A new summer season has arrived at Allegany State Park. Many park visitors enjoy the park as a place to camp, hike, swim, or just relax. In addition, the park offers a wide variety of nature walks and learning activities throughout the year. Walks are offered on numerous topics, with some being traditional favorites and others conducted according to the interests and expertise of the park’s seasonal naturalists. The following are the ten most popular programs with our park visitors.
• The “Tour of the Bear Caves” is offered two days a week. The program consists of a short hike from the parking area, near Kaiser Cabin Trail, up the hill to the rock ledge. There are three small caves in the rocks, two of which the naturalists explore with the hike participants. The caves are NOT inhabited by bears. The program includes information about the rocks formations as well as the North American black bear.
• The “Tour of a Beaver Colony” is scheduled for the evening hours, 7:30 p.m.during June and July, and 7 p.m. during August. Beavers become active about an hour before sunset. There are numerous active ponds in both the Quaker and Red House areas of the park. Tours are scheduled in both areas of the park to reduce travel time, but park visitors often have favorite ponds. Beavers move periodically, usually because of a shortage of food. Look for many ponds close to the road on ASP route 2. Tours of the Beaver Colony are scheduled at least once per week.
• “Salamanders” is a program about one of our favorite amphibians. Due to the area’s diverse forest and freshwater ecosystems, NYS is home to a variety of salamander species. Allegany boasts 15 different kinds from the huge Hellbender to the common Red Eft. A children’s version of this program is called the “Frog Game”.
• “Creek Critters,” a summertime favorite, is also a favorite of school groups in the spring and fall. What fun to wade in the creek and catch crayfish, minnows and insect larvae. Small microscopes provide an opportunity to inspect some of the smaller critters that live in the water. Favorite locations for this program include the picnic areas and Science Lake.
• The “Tour of Thunder Rocks” gives park visitors an opportunity to learn about this favorite park attraction. Thunder rocks are located on one of the highest ridges in the park.
• “Raccoon rangers” is a program for children ages 5 to 12. The activities are meant to be fun and to teach children a little about mammals, birds, trees and other living things. A popular activity is the bear education segment, in which the children learn what happens to park bears that get into garbage. Why is feeding the bears bad? What happens to bears the park traps? Are you curious? The naturalist offer an adult version of the program, called “Black Bears of ASP.”
• “Butterflies and Insects:” Along with their cousins the moths and skippers, butterflies make up the second largest family of insects, beetles being the most numerous with over 300,000 different species. Park visitors have the opportunity to catch, identify and observe different butterflies and any other insect they choose to swoop into their large nets. Late August, the most widely known butterfly, the Monarch, is caught, tagged and recorded for the Monarch Watch program.
• With over 250 kinds of birds moving through ASP during the year, programs about some of our biggest birds are favorites among visitors. Osprey, owls, hawks and even Canada geese are talked about in separate programs over the summer. Learn about the different biology of each of these unique birds, their life cycle, migration, favorite foods. Ospreys’ nests are common in the park and viewed during the program. Another program called “Birds of ASP” deals with how to identify birds by field markings, size and song.
• Kids both big and little love the “Fossil Hunt.” The challenge is to teach them what a fossil is, and what their existence means. Bedrock in the park is Devonian age, 350 to 400 million years old. Most of the rock is sandstone and shale, perfect materials for preserving the shapes, and sometimes the structure of sea creatures from the past.
• The “Edible Wild Plants” nature walk will give park visitors a taste of the plant life of Allegany State Park. Many things that grow outdoors can be eaten, but be sure you know what you have. The program deals with many common plants that most people would recognize. One naturalist likes to start the program in an area “like your backyard” to look at familiar things like dandelions, burdock, and clover. Methods of preparing some plants are included in the talk.
Join the naturalists this summer for some information about your favorite topic, or just to have a good time. Programs are offered Monday through Saturday.
For more information about these programs, visit our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/alleganystatepark or call the Environmental Education Department (716) 354-9101 ext. 236.