No visit to LivCo is complete without a stop at Letchworth State Park. Named the top state park in the country by USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards in 2015, Letchworth is one of the most majestic natural wonders in the eastern US.
Letchworth is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East” because the Genesee River runs through the center of the park, carving out a vast canyon with sheer walls and lush forests. The Genesee River’s tallest waterfall in the park is 106 feet tall. Open year-round, Letchworth is gorgeous any time of the year but is particularly vibrant in autumn when the park transforms from a landscape of green to a kaleidoscope of bright fall colors. The park is also home to many native animal species, including deer, rabbits, foxes, beavers, and woodchucks (to name a few), as well as dozens of migratory and resident bird species.
There are four entrances to Letchworth State Park, and two are seasonal. Access is limited in the winter, as not all roads are maintained or plowed. Admission to the park is $10 per vehicle during peak season and free during the off-season. If you’re exploring all of the New York State Parks, an annual pass is $65. The vehicle fee is waived for vehicles with at least one passenger over age 62 with an NYS ID on non-holiday weekdays or at least one passenger in 4th grade who has an “Every Kid in a Park Pass,” which is distributed by schools.
The Park stretches for 17 miles, covering over 14,000 acres of land in LivCo and neighboring Wyoming County. Discover a hidden natural world along 66 miles of hiking trails, or explore the park on horseback or bike. If you’re looking for adventure, you can drop down into the canyon for whitewater rafting or get up and away in a hot air balloon. Letchworth also offers guided nature walks, history and performing arts programs, and a summer lecture series. Overnight visitors to the campgrounds can enjoy the park swimming pool, while those looking for a rugged experience can head out to the lean-tos in the park. The fun doesn’t stop in winter, with tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.
Once the stately home of 19th-century business tycoon William Pryor Letchworth, the Glen Iris is now an inn and restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Its convenient location on a cliff near Middle Falls makes it a popular choice for visitors. Comfortable Adirondack chairs line the front of the Inn, inviting diners to kick their feet up with a beverage and take in the stunning waterfall views. Stay the night at this historic inn starting at $105 per night. Call (585) 493-2622 for more information.
Mary Jemison, the White Woman of the Genesee, is buried in Letchworth State Park, just a short walk or drive from the Glen Iris Inn. Born approximately 1743 (based on known historical events) on a ship crossing the Atlantic, Jemison was taken captive by the Shawnee Nation and French soldiers as part of the French and Indian War. The Shawnee later traded her to the Seneca Nation. She was adopted into a Seneca family and lived the rest of her life as a Seneca woman. Jemison and her family held the Genesee River Valley dear, and she was buried in the park under the supervision of William Letchworth Pryor. When souvenir hunters chipped away most of Mary Jemison’s headstone at her original gravesite near Buffalo, NY, William Pryor Letchworth paid for her family to reinter her under a stone pedestal in Letchworth State Park. The pedestal now bears her Seneca name, Deh-ge-wa-nus, on a larger-than-life bronze statue of Jemison near her daughter’s restored cottage and a restored Seneca Council House.
The Humphrey Nature Center is a must-stop for families traveling through the park, open year-round with interactive exhibits that highlight the plants, animals, geology, and ecology of the park. The Nature Center also has an outdoor classroom, butterfly garden, bird observation station, solar panels, and a rainwater cistern. Park visitors can explore one of the several trailheads leading away from the center, including Trout Pond, Inspiration Point Overlook, and the Autism Nature Trail. And as of 2019, the Nature Center also has a sugarhouse!
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