CASTILE, N.Y. — With its monumental waterfalls, deep gorges, and vast beauty, it's easy to understand the lure of Letchworth State Park.
It has a long history, home to many cultures over the eons. It's also a haven for a great diversity of wildlife. Sprawling over 14,00 acres, its size can seem a little overwhelming at times. Environmental Education Assistant Conrad Baker knows the park well.
"Letchworth State Park is a vast place, but it has a lot of hidden nuggets, hidden gems, what really draws people to Letchworth are the massive waterfalls."
The Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls are the park's centerpiece, but Baker says that a bit of exploring will uncover much more.
"These massive, 70-plus foot waterfalls bring people in, but there are over one hundred waterfalls in Letchworth. Some of them only show when it rains, many of them little trickles, and when it really starts to pour, it starts to become this beautiful cascade of free-fall waterfalls."
But a short diversion from life on the grand scale can lead us to the path less taken, a place to observe life on a smaller scale. Searching for animal tracks can help re-connect to the planet we've grown distant from.
"There was a line that I remember that somebody said that, "tracks are like a shadow language." They are the marks that have been left behind by things that have gone by, and might come back again."
Letchworth is a haven for many species, from Black bears to birds and White-Tailed Deer. Tracks are often just hiding in plain sight. Baker says their not always hard to find.
"It's very easy to find animal tracks in Letchworth State Park because, not only do the hiking trails go through some really productive ecosystems, but a lot of the soil types in Letchworth really lend themselves to registering tracks really well. "
And following that trail can lead to a closer look into an animal's life.
"Finding animal tracks is evidence that there are other animals that are enveloped in this environment too." Says Baker " And there's a connection there! You're hiking along the same trail as a fox, you're going down to the same river bank as a Raccoon. You're sharing the space with these wild creatures."
This path of discovery also gives us a chance to reconnect with the life around us, and to learn from its teachings.
"The connection between people and their environment is more important now than ever," Baker explains. "If we've learned anything through the Covid 19 shutdowns, it was that parks had a more important role than ever to play."
You can learn more about the park by clicking here.