By Indrek Kongats
There are so many great outdoor activities during the winter months at ASP that you hardly know where to begin. First and foremost are the great many accommodations that are offered. Staying in the park is peaceful in the winter time and an opportunity to just relax. If you do start getting cabin fever, think about going cross- country skiing, ice fishing or hunting. These are all great choices, but if they aren’t your cup of tea, here are some other excellent activities:
Visiting the wildlife museum is a smart starting point. Here you can see the entire variety of wildlife active in the park, you’ll learn to identify and acquire some knowledge on their habits and habitat. The museum is located in the main building at Red House Lake. Kids love the museum with all of the well displayed mounts of the animals in their natural settings. The sheer number of different species is very impressive.
When you are in the museum, jot down all of the different bird species found within the park boundaries and then take this information out into the field. If you are staying at the park in one of their cozy winter cabins, you are sure to see a chickadee or a blue jay and this will be just a sample of what you’ll see once you go out into the woods. Bring a pair of snowshoes; pack a lunch and plenty of water to drink. Get a trail map and go out and explore. Don’t forget to pack paper and pencil, camera, binoculars and a copy of your favorite birding book for identification purposes.
Look for bird signs first on the ground, the telltale tracks that they leave in the snow. If you are observant, you might come across fur and bone balls lying in a pile at the base of a tall mature tree. This is a sign that an owl nests in this tree. Listen as you snowshoe and you might hear the sound of a grouse taking off with a thunderous clap of its wings. If you are quick and can spot it, make note of its direction and see if you can find it less than 100 yards away, hiding halfway up a hemlock tree.
When you tire of walking, sit a spell and have your lunch. Curious birds will start to fly in your direction to see what’s for lunch, juncos and the ever popular chickadee. Listen for birds singing and where the sound is coming from and see if you can spot the singer. You should be able to come home with at least a dozen or more names and maybe up to three dozen if it was a good day for birding.
The park is also ideal for the snowmobile crowd and is linked to trails outside the park as well. Overnighting while on a trail ride is a popular thing. There are designated trails for snowmobilers to use that don’t interfere with other park users such as x-c skiers, snowshoers, and hikers.
Allegany State Park has 70 miles of groomed snowmobile trails that are part of the vast New York State Trail System. This scenic trail system has several external connections adjacent to communities, including trails to the City of Salamanca, Seneca Allegany Casino, Limestone and the State of Pennsylvania via Yeager Brook trail in Quaker. Please be sure to register your snowmobile in Pennsylvania if you plan to ride that trail system. Cattaraugus County snowmobiling brochures are available at ASP that include a trail map.