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What to See in Allegany State Park: Thunder Rocks

By Alicia Dziak

There’s never a lack of things to do in Allegany State Park (ASP), but for many, one of the “must see” places on every extended visit to the park is Thunder Rocks, located off ASP Route 2, about halfway between the Quaker and Red House sides of the park.

Thunder Rocks is in a secluded area of the park, with a long, dirt road leading into it. It features several immense, climbable rocks that leave visitors in awe. The rocks can be climbed on, climbed through, jumped over and enjoyed by visitors young and old.

Just how did these rocks end up here, some seemingly standing up on end and defying gravity?

According to information compiled by Riley Brumagin and Owen Dudley for the Cattaraugus County Geology Trail:

“About 360 million years ago, New York State, along with Allegany State Park was covered by a large, shallow sea. The nearby Catskill Mountains were formed to the east during this time. Sediment from these mountains eroded westward towards western New York and deposited within this area. Thunder Rocks is made up of this sediment. Over some time, frost wedging and gravity erosion shaped the boulders into their present arrangement. Gravity was able to pull the large rocks down some slopes and hills. This resulted in the rocks being scattered away from each other.

“While this is the most accurate evidence of how Thunder Rocks formed, some people still think glaciers caused their appearance. But this cannot be true because Allegany State Park is part of what is called the Salamanca Re-entrant. This is a small area of New York State that has been untouched by glaciers. Thunder Rocks is also included in this area.

“This means glaciers were definitely not the reason for their formation. The process that occurred throughout New York’s geologic history is very interesting, especially when it comes to the history of Thunder Rocks. This makes it all the more reason to visit these uniquely huge slabs of bedrock!”

If you’ve never been there before, Thunder Rocks will pleasantly surprise you. And if you have been there before, go again, as the terrain is ever changing and there is always something new to see. Be sure to wear shoes with good traction, and bring a camera, as the photo ops are abundant.

A tip for visitors: The parking lot for Thunder Rocks is relatively small and there is limited parking on the dirt road leading up to it. It’s best to go there during the week or early in the morning on weekends, to avoid the peak season crowds.

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