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DEC reminds hikers and others to stay safe when visiting Zoar Valley

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) say improvements continue to be made to enhance the visitor experience and promote safety.

GOWANDA, N.Y. — It's one of the most beautiful places to visit in WNY, but the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wants to make sure it's also one of the safest.

Ahead of this summer's recreation season, the DEC continues to make improvements to the area that stretches across both southern Erie and norther Cattaraugus counties. 

“Zoar Valley is a special place where nature exists in its raw and wild state,” Commissioner BasilSeggos said. “As the weather warms and we start the outdoor recreation season, DEC encourages visitors to enjoy Zoar while ensuring they are prepared to recreate safely and responsibly. We are committed to continuously improving the visitor experience at Zoar Valley by providing the information and resources necessary to ensure the safe enjoyment of one of Western New York’s most natural and scenic locations.”

Zoar Valley's scenic beauty includes a deep gorge surrounding Cattaraugus Creek, as well as sheer cliffs, flowing waterfalls and dense forests.

This year at Zoar Valley the DEC will: 

  • Continue to advance plans for new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant and accessible trails, with construction anticipated to begin in 2023;
  • Enhance emergency response operations, including improved emergency access to Cattaraugus Creek;
  • Assign two Assistant Forest Rangers to seasonal summer posts, as well as a summer intern from SNY ESF; and
  • Continue working closely with outside entities, including outdoor and travel websites, to monitor maps and information provided by third parties for accuracy in order to provide visitors with clear information and directions.

The DEC reminds visitors to follow all rules and regulations and take appropriate outdoor safety measures including: 

  • Signing in and out of all trail registers. Only one person should sign in for groups;
  • Following all State Forest RegulationsOutdoor Safety Practicesand newly posted signage at access points, along trails and at the gorge rim. Dozens of signs were added to promote the safe use of Zoar Valley, mark trails, and encourage visitors to remain on marked trails. New kiosk panels at the Valentine Flats and Forty Road parking areas also provide visitors with additional maps and safety messages;
  • Staying on marked trails. The property contains hazards associated with rocks, steep slopes, cliffs, and swift water. DEC, through its collaboration with stakeholders, shortened the Overlook Trail at Valentine Flats to keep visitors safely away from the rim of the gorge and unofficial trails on the property were brushed in to discourage the use of potentially unsafe trails and to promote use of official trails. The only safe gorge and creek access is from the Valentine Flats Trail and Forty Road parking lot. There is no authorized, safe trail to access Cattaraugus Creek on the Erie County side of the Multiple Use Area;
  • Observing all the rules and regulations. Before visiting, visitors should familiarize themselves with DEC’s new regulations, which restrict access upstream from the Forty Road parking area, include a 15-foot setback from the cliff edges, prohibit climbing of cliff walls, and create a new restricted area along the South Branch of Cattaraugus Creek. Additional rules and regulations continue to prohibit camping, fires, alcoholic beverages, and glass containers at Zoar Valley;
  • Following @NYSDECAlerts. Launched in 2021, the @NYSDECAlerts Twitter feed helps provide real-time updates about the most crowded places, especially when those places and parking areas are at capacity; and
  • Practicing Leave No TraceTM Principleswhen recreating on State land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, minimize impact on the natural resources, and avoid conflicts with others.

Click here to read important tips for visitors to Zoar Valley and frequently asked questions.

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