mutiny"
So, we continued on our drive to see the Hogsback, see pic.
"When speaking of landforms, a "hogsback" is a narrow ridge,
slightly humped, like the high, sharp, spinal ridge on a wild hog.
Hogsback dramatizes a tight bend the river made thousands of years
it was flowing across a flat plain at the level of the Overlook or
Once the river cut to the rock, it was entrenched in its bed and
flow elsewhere. This type of formation is described in geological
an "entrenched meander".
Eventually, the Hogsback may become an island, as the river
scours on the
outside of the curve and wears through the neck of rock. Or, the
may simply disappear entirely from erosion at the top and the build
silt at the bottom."
We then proceeded to the Mt. Morris Dam just down river from the
"With its central spillway 150feet above the river, the Mt.
Morris Dam is
the largest of its type east of the Mississippi..."
We got out, stretched our legs, took a little walk around. It
was time to
call it a day!
We got up early the next morning, 9/30/08, to catch a few more
we had to leave to visit relatives in Watertown, NY. On our way out
stopped at Inspiration point (see pic).
Another quote from the pamphlet:
"Part of the original 1,000 acre estate given to the people of
New York by
Mr. Letchworth, Inspiration Point was one of his favorite spots. IN
he named it for the way the beauty of the view could restore his
The view towards the south, including both the Upper and Middle
Falls of the
Genesee, the trestle of the Railroad Highbridge, and all the
splendor of the
rock walls and forested land between, is one of the most famous in
A short loop trail at Inspiration Point, with interpretive
by the Lions Club, points out and explains some o the most
natural and historic features of the point. This trail is
accessible and a rewarding experience for all.
It is interesting to think that only 90 some years ago, the area
parking lot and comfort station was devoid of trees. The trees
comfort station, with the orange bard on the upper trunks, are
and were planted as part of the Letchworth Arboretum. Other trees
include the black locust, in the island of the parking area, and
understory trees that edge the lot. Native shrubs, like high-bush
cranberry, with dangling clusters of bright red fruit, also grace
Perhaps the most interesting trees in the area are found by
trail east. A grove of large red pines is entered, looking
like many depression era plantations. These trees are older,
from the 1860's and are native Eastern red pine, not the
Western variety most often found in plantations. They grew here,
after a fire, in the open, dry soil on the edge of the gorges.
remains of tow other special trees along this trail, too. At the
corner, there are sections of a huge white oak that stood by the
Upper/Middle Falls Snack Bar. About 150 years old, it saw all the
transitions, from industrial area, to private estate, to public
it fell. There is also huge hollow trunk section of a sugar maple
stood in front of the Glen Iris for many years."
We didn't walk far enough west to see the old down white oak and
maple section. But, we did go east until we came to the red pine
Yes, these are native red pines, and are starting to show age
characteristics, albeit very subtle. It is interesting to note that
directly across the gorge from this spot near the cliff edge,
appears to be
another grove of naturally growing red pines. The red pines weren't
exceptional girth, but one in particular was the tallest naturally
pine I've come across at just over 105ft.
There were a handful of ancient E. red cedars on the cliff edge
well. Where they're growing is really quite precarious. They're
into almost bare mineral soil, some perched curling out over the
downward, then back up into the air again. Incredible old dwarf
very neat place indeed.
Inspiration Point Trees follows:
CBH Height Comments
E. hophornbeam 1.7
E. red cedar 3.1
45 35.273N x 78 2.011W
tallest personal find for
Scotch pine 5.8
We continued north along the west rim road and next stopped at
(see pic). Pamphlet quote follows:
"*Wolf Creek* joins the Genesee River after a series of four
drop a total of 225 feet into the Great Bend Gorge. Only the 1st
can be seen, due to the narrow curves of the canyon. The first
drops about 70 feet; the last drops about 50 feet. The best view of
lower cascade is gained by taking the raft trip offered by
The rafts stop at the mouth of Wolf Creek, and allow passengers to
and walk up the creekbed to the base of the falls.
Like most of the streams and waterfalls in the area, Wolf Creek
was the site
of early industrial development. Robert Whaley of Castile is
have had a sawmill on the creek in 1808, and Mary Jemison's sons,
Jesse, worked here at the time of their fatal quarrel, in 1812...
*Great Bend Overlook*
As the river makes a loop around the knobby hill opposite, in a
entrenched in stone, it flows in every compass direction, and uses
miles to cover a straight line distance of little more than a mile.
Great Bend was created when the river cut this detour canyon,
valley that once carried the river. This former route of the
straight from Lee's Landing to St. Helena and was filled by debris
the retreating glacier. This blocked valley can be seen today, and
much lower than the path the river chose, that it can be difficult
picture how it must have looked before thousands of years of erosion
the looser deposits that formed the dam.
On weekends in summer, you can sometimes watch rafts, canoes or
bouncing through the rapids below cliffs that are the highest in the
towering 550 feet above the river...
*Fiver Rocks or Humphrey's Overlook*
Called Five Rocks for the large boulders placed to prevent
driving too close to the gorge edge, this overlook is officially
Wolcott J. Humphrey, the first Chairman of the Genesee Region State
This view of the river curling around the Great Bend cliffs is
one of the
most beautiful and most photographed scenes in the park. When the
oranges, and yellows of autumn's leaves cascade down the talus
the blue sky is mirrored in the river, the sight is unequalled.
Humphrey's Overlook is a popular spot for bird watching in
species can be seen and heard in the tall oaks that frame the
overlook or in
the bushes and shrubs below. In May, white trillium blossom on the
and in autumn, bracken fern turns golden."
I got out and hiked the area a bit taking in the sites and
measuring a few
more trees while my wife took another car nap. The Wolf Creek area
really quite pretty. The main road curves about 3/4 of the way
ravine site. Again, no really noteworthy trees, just trying to get
baseline for what can grow in these various conditions:
E. hemlock 7
E. white pine 7.2
E. white pine 7.9
Our next and last stop was Tea Table Rock (see pic). Pamphlet
"Tea Table was the name given to a large overhang of sandstone
that was a
popular picnic site at the turn of the century, granting a
frightening, view of the river and Wolf Creek dropping below. The
removed, lest it collapse under sightseers, after New York State
There are just so many incredible views here, one can get "visual
overload". Absolutely beautiful sites. Measured a couple trees
"PI" growing on it, probably planted
E. red cedar 6.7
largest observed in the park
One last stop, my wife didn't even get out this time... was a
quick look out
over Gardeau Overlook, see pic.
"The name "Gardeau" is a corruption of the Seneca word for the
area, "Gah Da
Hoh", which means "bank in front", referring to the cliff across the
that marked the center of the valley. This site was home to people
the Senecas, who referred to these people as "the old ones". It was
the site of a reservation awarded to Mary Jemison, and the place
chose to make her home. The Gardeau reservation was 17,927 acres,
than Letchworth State Park is today. Mary Jemison received the
when the Seneca lands were divided at the Treaty of Big Tree in
gift was a mark of respect for Mary and the service she had provided
settlers moving into the area, and partly a consequence of clever
negotiations by her advisors...
Standing by the rail at the Gardeau Overlook and looking across
careful observation may show the largest known tree in the park
next to a small cut where a side stream enters the river. Looking
where the 10 and the 11 on a clock face would be, a huge river
that was killed by the 1972 flooding of the canyon. It was spared
up crews who detected life still present and refused to cut such a
I spent a good bit of time looking for this tree. I think I saw
with binoculars it was quite a ways out. If I have the right one, I
see the large crown of a tree breaking out over the others on the
and downstream bank of the river... That's a whole nother' day of
exploration just to walk to this one, cross the river & get back.
looking at the maps though, it appears there's a trail that comes in
the east that would be a much easier route that would exclude a
So, after a two-day whirl-wind tour of Letchworth, we got enough
data for a
basic Rucker Index of 109.87:
CBH Height Comments
E. white pine 9.7
120.4 Dehgayasoh Creek
E. hemlock 8.9
119.1 Lower Falls
sugar maple 8.5
105.6 Lower Falls
bitternut hickory 6.8
105 Middle Falls
Absolutely incredible place. Definitely one of New York's
treasures. A must see for all Ents.
Am. basswood 6
103.8 Lower Falls
shagbark hickory 5
102.1+ Lower Falls