Letchworth State Park Dale Luthringer
  January 28, 2009


My wife & spent two incredible days at Letchworth State Park, located in
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 furnishings on
the 3rd floor.  Remember to take a look at the old pics of old growth forest
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 'Letchworth
State Park: A Self-Guided Driving Tour'.  It includes commentary on
overlooks, points of interest, and attractions for a nominal price that
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 pamphlet
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 Pryor Letchworth,
the Buffalo businessman and philanthropist responsible for creating
Letchworth State Park.  In the years before the Civil War.  Mr. Letchworth
became wealthy as a partner in the Malleable Iron Works, but was damaging
his health with his workaholic habits.  He was looking for a rural retreat
to use as a summer home.  He traveled to the Genesee Valley and rode the
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 logged to
provide lumber to build the wooden railroad bridge and cabins and shacks for
the workers.  On the eastern bank, a canal was being constructed.  The
Genesee Valley Canal was intended to connect the Erie Canal, in Rochester,
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 stores and
hotels for the residents and travelers on canal and railroad.  A painting of
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 clutter and
bustle.  He purchased land, and continued to buy until he had 1,000 acres,
including all three of the waterfalls on the Genesee.  The Glen Iris was
remodeled and the 3rd story added.  He had the shacks and mills along the
river removed, and planted trees and gardens.  Other trees were planted as
gifts from friends or to mark special occasions.  Several of these Memorial
Trees remain on the Glen Iris lawns and some are marked with signs.

Mr. Letchworth, who never married, was generous with his estate.  People
came from the cities to spend weekend days walking in the woods.  When his
estate was threatened with the prospect of a dam being built at Portageville
that would have silenced the waterfalls and recreated an industrial scene in
his sylvan paradise, Mr. Letchworth turned to the State.  He deeded his
property to the people of New York to become a Park, with the provision that
such a dam would never be allowed.  When MR. Letchworth died, in 1910,
Letchworth State Park was created.

After Mr. Letchworth's death, his home was used as the first administrative
office for the park, and was remodeled into an inn that park visitors could
stay in.

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 possibility
is that he was courting and trying to impress a lady named Iris Glenny.  If
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" Niagara
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 day, let
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 special places
and old growth forests.  I haven't hit them all yet, but this trip certainly
will give future Ents a good place to start to further document big/tall/old
tree sites within this gorge system.

In short, it's like a large scale Zoar Valley.  Absolutely gorgeous, and
only accessible for the newcomer by a well established trail system.
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 the

Just the geology of this river gorge system is worth the trip alone.  The
pamphlet states:

"The canyon of the park came into being long before Mr. Letchworth
discovered it, though in a geological sense, it's quite young.  About 11,000
years ago, the last of the great Pleistocene glaciers melted from the land
leaving the ancient valley of the Genesee River blocked with rocks and
debirs.  A lake formed, and when the water rose high enough, the river
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 admire.  The
process of the river being dammed by glacial debris and then escaping
repeated itself several times, thereby cutting three separate canyons that
now distinguish Letchworth State Park.

Around 350,000,000 years ago, in the Devonian era, there were great
mountains far to the east.  These mountains are known as the Appalachians
today.  Fine sand and clay mud washed westward from the mountains into a
tropical ocean.  The ocean filled with sediments and the rock layers now
visible as the cliffs of the canyon were compressed from those particles.

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 floods and
cloudbursts.  When you see the Genesee River in spring flood, you gain a
different image of its power than from watching it gently ripple along in
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 powerful.

Now, the canyon changes mostly by growing wider, as rocks and earth fall
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 York State's
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 Counties...."

Once my wife & I had a hearty breakfast, we set off for a day of exploration
of the park.  First stop was to check out the Lower Falls Terrace Woods
mentioned in 'The Sierra Club Guide to the Ancient Forests of the
Northeast', by Bob Leverett and Bruce Kershner:

"At 550 feet, the Genesee Gorge in Letchworth State Park is the deepest
vertical-walled canyon in the Northeast.  Like Niagara Falls, it's also a
good place to see communities of ancient trees growing on its cliffs and

Perhaps the easiest place to visit is Lower Falls Terrace Woods, a 7-acre
parcel of impressive ancient hemlock and sugar maple near the 110-foot Lower
Falls.  Many trees are taller than the huge falls, with one white ash
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 and great
curving layers of canyon walls.  Use binoculars to see 500-year-old red
cedars attached to those walls..."

The following is quoted from the pamphlet about the Lower Falls:

"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 shelter, but
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 steps, to
the right, is a groove in the forest floor that is the remnant riverbed of
thousands of years ago.  The forest here, above the river, is an old growth
forest.  A half-dozen hemlocks exceed 250 years in age.  A tuliptree that
died in the 1950's was more than 400 years in age.  The stairs that brought
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, following
original designs and with concrete formed to resemble the layered rocks.

Continuing to the left and down a few more stairs leads to an expanse of
rock known as Table Rock.  Upstream is a view of the Lower Falls, the
fastest changing of river's three major drops.  Sketches from the 1840's
show its lower portion downstream from the footbridge site.  This lower
river continues to cut the downstream sections of the Lower Falls, which
lack the layer of resistant sandstone that caps the upper drop.  Though not
eroding upstream much in the last century, this lip is wearing thin.  The
river will eventually erode the Lower Falls upstream, out of view from the
Footbridge.  Table Rock is this same layer of sandstone, and preserves
fossil waves from when it was ocean floor.

Table Rock slopes slightly towards the south bank, so the flow was
concentrated there and cut through the sandstone and into the soft shale
exposed on the path to the Footbridge.  The narrow channel, or Flume was
quickly carved.  The promontory across the river, below the Footbridge, is
called Cathedral Rock.  Below it, the river swirls into a large eddy pool."

Sorry about all these quotes, I'm sure many of you are having flashbacks to
"Leverett's Lounge" of never ending diatribes about his trips out west,
triple mocha lattes and the like... but, I figured it would give folks a
good idea about the general background of the site put together by folks
with many years of intimate experience at the park.  Yeh, Bob's been rubbin'
off on me...

So, for all the tree stat nuts out there... we did get some measurements.  I
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 growth forest
here though as reported.  My wife & I went to work trying to get some
heights on what appeared to be the tallest hemlock and other tree species in
the area:

*Species             CBH     Height*

Am. basswood    6         103.8

Am. beech         4.2       72.1+

E. hemlock        8.4       117.2
E. hemlock        8.9       119.1

E. white pine     N/A       90.1
E. white pine     N/A       94

N. red oak         7.1        84.1+

shagbark hickory 4.9  102.1+
shagbark hickory  5    102.1+

sugar maple       8.5        105.6

tuliptree             5.6       117

white ash           9.1       119.4

white oak           7.2        78.1+
white oak           9.1        87.1+

I made the following mental notes for eyeball age guestimates of trees here:

*Species          Estimated Age on the low end*

E. hemlock                      200
white oak                         200
sugar maple                     150

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 them

Also, black birch, yellow birch, cucumbertree, E. hophornbeam, black locust,
quaking aspen, black walnut, big tooth aspen, E. red cedar, witch hazel,
staghorn sumac, and chestnut oak.

I believe the old growth area was infested with non native earthworms... no
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.



Continued at:


Continuing the thread on Letchworth State Park...

Once my wife & I had had some basic tree measurements, we started exploring
the various trails in the vicinity of the Lower Falls.  In particular, we
took the trail from Table Rock down to the river, crossed over the
footbridge and proceeded to Cathedral Rock.  While admiring the view from
the bridge, my wife & picked up the unmistakable order of *Mephitis mephitis
*, A.K.A. striped skunk.  As we crossed the bridge, the trail hugs the steep
wall ravine.  It reminded me of a smaller version of the trail near the
'Groundhog Slide' at Chimney Rock Park in North Carolina.  Anyway, as we
walked down the steps about half-way down the cliff, we found were all the
stench was coming from.  A striped skunk had fallen off the high cliff from
above and landed on the trail.  Since there weren't going to be any park
rangers around for awhile, I thought I'd do everyone a "community service"
by giving the skunk a "burial at sea".  The skunk only missed falling the
next 40 vertical feet into the river by about 1horizontal foot.  So, I
picked it up with a nearby lambs ear leaf and dropped it over the edge.  For
some reason, my wife wouldn't hold my hand after that...  I tell ya.  Do a
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 American yew
were growing along the cliff edge.  We decided to backtrack from here and
head back to the vehicle.  I wanted to check out Dehgayasoh Creek, adjacent
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 decided to
spend a great part of her life, as well as it being her final resting
place.  The pamphlet states:

"One of the primary stories of Letchworth State Park is that of Mary
Jemison.  Subject of historic treatise and popular novel, Mary's story is
that of a born survivor.

Mary was one of a family of Irish immigrants who settled in the wilderness
near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  When she was about 14 years old, during the
French and Indian wars, when France and Great Britain fought for control of
North America, a combined French/Indian raiding party attacked the family
homestead.  All the family members except Mary and two of her brothers who
were not at home were killed.  Mary was made captive, taken to the French
stronghold at Fort Duquesne and was eventually given to two Seneca women to
replace a relative they had lost in the War.

As such a replacement, Mary could have been tortured, used as a slave, or
sold to another tribe.  Instead she was adopted as a family member, taught
the language and given such courtesies as existed in the hard life of a
Seneca woman during war.  She was named Degewanus, meaning two voices
falling, or mingling, to symbolize her speaking both the English and Seneca
languages, and the end of the two Seneca sisters' mourning when she joined
their family.

Mary adapted to the Indian lifestyle and married a Young Delaware warrior.
She bore him a son whom she named Thomas, for her father.  In the
matriarchal Seneca society, women had more status than in white society at
the time, and Mary, speaking English and Seneca, became a noted member of
the community.

The Seneca sisters moved north-east to a village on the Genesee, near
present day Cuylerville, called Little Beard's Town, for the Chief, Little
Beard.  Mary, carrying all she owned, walked about six hundred miles to
joining them from where she was living along the Ohio River.  It is this
trek, with her son and her supplies, that is depicted in the statue at the
Council Grounds.

Mary, waited at Little Beard's Town for her husband to come, but word
arrived that he had died during the winter.  After living alone several
years, Mary took a second husband, the warrior Hiakatoo.  A Seneca leader
famous for his strength in battle and his cruelty to captives, he was always
gentle to Mary, and to the end of her life, she did not speak ill of him.

In the Revolutionary War, Colonial forces were sent to combat the Seneca,
who were allied with the British.  Troops lead by General Sullivan burned
many Seneca villages, including Little Beard's town, and destroyed the food
stored for winter.  Most of the villages moved to the British stronghold at
Fort Niagara to seek help from their allies.  Had Mary done this, she would
have been forced to leave her family and join white society as a pauper,
becoming a servant.  Instead, Mary took her family, now numbering seven
children, and went to a cabin she remembered from her travels on the banks
of the Genesee, at Gardeau.  There she settled and lived most of her long
life.  When Seneca properties were divided at the Treaty of Big Tree in
1797, Mary was awarded the Gardeau Tract, as told under the "Gardeau" entry.

Mary chose to live the Seneca lifestyle, watching and helping the white
settlers who came in increasing numbers, but never entirely understanding or
trusting them.  The whiskey the pioneers brought contributed to the
tragedies that marred her old age.  Mary's son John killed his half-brother
Thomas and his brother Jesse in drunken battles and later was himself killed
in a fight with some Squawkie Hill Indians, after all had been drinking.

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 identity to
hold the land she was selling.

In 1831 Mary sold the remainder of her property and moved to the Buffalo
Creek Reservation, inside the present boundaries of the City of Buffalo.
Before she moved, she told her life story to Dr. James Seaver, who wrote a
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 forgotten
cemetery on the no longer existent reservation.  Souvenir hunters chipped
away at her gravestone, and her resting place was nearly lost, until Mr.
Letchworth, learning her story, brought her home to the Genesee.  Mary's
original tombstone is preserved in the William Pryor Letchworth Museum, as
part of a display about her."

Dehgayasoh Creek runs adjacent to the Mary Jemison memorial.  The pamphlet

"The stream that flows by the Council Grounds before leaping into the river
was named by Mr. Letchworth in honor of a literary society to which he
belonged called "The Nameless".  In the Seneca language, Dehgayasoh means
"nameless spirits".  The stream and falls are best viewed from the eastern
side of the park, from the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail (#7).  The picture
of the tumbling water, dropping 150 feet in three cascades, framed by the
high, arched stone bridge, is well worth the short walk from the Parade
Grounds Picnic area.  The falls and bridge can also be seen from the newly
restored, railed walkway that leads to the base of the bridge."

I wanted to check this stream out, since the New York Old Growth Forest
Association listed it as "old growth".  I would think the site might be
better characterized as a type of secondary old growth forest as per Lee's
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, maybe
closer to 125.  The stream was a heavily dominated hemlock glen of fairly
small stature, but not really showing any features of advanced age.  Again,
my visual estimate of 150 years for hemlock here is probably being quite
generous.  Still, the heavily shaded hemlock gave it a "cathedral" feel to
it.  It would be nice to get a couple cores from the small hemlocks here to
get an idea of their age class.  Trees were not remarkable in height, but
again, this whole trip was an attempt to get some baseline data at
Letchworth, and also spend some strongly needed quality time with my wife.

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 about 1
hr I was able to scope out the entire southern side of this drainage down to
bridge above the "three cascades" mentioned earlier, then back up the
opposing ridge coming in from behind the Jemison monument (a clockwise
circle).  Stats for Dehgayasoh Creek follows:

Species               CBH     Height

Am. beech           N/A       80.7+

black cherry         4.1        72.1+

E. white pine        8.5       111.9
E. white pine        9.7       120.4

N. red oak           11.9        84.1+
N. red oak           11.2        87.1+

white oak             N/A        94.8
white oak             8.2         99.1+

This completes Part2

Continued at:


After leaving Dehgayasoh Creek, we drove the Upper Falls Loop Road to view
the Upper Falls, the Railroad Highbridge, and Middle Falls (see attached
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 and Middle
Falls.  The Middle Falls are the highest, widest, and most stable of the
major waterfalls in the Park.  They drop 107 feet, more than thirty feet
further than either the Upper or Lower Falls, and have changed little since
the days Mr. Letchworth enjoyed them from the porch of the Glen Iris.
Rainbows still form in the mist on sunny days, as they did then to inspire
the name "Glen Iris".  At the foot of the Middle Falls the swirling water
has carved a cave into the cliff face.  Across the river is a landslide area
that is the bed of an interglacial river filled with debris by the last
advance of ice.

The Upper Falls drop of 70 feet is made more dramatic by the railroad
highbridge towering over the tumbling water.  When river flow is low, you
can see the concrete edging placed at the lip of the falls in 1878 to
prevent it from eroding upstream.  At the brink of the Upper Falls a small
stream joins the river.  Named Degewanus, after Mary Jemison, the stream's
voice joins the river's, as the English and Seneca languages mixed in Mary's

Railroad Highbridge

The Railroad Highbridge is part of an active rail line, the right of way,
now owned by the Norfolk-Southern Line.  Twelve or more trains may cross it
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 that
burned dramatically one night.  Mr. Letchworth witnessed the fire from the
Glen Iris and wrote an account that tells of the sparks, cinders and burning
timbers falling, and rocks exploding from the heat.

The bridge stands 234 feet over the river, with the Upper Falls dropping
another 70 feet almost directly below."

I actually measured the trestle to 243 feet.  Could their stated measurement
be a clerical typo?

Here are some measurements my wife & I took from the large picnic area from
the Upper to Middle Falls:

Species             CBH     Height     Comments

bitternut hickory 6.8       105
N. red oak         12.6       96.1
Norway spruce   7          127.4
Norway spruce   8.7        129        42 35.016N x 78 2.638W
tuliptree             8.1       119.1

The tall planted Norway spruce was a splendid surprise.  Norways in the
upper 120ft class are very difficult to find in NY & PA.  The 129 footer may
be the 2nd tallest ENTS documented in the Northeast.

I've also attached pics that should go with the first two posts.


Continued at:


We decided to continue our exploration of the area and move to the eastern
side of the gorge.  This side of the park is very lightly traveled.  I don't
think we saw one person on this side.  You'll need a decent park map.  The
road eventually works its way adjacent to the edge of the gorge for more
spectacular views after first passing the 'Parade Grounds'.

"The *Parade Grounds* is where the New York State Dragoons mustered and
trained and where the Civil War Monument was originally erected.  Now there
is a large boulder with a plaque commemorating the Dragoons...

Downhill from the Parade Grounds, the East Park Road crosses the Genesee
Valley Greenway Trail where the Genesee Valley Canal carried boats between
1848 and 1878.  A pull-off on the left side of the road provides a view of
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 left some
time in the past as the canyon cutting progressed after the glaciers

A small parking area on the left beyond the swamp provides access to the
Footbridge Trail which leads to the Lower Falls.

Beyond here, the road is rougher, as landslides and slumps have broken the
pavement...  After the 'E' Cabin area, the trail is known as Big Bend
Trail.  It curves uphill allowing a few looks through the trees to Wolf
Creek and an overlook pull-off at the deepest point of gorge across from the
Great Bend Overlook."

I was hoping to have time to possibly get a closer look down into the Great
Bend portion of old growth as described in an excerpt Ed sent me from M.B.
Davis' book, 'Old Growth in the East: A Survey (online ed.):

"*Great Bend Gorge Bottom*.  Twenty-five acres of old growth on an upland
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 book:

"Within a 14,000 acre park, some 12 stands of old growth.  The Western New
York Old Growth Forest Survey team has visited and confirmed five sites
totaling approximately 75 acres.  Park naturalist Doug Bassett has told them
that the park has an additional seven stands totaling 100 to 150 acres.
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.  The
cliff face total approximately 30 acres.

*Lower Falss Terrace Woods*.  Seven acres of old-growth hemlock and sugar
maple on a terrace between the canyon top and the Genesee River.  Trees are
very tall and include a 140foot white ash.

*Dehgayasoh Woods*.  Twelve acres of hemlock, beech, sugar maple, and white
pine, over 200 years in age, in a deep side ravine."

I spoke earlier on the Lower Falls Terrace and Dehgayasoh Woods.  We just
didn't have time for all the exploration we wanted to do, so we weren't able
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" by this

So, we continued on our drive to see the Hogsback, see pic.

"When speaking of landforms, a "hogsback" is a narrow ridge, usually
slightly humped, like the high, sharp, spinal ridge on a wild hog.  Our
Hogsback dramatizes a tight bend the river made thousands of years ago, when
it was flowing across a flat plain at the level of the Overlook or above.
Once the river cut to the rock, it was entrenched in its bed and couldn't
flow elsewhere.  This type of formation is described in geological terms as
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 Hogsback
may simply disappear entirely from erosion at the top and the build up of
silt at the bottom."

We then proceeded to the Mt. Morris Dam just down river from the Hogsback.

"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 sites before
we had to leave to visit relatives in Watertown, NY.  On our way out we
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 fact,
he named it for the way the beauty of the view could restore his spirit.
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 the Park.

A short loop trail at Inspiration Point, with interpretive signage provided
by the Lions Club, points out and explains some o the most interesting
natural and historic features of the point.  This trail is handicapped
accessible and a rewarding experience for all.

It is interesting to think that only 90 some years ago, the area around the
parking lot and comfort station was devoid of trees.  The trees around the
comfort station, with the orange bard on the upper trunks, are Scotch Pines,
and were planted as part of the Letchworth Arboretum.  Other trees here
include the black locust, in the island of the parking area, and some forest
understory trees that edge the lot.  Native shrubs, like high-bush
cranberry, with dangling clusters of bright red fruit, also grace the area.

Perhaps the most interesting trees in the area are found by following the
trail east.  A grove of large red pines is entered, looking superficially
like many depression era plantations.  These trees are older, though, dating
from the 1860's and are native Eastern red pine, not the duller-barked
Western variety most often found in plantations.  They grew here, perhaps
after a fire, in the open, dry soil on the edge of the gorges.  There are
remains of tow other special trees along this trail, too.  At the southwest
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 park, before
it fell.  There is also huge hollow trunk section of a sugar maple that
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 large sugar
maple section.  But, we did go east until we came to the red pine area.
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 of
exceptional girth, but one in particular was the tallest naturally grown red
pine I've come across at just over 105ft.

There were a handful of ancient E. red cedars on the cliff edge here as
well.  Where they're growing is really quite precarious.  They're clinging
into almost bare mineral soil, some perched curling out over the edge
downward, then back up into the air again.  Incredible old dwarf trees.  A
very neat place indeed.

Inspiration Point Trees follows:

Species               CBH     Height     Comments

cucumbertree       4.8       69.1+
E. hophornbeam   1.7       52.6
E. red cedar         3.1       57.9
red pine               5.5       83
red pine               4.2       87
red pine               5.7       91.5         45 35.273N x 78 2.011W
red pine               5          94.8
red pine               5.5       96.8
red pine               5.3       105.1+     tallest personal find for
Scotch pine         5.8        89.6
white oak            9.8        87.1+

We continued north along the west rim road and next stopped at Wolf Creek
(see pic).  Pamphlet quote follows:

"*Wolf Creek* joins the Genesee River after a series of four cascades that
drop a total of 225 feet into the Great Bend Gorge.  Only the 1st and 4th
can be seen, due to the narrow curves of the canyon.  The first cascade
drops about 70 feet; the last drops about 50 feet.  The best view of the
lower cascade is gained by taking the raft trip offered by concessionaires.
The rafts stop at the mouth of Wolf Creek, and allow passengers to disembark
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 reputed to
have had a sawmill on the creek in 1808, and Mary Jemison's sons, John and
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 meander now
entrenched in stone, it flows in every compass direction, and uses almost 5
miles to cover a straight line distance of little more than a mile.  This
Great Bend was created when the river cut this detour canyon, bypassing the
valley that once carried the river.  This former route of the Genesee ran
straight from Lee's Landing to St. Helena and was filled by debris left by
the retreating glacier.  This blocked valley can be seen today, and looks so
much lower than the path the river chose, that it can be difficult to
picture how it must have looked before thousands of years of erosion removed
the looser deposits that formed the dam.

On weekends in summer, you can sometimes watch rafts, canoes or kayaks
bouncing through the rapids below cliffs that are the highest in the park,
towering 550 feet above the river...

*Fiver Rocks or Humphrey's Overlook*

Called Five Rocks for the large boulders placed to prevent visitors from
driving too close to the gorge edge, this overlook is officially named for
Wolcott J. Humphrey, the first Chairman of the Genesee Region State {Park

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 reds,
oranges, and yellows of autumn's leaves cascade down the talus slopes, and
the blue sky is mirrored in the river, the sight is unequalled.

Humphrey's Overlook is a popular spot for bird watching in spring.  Many
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 slope
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 is
really quite pretty.  The main road curves about 3/4 of the way around this
ravine site.  Again, no really noteworthy trees, just trying to get a
baseline for what can grow in these various conditions:

Species          CBH     Height

E. hemlock      7          96.5
E. white pine   7.2        108.1
E. white pine   7.9       111.8

Our next and last stop was Tea Table Rock (see pic).  Pamphlet quote

"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 spectacular, if
frightening, view of the river and Wolf Creek dropping below.  The ledge was
removed, lest it collapse under sightseers, after New York State acquired
the property."

There are just so many incredible views here, one can get "visual
overload".  Absolutely beautiful sites.  Measured a couple trees here as

Species          CBH     Height     Comments

cottonwood     N/A      87            "PI" growing on it, probably planted
E. red cedar   6.7       62.5           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 river
that marked the center of the valley.  This site was home to people before
the Senecas, who referred to these people as "the old ones".  It was also
the site of a reservation awarded to Mary Jemison, and the place that she
chose to make her home.  The Gardeau reservation was 17,927 acres, larger
than Letchworth State Park is today.  Mary Jemison received the property
when the Seneca lands were divided at the Treaty of Big Tree in 1797.  This
gift was a mark of respect for Mary and the service she had provided to
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 the river,
careful observation may show the largest known tree in the park standing
next to a small cut where a side stream enters the river.  Looking between
where the 10 and the 11 on a clock face would be, a huge river bottom forest
that was killed by the 1972 flooding of the canyon.  It was spared by clean
up crews who detected life still present and refused to cut such a majestic

I spent a good bit of time looking for this tree.  I think I saw it, even
with binoculars it was quite a ways out.  If I have the right one, I could
see the large crown of a tree breaking out over the others on the opposite
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.  After
looking at the maps though, it appears there's a trail that comes in from
the east that would be a much easier route that would exclude a river

So, after a two-day whirl-wind tour of Letchworth, we got enough data for a
basic Rucker Index of 109.87:

Species               CBH     Height     Comments

E. white pine       9.7       120.4        Dehgayasoh Creek
white ash            9.1       119.4        Lower Falls
E. hemlock          8.9       119.1       Lower Falls
tuliptree               8.1       119.1       Middle Falls
sugar maple         8.5       105.6       Lower Falls
red pine               5.3       105.1+     Inspiration Point
bitternut hickory   6.8       105          Middle Falls

Absolutely incredible place.  Definitely one of New York's majestic
treasures.  A must see for all Ents.

white oak            8.2         99.1+      Dehgayasoh Creek
Am. basswood     6          103.8       Lower Falls
shagbark hickory 5          102.1+     Lower Falls

Continued at: