Letchworth State Park
|Description: Renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park is one
of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. The Genesee River
roars through a deep gorge and over three major waterfalls between 550-foot
cliffs surrounded by lush forests. With open water drawing thousands of
waterfowl, forests sheltering high concentrations of migratory birds, and several
great blue heron rookeries, Letchworth has earned designations as a state
Bird Conservation Area and an Audubon Important Bird Area.|
Not only is Letchworth enjoyed for the diverse array of bird species found
there, but it is critically important for a number of individual species, particularly
those designated “of special concern” or “at risk.” Birds associated
with forest, river and shrub habitats find safety and sustenance in this natural
fortress. The gorge is particularly important for raptors that glide on cliff-face
updrafts in search of food.
Upland forests of hardwoods and conifers make up a large portion of the
park and are the preferred nesting areas of more than 60 species of migratory
songbirds, many of them warblers. Shrub and grasslands are home to several
species of ground-nesting birds. Waterfowl and wading birds are found in
wooded swamps and river habitats. Many species of mammals can also be
found in the park’s diverse habitats.
Wildlife to Watch: The bald eagle, our majestic national symbol, uses the park year-round, as do
many turkey vultures, which may not be as revered but are equally impressive
in size. Winter roosts of up to 20 vultures have been seen, and as many as 200 of these large raptors have been observed soaring in the gorge on a single summer
day. Red-tailed hawks are another commonly seen raptor. Watch for wild
turkeys in fields or feeding in the forest on beechnuts and acorns.
Several great blue heron rookeries have been observed in the park’s wetlands,
and more than 100 nests have been counted. Open water below the Mt.
Morris dam may attract in excess of 2,000 Canada geese in winter. Common
mergansers and wood ducks are the most abundant of several species of ducks
visible on the river.
Forest, grassland and shrub species sighted here include black-billed cuckoo,
eastern wood-pewee, rose-breasted grosbeak, Baltimore oriole, killdeer, bobolink,
eastern meadowlark, brown thrasher, eastern towhee and field sparrow.
Bird species listed as “at risk” or “of special concern” that can be seen here
include sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, northern goshawk, redshouldered
hawk, red-headed woodpecker, golden-winged warbler, cerulean
warbler, vesper sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, American woodcock, willow
flycatcher, wood thrush, blue-winged warbler, Canada warbler, yellowbreasted
chat and rusty blackbird. Letchworth’s grasslands are important as
historical nesting sites for northern harriers, upland sandpipers and Henslow’s
Mammals that may be encountered include white-tailed deer, red foxes, coyotes,
cottontail rabbits and woodchucks in woods, shrub and grasslands, and
beavers in wetlands.
Special Tips: The William Pryor Letchworth Museum provides an excellent introduction to
the park. Hikers can choose among 66 miles of hiking trails. Trails are also
available for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.
Letchworth offers nature, history and performing arts programs, guided walks,
tours, a summer lecture series, whitewater rafting and kayaking.
Overlooks provide spectacular views of the three waterfalls. Foot paths and
auto roads parallel the river and pass the historic Glen Iris Inn and Seneca
This site has many accessible features, including trails and cabins.
Other Activities: The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. year-round. There
is a vehicle-use fee to enter the park. Dates, times and fees for
amenities vary; contact the park for details. Hunting and fishing
are allowed in season.
585-493-3600, 1 Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY 14427
Ownership: NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Closest Town: Castile
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: