Genesee Tourism: hike, bike, paddle & play - 7 ways to explore the outdoors
Summer isn’t over yet, and what better way to enjoy those final weeks of warmth than getting outside and soaking up the sun? We’ve rounded up some great places in Genesee County to enjoy the outdoors, get on the water, and take in everything summer has to offer.
Explore Nature, Wildlife, and the Outdoors
Described as “one of the best kept secrets in Western New York," the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge is the largest in the state. With more than 10,000 acres, there’s plenty here to explore. This Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 42 species of mammals, plus reptiles, fish, amphibians and insects. It’s a favorite of birdwatchers thanks to its 6,000 acres of swampland. Created at the end of the last Ice Age, the swamp is all that remains of the prehistoric Lake Tonawanda that once stretched from Niagara Falls to Rochester. It supports in excess of 266 species of bird, including bald eagles.
What to do: Avid birdwatchers can find their favorite species using the eBird Trail Tracker. Find what birds have been sighted on the refuge in the last 30 days, and where the best places to see them are. Non-birders and outdoor explorers can enjoy the outdoors year-round with activities like hunting, fishing, canoeing and cross-country skiing. The refuge also hosts a variety of educational activities, including owl prowls, bird walks, fishing derbies, stargazing and more. While there, don’t forget to browse the gift shop area and stop into the Visitors Center, open year-round from Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
While visiting a swamp may sound odd at first, one visit to the Bergen Swamp and you’ll be hooked! Home to 2,000 acres of wetlands, the swamp is a National Natural Landmark and the country’s first private environmental land trust chartered as a New York State Living Museum. Best known for its flowers, the swamp is home to 36 native orchids that flourish in the wet conditions. It’s also the perfect habitat for ferns, cedars and riparian floodplains.
What to do: Visitors to the swamp can explore on their own or take one of the many guided tours offered by the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society. Bring the camera and the sketchbook -- you never know what may inspire you along the trail.
Welcome to oldest county forest in New York State! Explore 430 acres of rolling hills, hiking trails, playgrounds, ball fields, a sledding hill and more. Ten miles of trails and five ponds put you up close and personal with nature and our woodland friends. The park in East Bethany is also home to the Interpretive Nature Center, where guests can play their way through the activity room, display rooms and Discovery Zone. The rear porch is known for being a prime place for wildlife spotting.
What to do: What can’t you do here? Visitors love playing on the playground, exploring the trails, sledding, and everything in between. The Park and Interpretive Center also host education seminars and events throughout the year, including owl prowls, crafts, introduction to orienteering and stargazing.
Four seasons of fun! Enjoy 64 acres of outdoors, where the kids can run off all their energy and the adults can join in on the fun. Prior to 1935, DeWitt Recreation Area was used as a sand and gravel quarry, which was later abandoned and adopted as a recreation area for residents. In 1992, the land was donated to Genesee County, and restored to its natural setting. It now operates as an outdoor home for family fun and recreation, year-round.
What to do: Walk the quarter-mile paved trail loop or explore marked dirt trails. Enjoy hiking and biking, as well as canoeing and fishing on the pond during the spring, summer and fall. In the winter, bundle up and try cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing on the trails, or ice skating and pickup hockey games. DeWitt Recreation Area also hosts special events, so keep an eye on the calendar for the next one.
Play in the Water and Soak up the Sun
Established in 2017, play your way through this 18-hole course as it weaves its way across an old apple orchard. Designed for both finesse and accuracy, you’ll need to get your throwing arm warmed up and ready to go if you want to win.
Grab your friends and head for the water! The newly opened (as of July 2018) Oatka Paddle Company offers paddle boat rentals for up to five people per boat, as well as single kayak rentals. Head down to the creek to enjoy an afternoon on the water.
Genesee County has several great kayak and canoe launch sites, including Harlow Lake at Darien Lake State Park, Oak Orchard River at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, John T. O'Brien Canoe Launch at Kiwanis Park, East Pembroke Genesee County Boat Launch, and the Red Bridge Area in Le Roy – just to name a few.
Explore more opportunities to get in touch with nature on the Genesee County Website, outdoor section, at www.visitgeneseeny.com.