A Visit to Letchworth State Park in Western New York

Yesterday, my husband and I visited a park, Letchworth State Park, we had both been to as youth. My husband remembers swimming in a pool within the confines of the park and I remember going to the park with a school group. We went to the Glen Iris Inn, which sits inside the park for our tenth anniversary dinner over twenty years ago.For both of us, that dinner was our last trip to the park since we moved to Wisconsin in 1999. Letchworth State Park is an easy hour’s drive south of Rochester and an hour east of Buffalo. Some of the most beautiful scenery in the east can be witnessed in this park. Prior to 1797, the land where Letchworth lays belonged to the Seneca Indians, one of the local Native American tribes in New York.

Letchworth is known as the Grand Canyon of the East and when you visit, you can certainly see why! The canyon has been cut by the Genesee River, over eons of time through shale, siltstone, and sandstone rock that line the walls and high cliffs (New York State Museum website, 2021). The current remains swift and there are three sets of waterfalls to which you can hike on well maintained trails. In the 17 miles of park, there are over 66 trails to reach different parts of the park. Yesterday, the weather was cool in the low 70’s with low humidity and a cool, soft breeze. As we approached the upper falls, a gentle mist floated through the air, refreshing us further.

The park is noteworthy not only for the deep canyon cut by the river and the stunning waterfalls but also for the Civilian Conservation Corps work that was done there. Numerous projects were completed by the CCC in Letchworth State Park during the Great Depression Era. One of the most impressive to me was the stone walls and steps that serve to protect people from the gorge as well as transport you down to the lower levels. On our walk to visit the lower falls, we traversed 100 stone (shale) steps that got us to the landing bridge (also built by the CCC) to closer to the water level. There is an extensive list of links regarding the history at Letchworth State Park found here.

We enjoyed our time at Letchworth yesterday. It was good to see people out, using the park, and enjoying nature. In 2015, Letchworth was named the best state park in the country! We know why! It was a lovely visit to a beautiful place filled with history.

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