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Letchworth State Park Mountain Bike Trails

Niagra Region

Waterfalls, Romantic, Scenic Views, Historic, Wildlife, Canyons, Fall Foliage

Directions to Trailhead
Trail Description

Location: Livingston and Wyoming Counties.

Length/Configuration: 30 miles of multi-use trails. Design your own mountain bike ride using network of multi-use trails.

Terrain/Surface: Mostly singletrack, old woods and carriage roads. Varied terrain, technically challenging sections on some trails.

Technical Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced.

Elevation Change: Hilly.

Trail Use: mountain bike, hike. Cross-country ski, snowmobile (winter).

Caution: Multi-use. Use caution around the waterfalls and trail ledges. Permit required to use the Finger Lakes Trail (open from May1 - November 1 depending on trail conditions).

Carry-in Carry-out park. Trail conditions vary seasonally. Use insect repellent and be on the alert for ticks.

Note: This trail map is a graphical representation designed for general reference purposes only. Read Full Disclaimer.

 

General Description

You'll hear the roar of three colossal waterfalls (the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls) and see many more while mountain biking at Letchworth State Park, one of New York's Flagship and fifth largest State Park. For over 11,000 years, the 157-mile long Genesee River has carved the hills and canyons of Letchworth State Park as it flows northward through the park for approximately 17 miles. Three separate canyons / gorges now distinguish Letchworth State Park. At 550 feet deep, the Genesee River Gorge is the deepest vertical-walled canyon in the Northeast.

Reserve America has named Letchworth State Park one of the top five romantic spots in the nation. It certainly has it's fair share of romantic settings with twenty-seven waterfalls, miles of multi-use trails that lead to wondrous scenic overlooks, tracts of Virgin Forest, lux guest accommodations and exciting adventure sports. There are also family friendly park facilities and activities, historic points of interest and a designated Important Bird Area; all of which make this park a treasured recreational resource and destination.

Facilities

Historic Glen Iris Inn; Maplewood Inn, tent & RV campsites; winterized cabins; Conference Center; picnic areas; snack bars & gift shops; playgrounds; two swimming pools including an Olympic pool; Highbanks Recreation Area; Humphrey Nature Center; a restored Seneca Council House and more.

There are several concessions located on the Letchworth State Park premises. For romance; the historic Glen Iris Inn has lux guest suites and fine dining. For adventure, whitewater rafting and hot air ballooning tour concessions are stationed at the park. There are no bicycle rentals at the park but there is a Cyclepath in nearby Geneseo.

Visitor's Center / Headquarters

William B. Hoyt II Visitor Center

Named for William Hoyt, who represented Buffalo, NY in the Assembly for 18 years. He was an ardent proponent of wild rivers and fought a 1988 proposal to significantly raise the Mount Morris Dam and install larger power-generating turbines in its base. The plan would have raised the summer pool in the Letchworth Gorge high enough to flood the seasonal white-water rapids. After a public campaign that included a "paddle-in," the proposal was dropped.

There's a meeting room, gift shop, restrooms and displays of the Genesee River system. We always stop at Park Visitor Center's to register and get info on current trail access and condition information.

Letchworth State Park Trail Connections

Genesee Valley Greenway

5.75 miles of the 84-mile Genesee Valley Greenway Trail (Trail 7 in Letchworth) travels through the southeastern section of Letchworth State Park. It coincides with the Fingerlakes Letchworth Branch Trail near the Parade Grounds. This long-distance, multi-use, natural surface trail corridor follows the route of the abandoned Genesee Valley Canal and the Pennsylvania Railroad Rochester Branch from the Erie Canalway Trail in Rochester’s Genesee Valley Park to Hinsdale in Cattaraugus County.

The trail is now permanently closed in Letchworth Park from about mile 53 south of the Parade Grounds to the Genesee River in Portageville (a portion of Park Trail #7) due to dangerous conditions resulting from land sliding into the gorge.

Letchworth State Park Mountain Bike Trails Description

From the 22 mile Letchworth FLT to the Mount Morris High Banks Trail, there are fabulous mountain biking experiences to be had on both sides of the 550 foot deep Genesee River Gorge at Letchworth State Park using a combination of park roads and multi-use trails. While most of the trail configurations in Letchworth are out and back, there are several nice loop ride options.

While the most popular trail for mountain biking is the 22-mile long Lechworth Finger Lakes Trail, for your mountain biking pleasure, we list a variety of multi-use trails that link together to form longer bike rides to some cool park features featuring waterfalls, area geology wildlife watching spots and historic points of interest. Many are accessible by bicycle right off River Road and other Park roads.

On your travels through and around the park you’ll come across stone walls, bridges, picnic tables and shelters that were all created during the 1930′s by the CCC, when the New Deal Program created work for countless citizens resulting in infrastructure improvements throughout the United States.

Bikes are only allowed on the park roads and trails numbered 2, 2a, 3, 5, 7, 8, 8A,10, 11, 13 19, 20, 23 and the Finger Lakes Letchworth Branch Trail.Trails range in length from 0.4 mile to just over 24 miles. If you are the type that revels in mystery and the thrill of discovery, these off-the-beaten path trails are for you.

Some guidelines to follow when cycling at the park: Stay off the trails when they are wet, don't skid – especially at creek crossings, be on the alert for hikers and slow down. Mountain bikes or hybrid bikes recommended.

West Side Trails

The west side is the well-travelled side of the park with all the amenties and well established trails and paths. There are fun family friendly mountain bike rides to be had using a combinaton of woods trails 2, 2A and 3. These can be accessed from behind the Trailside Lodge, the Council Grounds, or the small parking lot next to the new Railroad Trestle Bridge. Trails 10, 11 and 13, located in the central portion of the west side are also open to mountain bikes.

Jemison, Hemlock, Trout Pond Loop

Mileage / Blaze: Yellow / Green, 5.6 miles

This loop ride utilizes 3 trails: The 2 mile Mary Jemison Trail (2) , the 1.7 mile Hemlock Trail (2A) and the 0.75 mile Trout Pond Trail (3). Trail 2 is the start of the Trout Pond Loop. There is a parking area at the Council Grounds. These are mainly a mix of doubletrack forested woods roads with some roots, steep and possibly wet sections. Combine these to create to create fun family friendly mountain bike / hybrid bike circuits on well established paths.

Mary Jemison Trail : Yellow Blaze, 2 miles

The trailhead begins at the Museum behind the Council House grounds. From the parking area head west. The winding route follows Deh-ga-ya-soh Creek and connects two trails (2A & 3) to form the 5.6 mile Trout Pond Loop. The doubletrack trail rolls through farm fields that have returned to a second growth forest of beech, maple and birch. Old growth eastern hemlocks, 200+ years old, still mark long forgotten hedgerows.

Hemlock Trail : Green Blaze, 1.7 miles

This leg of the Trout Pond Loop has a more difficult rating. Starting fom the Council Grounds, when you reach the Y junction turn right (northwest) and continue until you reach The Hemlock Trail (2A). It's a rolling double-track trail marked with Green Blazes. The trail extends off the Mary Jemison Trail. it passes by Trout Pond as well as the Trailside Lodge. The trail is shaded by ancient Eastern Hemlock which "Cathedrals" overhead.

Trout Pond Trail : Green Blaze, .75 mile

This relatively flat old carriage trail circles idyllic Trout Pond. Along the way it passes by a grove of red pines that were planted in the 1930s by the Civlian Conservation Corps. There is a wooden deck platform with a picnic table overlooking the pond.

St. Helena Trail (13)

Mileage / Blaze: 1 mile, one way.

The St. Helena Trail is a remnant of an old road that led to a millng village located on the bank of the Genesee river. It's a wide path with dips and long steady climbs. Whatever your bike ride experience was on the way down, reverse that on your way back up the trail.

The village stands on land that was part of the Gardeau Reservation. St. Helena grew to be a thriving commuity with two sawmills; a shingle, paper and flour mill; two general stores; a hotel; schoolhouse and several dwellings. Barely visible today are a few building foundations and a stone abutment, remnants of a bridge where canoers, kayakers and rafters disembark.

Begin from the lower St. Helena picnic area and descend on the St. Helena Trail (13). You will arive at a 4-way junction where Trail 13 coincides with the Park Road. If you take the Park Road (southwest) down to where it meets with Trail (1), the St.Helena Falls (Canoe Shower Falls, Crucifix Falls, Abutment Falls, Wriggling Water) are visible across the gorge.

The Trail 13 branches to the south and east are wide, old dirt roads that descend to the river flats. The views as you descend and at the river's edge are heavenly. Today, St. Helena’s fields and foundations are covered with 15 feet of mud that has settled from flood waters held behind the Mt. Morris Dam.

It is strongly recommended that you do not attempt this trail when inclement weather is predicted or when the Dam is doing it's job. In periods of high water the river flats and parts of the trail may be totally submerged.

Kisil Point Trail (18)

Mileage / Blaze: Yellow, 2 miles, 0.75 miles

The Silver Lake Outlet flows into the Genesee River north of Smokey Hollow and Kisil Point. As it approaches the deepening canyon valley, the stream froths and tumbles over waterfalls as it makes it's way to the point where Kisil Gorge meets the Genesse River Gorge.

The Kisil Point Trail (18) is most easily accessed from the Highbanks Tent & Trailer Camping Area. It's a forested route with an eye in the needle loop in the middle, so it's not quite an out-and-back. This is a Intermediate Level ride over a winding dirt woods trail with roots and rocks. Technical skills are needed to navigate between the trees and ace the ridge descents. You have the option to avoid the ridge descent and just turn back at the eye of the needle junction (beginning or end of the branches) for a Beginner Level ride.

From the start, cycle past past the campgrounds and an abandoned picnic area and shelter. In about 0.4 mile arrive at the loop. The left branch overlooks the thread of the Silver Lake Outlet, the right travels above the rim of the Genesee River Gorge. While the route is forested, there are openings that allow nice views of the Gorge and river below.

At around 0.9 miles, the 2 branches meet and a spur trail descends along a narrow ridge sandwiched between the two gorges. The defined trail literally ends at the Gorge edge. It's a captivating overlook that highlights the different rock strata of the two canyon walls and the river flats.

There is a very steep unmaintained primitive path that descends off the point edge. Because these types of trails are unmaintained, and may have been for a long time, trail users need to be extra-vigilant and watch for common hazards like blowdowns and unsafe terrain like scree and silt.

What goes down must also go back up, that is – if you don't cause a landslide.

Trail Access

The Kisil Point Trail has two official trailheads. One leaves from the park road, about 4 miles from the Mount Morris Park Entrance The other trailhead can be accessed from the Highbanks Camping area.

Gibsonville Trail (19)

Mileage / Blaze: Yellow, 0.5 miles

This 0.5 mile trail may be short in distance but it's long in history with pretty Papermill Falls (Silver Lake Outlet) as a backdrop. Follow the Gibsonville Trail (19) until you hear the waterfall. It's five-feet high with three drops.

Before 1800, settlers began to tap the outlets power to run their mills. Eventually the nascent Gibsonville (circa 1792), grew to become the village of Gibsonville. This story can not be told without mentioning the dashing and daring Ebeneezer Allen, a Lieutenant in a company of the Green Mountain Boys. He was with Ethan Allen when Fort Ticonderogo was captured from the British during the Revolutionary War. It was Ebeneezer "Indian Allen" who built the first sawmill along the Silver Lake Outlet.

At one point, Gibsonville had a general store, post office, shoemaker mill, blacksmith, schoolhouse and other dwellings. The site was a Civilian Conservation Corp camp from 1933 to 1941.

Trail Access

From Mount Morris, enter Letchworth State Park and head south on the main park road. In about 3.5 miles in you will see a sign on the right side of the road "Gibsonville.” Look for the parking area and trail-head on the left in about 0.5 mile.

High Banks Trail (20)

Mileage / Blaze: Yellow, 4.75 miles, one-way

The 7-mile Mount Morris Canyon (Letchworth Canyon) is sandwiched between the Park Road and the Genesse River Gorge Rim. Along this rolling singletrack trail, the canyon walls tower 300 feet above the river. Most people access the trailhead from Mount Morris Dam and Recreation Area. it's a Beginner to Intermediate Level mountain bike ride with open views for the first couple of miles. The ride gets progressively more challenging with elevation gains past the Big Bend.

The Highbanks has always been a popular tourist attraction and the High Banks Trail highlights some key park features such as the Mount Morris Dam & Recreation Area, Hogback and Big Bend Overlooks within the first few miles. There are also occasional views of the Gardeau Valley and several waterfalls along the route.

Crapsey Clay Falls, a tall ribbon waterfall, can be seen from the High Banks Trail just south of the Highbanks Recreation Area. Look to the west across the curve of the Hogsback. The large ravine above the Falls was formed by a great mud slide in 1928. If the lake behind the Mount Morris Dam is high during your visit, the lower portion of the falls will be underwater. Best viewed as soon as trails open for mountain biking.

The Hogsback, a regional topographic expressionistic outcrop of steeply dipping geologic strata, as seen from the Hogsback Overlook provides a beautiful rest stop as well as an area geology lesson.

Not just a trail. Why does the landscape look the way it does?

Clues To The Past - Letchworth State Park (https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=1205e9076e2844bb861ee3a4203d0ad3)

East Side Trails

Big Bend Loop (8, 8A, 10)

These trails are strategically located. Trail 8 provides access to River Road. The 0.4 mile Blue Jay Trail (8A) is a gravel Carriage Trail that branches off Trail 8 and dips down to East Park Road. This makes it easy to create several different long loop rides using different access trails. This mountain bike ride along an isolated canyon rim offers some choice park views and some of the best opportunities for spotting resident wildlife. That's not a stick in the trail, it's a Timber Rattler! See Wildlife Watch.

 

Parade Grounds / Big Bend Loop 9.5 mile loop.

Start at the Parade Grounds (entrance closed in winter), where the First New York Dragoons and 136th New York Volunteer Infantry regiments trained before joining the Civil War. Start this ride with a picnic at the Parade Grounds Picnic Area and a short side trip on the Genesee Greenway (Trail 7 - trailhead is at the Parade Grounds) to get a view of the fabulous and famous Middle Genesee Falls.

From the Parade grounds area, head left (NE) on the paved Parade Ground Road. Pass an overlook and Trail (6) on the left. The East Park Road gets rougher and hillier. At 1.8 miles the road turns to gravel and then to a one-lane paved road. Pass Trail 8A on the left. At 2.3 miles keep to the left at the Y junction. Continue north and just past the 'E' Cabin area at the junction with Trail 10A, is the start of the popular Big Bend Trail "Lasso Loop". The road becomes a double track path and curves uphill.

This isolated rim features the deepest point of the gorge at 550 feet where Big Bend Trail loops like a lasso along the curve of a meander 'The Big Bend" in the river and doubles back on itself across from Humphrey's Overlook. Mountain bike back to your starting point.

Parking is off Park Road, just past the entrance for the "Parade Grounds". Pass the parade grounds on the left 3/10ths of a mile look for a small parking area (maybe for about 10 cars) on the left side of the road at the Portage Trail Trailhead.

 

River Road / Big Bend Loop.

For a slightly shorter loop ride, start at the parking area located at the 4-way junction of Dygert Road, River Road, Trail 9 and Trail 8. from the lot head southwest on Trail 8 (River Road). The gravel road parallels the Finger Lakes Trail as it follows Dishmill Creek. Head onto the Blue Jay Trail (8A) at the trail junction. you'll be making a sharp turn to the north towards East Park Road. At East Park road bear right and follow directions above to the Big Bend Loop Trail.

Finger Lakes Trail - Letchworth (FLT)

Mileage / Blaze: Yellow, 22 miles

Through an agreement with the Finger Lakes Trail Conference, mountain bicyclists are permitted on a 22-mile trail spur of the Finger Lakes Trail within Letchworth State Park. You'll need to register at the Visitor's Center first. The trail is open for riding during the summer months from June 1st to October 31st, sooner if the trails are dry.

It's an epic, continuous, Intermediate to Advanced level mountain bike ride along the less-traveled eastern rim of the gorge. The trail travels mostly through northern hardwood forest, over terrain ranging from from rooty and rocky singletrack, level to rolling woods roads to grassy doubletrack over an old canal towpath. The trail is well established and signed.

It's a mountain biking experience featuring dramatic and beautiful views of the gorge; side spur overlooks; cantilevered sections; numerous small stream crossings; tackling some drops and maneuvering around Hemlock scented ravines. It's a challenging ride. The direction of travel is two-way, and most of the stream crossings are not bridged. There may be a downed tree or two to navigate.

A good start point is from the Hogs Back Trailhead parking area near Mt. Morris, south of where the Route 436 bridge crosses the river. If you have limited time there are several access / exit points to and from River Road. The 0.4-mile LSP Access Trail G is located near the FLT midpoint at the Junction of River Road and Oakland Road. There is also a small parking area at the road junction.

Around the trail midpoint, the gorge deepens and widens as it curves through the woods. This is the area where you'll tackle most of the stream crossings. The southern section of the trail travels along Dishmill Creek before coinciding with a section of the Genesse Valley Greenway for a short time. The old rail route which used to hug the walls of the gorge was eventually shut down due to constant landslides from above which still continue to this day . .

and the Genesee Greenway Trail section from Middle Falls to the new Genesee Arch Bridge has now been permanently closed due to recent landlsides. Use caution going through this area. It will be obvious.

 

Trail Access

There are several access points, most of the signed access points are along River Road between the Genesee River Gorge and NY 408, the Mt. Morris Dam Visitor Center, the Park Road just past parking area for Parade Grounds or NY 436 just before the river bridge, heading south.

 

Trail Highlights & Points of Interest

Bike to Scenic Overlooks & Firetowers

While the entire park is in itself a scenic overlook, we feature a few views with fascinating viewpoints easily accessible by mountain bike below. The LetchWorth Finger Lakes Trail, The High Banks Trail, Big Bend Loop Trail offer some of the best viewpoints. The landscape is ever morphing according to season and time of day. You may be competing with leafy green tree branches for scenic overlook views during peak summer season.

Gardeau Overlook

You can mountain bike up to the overlook via a spur road off the Deer Run Trail. A kiosk situated at the top of a rise explains that the scene stretched out before you, the Gardeau Valley was once the home of renowned American frontierswoman, Mary Jemison.

Mount Morris Dam & Recreation Area

John Wesley Powell, American explorer, geologist, and ethnologist, best known for his exploration of the upper portion of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon was born in Mount Morris in 1834. He saw his first "Grand Canyon" at The Mount Morris Highbanks. Little did he know that within a century a colossal Dam would stand in the gorge at the spot where he got his first canyon impression and that the area would become part of Letchworth State Park.

While I wouldn't describe it as scenic in the usual sense, at 230 feet high and over 1000 feet long, Mount Morris Dam is certainly an impressive sight. It was constructed in 1950 by the Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood protection along 67 miles of the Genesee River Valley from the village of Mount Morris to downtown Rochester where the river enters Lake Ontario. For the most part, water flows freely through the dam without interference. When exercising flood prevention, the water backs up to fill Letchworth Canyon.

The 384-acre Mount Morris Dam and Recreation Area is a day use parkwith grounds providing overlooks of Letchworth Gorge. Explore the Visitor Center to or join a Ranger guided Tour of the Mount Morris Dam. There are picnic areas, playgrounds and a cafe with a coffee bar. Several multi-use trails including the High Banks Trail extend through the area. Take time out to enjoy a latte before or after your bike ride.

 

Trail Access

6103 Visitor Center Rd, Mt Morris (Access from Route 408, south of Mt Morris).

Bikes & Waterfalls

There's a waterfall for you on almost every multi-use trail from canyon overlooks and along the trail or forest roads. The Finger Lakes Letchworth Branch Trail (FLT), The High Banks Trail (20), The Big Bend Loop (8, 8A, 10), The Gibsonville Trail (17), The Kisil Point Trail (18) are mountain bike trails with eyegore.

Bikes & Ghost Towns

Long before There are two Ghost Towns in Letchworth State Park; Gibsonville and St. Helena. Use the Park Road to access these relatively short multi-use trails to visit both of these sites. Gisbonville can be accessed via the Kisil Point Trail (18, 19) and St.Helena from the St. Helena Trail (13).

The Council Grounds, Letchworth Museum

Around the council fires sat famous Seneca warriors and chiefs". For it's preservation, this circa 1890, Revolutionary War era, log Iroquois long house was purchased by William Pryor Letchworth. It was removed from it's location on the Genesee River in Caneadea, New York and set on a bluff above the Glen Iris Inn.

In 1872, The Council House was re-dedicated. The last council fire on the Genesee was attended by many distinguished guests including Colonel Simcoe Kerr, grandson of Joseph Brant, as representative of the Mohawk, and, for the Seneca, descendants of Red Jacket, Cornplanter and Mary Jemison.

Mary Jemison's story is both a tragic and heroic tale. In 1755, when Mary was 12 years old she was captured along with family members by a raiding party consisting of Shawnee Indians and several Frenchmen during the French and Indian War. While she was spared, her family members were killed shortly after their capture while on their march to the French stronghold at Fort Duquesne. There, she was given to two Seneca women (as reparation for the loss of their family members) who adopted her into their family.

She married a young warrior when she was 17 and chose to remain a Seneca rather than return to British Colonial culture, for so many reasons, including her children. Mary lived for 52 years within the Gardeau Valley on a tract of Seneca Reservation land (Gardeau Flats) that was set aside for Mary and her extended family. In 1831 she sold off most of her land and moved to the Buffalo Creek Reservation. She died there in 1833 at age 90.

Mary Jemison's final resting place was in danger of being swallowed up by the expanding City of Buffalo. After reading about Mary's history, William Prior Letchworth brought her back home to the Genesee. She is buried in the park near the Jemison Cabin and the William Pryor Letchworth Museum. The museum was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

The museum has displays of pioneer and Native American artifacts collected by Mr. Letchworth, including items such as stone tools and pottery. It features the Seneca Indian Council House which was restored just in time for The Park Centennial Celebration in May of 2006.

Wildlife Watch & Photography Trails

The 14,427 acre park is essentially also a wildlife refuge and corrdor. As you hike, bike and travel the waterways, you will certainly come across and spot many wild park residents doing their thing within their natural surroundings.

Letchworth qualified as a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area (BCA). Within the forest, river and shrub habitat an amazing assemblage of both regional and migratory bird species exist. More than 30 species of warblers, 64 out of 74 species of Neotropical migratory birds and those of special concern (willow flycatcher, wood thrush, blue-winged warbler, Canada warbler, yellowbreasted chat and rusty blackbird) have found refuge in the park in all seasons.

Large clusters of ancient Eastern Hemlock trees can be found throughout the park. Their graceful hanging boughs provide cover for Barred Owls, Red-shouldered and Cooper's Hawks ruffed grouse, turkey, white-tailed deer, red fox, coyotes, and cottontail rabbits. In addition, American beech, white oak, Eastern white pine, red pine, sugar maple, black birch, beech, yellow birch, quaking aspen, black walnut, eastern red cedar, staghorn sumac and chestnut oak combine with an understory of Wood Horsetail, Trout Lily, Partridgeberry, Poison Ivy, Indian Poke and White Trillium (and more) to provide a kalaeidescope of Fall Color in the Autumn.

Whether poised with a tucked-in S-shaped neck at a bend in the Genesee river or wading through the wetlands, the Great Blue Heron (one of our favorite mascots) is always a majestic sight. The Common merganser and wood ducks are always fun to watch.

The harmless Northern Black Snake is a fairly common sight in the park. There are venomous snakes around including a threatened species - the Eastern Timber rattler. They usually come out of their dens once the warmer weather arrives. Stocky and powerful, adults usually range from three to four and a half feet in length. Keep your distance and leave them alone. it should be noted they are always protected by law. Watch out for Red Spotted Newts on the moist forest floors and among leaf litter.

Historical Note: Portage Bridges Over The Genesee River Gorge

In 1859, industrialist William Pryor Letchworth (1823–1910) began purchasing land near the Middle Falls, and started construction of his Glen Iris Estate. In 1906 he bequeathed the 1,000-acre estate to New York, which soon after became the core of the newly created Letchworth State Park. While he left us much of an historical legacy to enjoy in the park, the bittersweet tale of the marvelously engineered Genesee River Railroad Trestle bridges is a story worth telling.

It was decided that a rail link between Buffalo and New York City was needed. In the mid 1800's, The Erie Railroad Company began to construct a wooden trestle bridge just above the Upper Falls where the river gorge was 250 feet deep and 900 feet wide.  It took nearly two years to complete. It required all the timber from 205 acres of heavily timbered land. Its massive stone piers were constructed of about 10,000 yards of masonry.

The opening of the wooden trestle bridge in August of 1852 was celebrated in grand style. It was instantly hailed as the highest and longest bridge in the world; and it quickly became a magnet for tourists. Letchworth Biographer J. N. Larned said the wooden bridge "was a wonderfully effective adjunct of the scenery, filling, as it did, the whole opening between the walls of the river by the lattice-like structure of its timber trestles, and seeming to be just a great gate, hung with no other design than to shut out the external world." 

On May 6, 1875, 23 years after it opened, a fire consumed the wooden structure. A new iron bridge, 20-feet higher then it's predecessor was hastily constructed within 84 days. It was completed in the summer of 1875. In 1903, remodeling began and sections of the iron trestle were replaced with steel throughout the 20th century.

The Norfolk Southern railway announced plans to build a new bridge, the "Genesee Arch Bridge". A new $75 million steel arch railroad bridge project was started in December of 2017.  Despite public efforts to save the bridge for use as a bikeway / pedestrian walkway, it was decided it was best to tear the structure down for many reasons including safety. The new single-track bridge was constructed just to the south of the old Portageville Bridge. On December 11, 2017, the first train crossed the new bridge. The last remnants of the 1875 bridge was demolished on March 20, 2018.

While trains no longer stop on the historic trestles to let passengers step out to admire the lofty views, visitors including those on bicycles can look up and admire the 963-foot span and 83-foot arch of the "Genessee Arch Bridge" that arcs 235 feet above the majestic Genesee River. They can also enjoy the upgraded electrical system, new restroom facilities and visit the $5.75 million new state-of-art Nature Center funded by New York State in 2015.

“We’re absolutely committed to restoring the historic, environmental and recreational grandeur that we inherited over 100 years ago,” Rose Harvey, former commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said. “We’re also instilling a relevancy for the 21st-century user in terms of energy efficiency and climate resiliency.”

 

BIKEKINETIX® (www.bikekinetix.com), August 12, 2019.

Directions

The park has 5 entrances: Mt. Morris (north), Perry (north-west), Castile (southwest), Portageville (south) and the Parade Grounds (southeast). The Portageville and Parade Grounds entrances are closed during the winter months. Fees apply.

Mount Morris Entrance: Park Rd, Mt Morris, NY 14510. Drive south on 1-390 to Exit 7.Take Rt. 408 to the the village of Mount Morris. Turn north onto NY 36, and drive a mile to the park's northern entrance.

More Information

Letchworth State Park
1 Letchworth State Park
Castile, NY 14427

Phone: (585) 493-3600
Website: Letchworth State Park

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