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Niagara Falls State Park
Description: Created in 1885, Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the United States. While you may be drawn here by the immense power and beauty of the thundering cataracts, don’t overlook the park’s surprising diversity of bird life. The falls are a magnet for both tourists and huge flocks of gulls. Looking down from the edge of Niagara Gorge in autumn or winter, the air above the turbulent waters is at times white with wheeling and diving gulls.

The Niagara River offers these populations of gulls a smorgasbord of small fish, stunned by the churning waters. And the river corridor provides protection from the severe winter storms that sweep across the Great Lakes. The result is a “gull mecca,” with 19 species seen here—more than half the varieties native to North America. Large flocks of waterfowl also come for the bounty of fish. Several species of songbirds and wading birds are also seasonal visitors to the park’s shorelines.

Due to its importance for migrating birds, Niagara Falls was the first site named as a globally significant Important Bird Area in 1996 by conservation organizations in both the U.S. and Canada. Forest and shrubland on the river’s shore harbor a variety of mammals, as well as birds.

Wildlife to Watch: Bonaparte’s, herring and ring-billed gulls arrive in the fall and stay through winter. A ring-billed gull breeding colony in the Cave of the Winds area is perhaps one of the largest in the region. Other gulls migrate to the falls from the far corners of North America and beyond: glaucous, Thayer’s, Iceland and Sabine’s gulls fly in from the Arctic; great black-backed gulls, laughing gulls and black-legged kittiwakes from the East Coast; California and Franklin’s gulls from the prairies and points further west; and black-headed gulls from Europe and the Canadian Maritime provinces.

Globally significant populations of waterfowl species, such as canvasbacks, common mergansers, common goldeneyes and other diving ducks, gather each winter.

Though winter is when the most spectacular gatherings of birds can be seen, spring and fall are excellent times to see migrating warblers, including: yellow, yellow-rumped and common yellowthroat, chestnut-sided, blackthroated blue and black-throated green, palm, Tennessee, Nashville, northern parula, magnolia, Cape May, blackburnian, pine, prairie, bay-breasted, blackpoll, American redstart, ovenbird, Kentucky, hooded and Canada and Louisiana waterthrush.

Spring and summer bring double-crested cormorants and wading birds like black-crowned night herons, green herons and great blue herons to search for fish in the Niagara’s swirling waters.

Squirrel species are the predominant mammals seen in the park, foraging for food year-round, including the familiar eastern gray squirrel (also in black and blonde phases), feisty little red squirrel, large fox squirrel (at the eastern edge of its range) and eastern chipmunk.

Special Tips: Because the falls are such a world-renowned natural wonder, Niagara Falls State Park has a wide variety of attractions and amenities to accommodate and amuse visitors. Roadway and pedestrian bridges connect the U.S. shore to Goat Island between the American and Horseshoe falls. Walking paths with scenic overlooks above the falls hug the shore. Interpretive signs describe the history and geology of the area, as well as the plant and animal life to be found there.

A bridge connects to an observation tower with an elevator, which provides a close view of the full length of the falls. Or you can follow the bridge down to the popular Maid of the Mist boats, where you can look up at the falls from the river below. Stairways connect to the Crow’s Nest and Cave of the Winds vantage points on both sides of the American Falls at the bottom of the gorge.


Other Activities: The park, including visitors center, is open year-round, seven days a week. There is a vehicle entrance fee. Contact the park for hours and for fees for other activities.

716-278-1796, Prospect Street, Niagara Falls, NY 14303, www.nysparks.com

Ownership: NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation 
Size: 400+ acres 
Closest Town: Niagara Falls

Facilities:
RestroomsParkingFishingHikingDrinking WaterBicycling

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:
SpringSummerFallWinter

Niagara Fall Lookout - Photo by John Rozell
Map
Please see map link below

Driving Directions:
From the east, take the NYS Thwy./I-90 to exit 50. Merge onto I-290 W toward Niagara Falls. Travel about 10 miles and keep right at the fork to merge onto I-190 N. Take exit 21 for NY-384/Buffalo Ave. toward Robert Moses Pkwy./New York State Park American Falls. Keep right at the fork and merge onto LaSalle Expy. Continue onto Robert Moses Pkwy. After nearly 3 miles, make a slight right toward Buffalo Ave. Turn left onto Buffalo Ave. and left onto 1st St. Continue onto Goat Island Rd.

From Buffalo, follow above directions from I-190.

Map Link

 
Niagara Falls State Park : Wildlife Viewing Area