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Featured Parks in Western New York

(including Nature Preserves & Gardens)

Allegany State Park, Salamanca, Cattaraugus County

One of the few old-growth forests in New York state, Allegany State Park has 80 miles of hiking trails and 25 miles of groomed cross country ski trails. Two large lakes for fishing, swimming and boating. Three campgrounds. Giant Rock City Park (Olean). Kinzua Dam, a 91-mile-round body of water. Boat launches. For information call 716-354-9101. Cabin rental; 800-456-CAMP.

Audubon Center & Sanctuary, Jamestown, Chautauqua County

Located on the 600-acre Burgeson Wildlife Sanctuary. Exciting exhibits, miles of hiking trails and personalized programming. Open year-round, attracts 30,000 visitors a year. Home of the Snow Flake Festival. 4 miles south of Jamestown on US 62. 716-569-2345. www.jasny.org

Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, North Java, Wyoming County

Beavers, once nearly extinct in Western New York, are thriving at Beaver Meadow Nature Center in Wyoming County. The Center is owned and operated by the Buffalo Audobon Society. The sanctuary's dominant feature-amid its 324 acres of forest, field and wetland-is the beaver pond. Visitors are invited to walk Beaver Pond Trail and view the chiseled stumps of saplings and girdled bases of larger trees. Lucky trekkers might even see the aquatic mammals cruising the lake, with only their heads showing above the pond's surface. 716-457-3228.

Bergen Swamp, Byron, Genesee County

Perhaps the most unique and primeval locale in the region is the Bergen Swamp, a National Natural History Landmark that has attracted naturalists for over 100 years. What makes it unique? 1,900 acres of rare and endangered species. Visits to the Bergen Swamp must be prearranged. 585-548-7304.

Buffalo Botanical Gardens, Buffalo, Erie County

Whatever the season, exotic plants of the tropics are enjoyed at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens. The 11-house glass conservatory, located on 11.3 acres, features fragrant flowers, cacti, fruit trees, palms and orchids from around the globe. The Victorian-style structure is on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. 716-696-3555.

Cumming Nature Center, South Bristol, Ontario County

A 900-acre living museum, the Cumming Nature Center in Ontario County offers 6 miles of walking trails, a beaver pond and an army of tall marching pines said to have been planted in formation by a disgruntled potato farmer. A Visitor Center features exhibits, seasonal displays and theater presentations. 585-374-6160.

Finger Lakes Trail, Regional

544 miles of hiking trail from Allegany State Park to the Catskills. The Finger Lakes Trail goes through Finger Lakes National Forest: New York state's only national forest. 585-658-9320.

Institute for Environmental Learning, Lyndonville, Orleans Co.

Wolves, owls, eagles and cougars are at home at the Institute for Environmental Learning in Orleans County. This unique educational organization allows visitors to observe and photograph both common and endangered selected predators at close range. The Institute's current focus is on North American birds of prey, mountain lions and gray wolves. The latter, raised from pups, live together as a social pack in a half-acre enclosure. 716-765-2084.

Iroquois Wildlife Refuge, Orleans County

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge encompasses nearly 11,000 acres of wooded swamps, marshlands, wet meadows, pasture and cropland. It is continguous to both the Oak Orchard Creek and Tonawanda Game Management areas, creating 20,000 acres of natural habitat for wildlife and waterfowl. The Iroquois Refuge is the place to welcome migrating geese and to enjoy 10 different species of ducks. Over 20,000 people attend the annual hatching of endangered bald eagles. 716-948-5182

Letchworth State Park, Castile, Wyoming County

A 17-mile stretch of grey-green canyon, Letchworth State Park is emerald in springtime, crimson in autumn. This "Vale of the Three Falls" is aptly called The Grand Canyon of the East. A million people visit the 14,340-acre park annually. Most come to view the scenic splendor of 600-foot cliffs, or to picnic, hike or camp. Others are drawn by the history, the romance and the legends of the Lower, Middle and Upper Falls, 585-493-3600.

Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, Seneca County

Where do waterfowl and other water birds rest on their journey to and from nesting areas in northeastern and east-central Canada? At the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in Seneca County. Wildlife can be observed from an observation deck and tower. Recreational and educational activities abound year-round. 315-568-5987 or check out their web site.

Nannen Arboretum, Ellicotville, Cattaraugus County

Trees, herbs, flowers and a Japanese stone garden flourish at the Nannen Arboretum in Ellicottville, Cattaraugus County. 716-699-2377

Pfeiffer Nature Center, Portville, Cattaraugus County

Pfeiffer Nature Center has 9 miles of hiking trails offering experiences in old-growth forest, vernal pools, wetlands, ponds, meadows, hills, and many transition areas. Stop by and visit the historic American Chestnut log cabin, timber frame pavilion, one of the best long-distance views imaginable, or educational programs. For information, call 716-933-0187 or visit the website, www.pfeiffernaturecenter.org

Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Jamestown,
Chautauqua County

A butterfly garden, trails, wildlife art and nature photography abound on 27 acres at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, Chautauqua County. 716-665-2473 Another pretty spot is the Jamestown Audubon Nature Center, a 600-acre nature sanctuary with 5 miles of nature trails and an interpretive building with nature exhibits. 716-569-2345.

Sonnenberg Gardens, Canandaigua, Ontario County

Nine formal gardens and an 1887 Richardsonion-Romanesque mansion are showcased on 50 acres at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion in Canandaigua, Ontario County. Sculptures, fountains and a turn-of-the-century conservatory augment the appeal of the 40-room Victorian mansion. 585-394-4922.

Stony Brook State Park, South Dansville, Steuben County

Stony Brook Glen is a new valley in an ancient landscape. Its rocks are older than the dinosaurs. At Stony Brook, a post-glacial stream has eroded a gorge in the soft shale layers, creating high cliffs and picturesque waterfalls. Stony Brook was hunted and fished first by Seneca Indians, and has been a summer tourist destination since 1883. Today, visitors enjoy natural stone-lined swimming pools, camping, hiking, and picnicking. 585-335-8111.

Tifft Nature Preserve, Buffalo, Erie County

The Buffalo Museum of Science's Tifft Nature Preserve includes over 264 acres of undisturbed natural habitat within the City of Buffalo. Erie County. 716-896-5200.

Watkins Glen State Park, Watkins Glen, Schuyler County

Retreating glaciers cut the Genesee Country mercilessly, leaving behind breathtaking gorges like Watkins Glen, a rugged chasm remarkable for its varied plant life and breathtaking topography. Walking trails take visitors past ancient rock laid down for thousands of generations. An ancient stream meanders through the gorge, falling from high and low heights creating waterfalls of all sizes and intensities. 607-535-4511.

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