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Old 04-24-2021, 04:47 PM   #1
hikingandwildex
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Zoar Valley - Western New York

Zoar Valley, a 3,000+ acre natural wonderland on the border of Erie & Cattaraugus Counties, features one of Western New York's most spectacular gorges. While not quite as popular as the Niagara Gorge or Genesee Gorge, the Cattaraugus Gorge that splits the Zoar Valley M.U.A. is a popular regional destination that attracts hikers, climbers, whitewater rafters, fishermen, wildlife observers, and nudists.

Unfortunately, several people have fallen to their deaths here over the years. The towering cliffs on both sides of the Cattaraugus Creek are no joke and will kill or seriously injure you if you are not careful. Only attempt to scale them if you know what the hell you are doing, lest you become the next victim.

I have visited Zoar in all four seasons and have enjoyed my experience every time. Some past photos from each season: Winter | Spring | Summer | Fall

This morning's outing was easily my favorite. To my pleasant surprise, I had the entire place to myself for over three hours. It was just me and several bird species including a bald eagle that I observed and photographed. It was a gorgeous day with mild temperatures and ample sunlight. My only complaint is that some views were very difficult to photograph due to the sun's angle at the time. Nevertheless, this was my favorite photo shoot since I visited the Adirondacks last fall.

Here are some of my favorite scenes from today. More photos can be seen on my photoblog that's linked below this post.































That panoramic shot was taken with my new GoPro MAX and the other photos were taken with my Canon Powershot SX740 HS. Tomorrow I plan to edit the videos I took with both cameras.
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Old 07-03-2021, 12:25 PM   #2
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I did some hiking in Zoar Valley this morning and had quite a surprise near the end of my outing. While walking along the North Rim Trail in the vicinity of 42.442343, -78.870942, I thought I saw a large off-leashed dog in the distance. A closer look revealed that it was just a little too big to be a dog. It was a bear, way further north than I'd ever expect to see one (this was technically in Erie County where Buffalo is located). Unlike the bear that I had a brief "encounter" with in Allegany State Park last year, this bear didn't notice me. We were walking towards each other on the same trail and were only ~100 feet apart (easily less than 150 ft. or half a football field) when my instincts kicked in and I decided to shout at it in a deep voice. Only after it took off in the opposite direction did I question whether I had enough time to snap a quick photo using my Canon Powershot's 40x optical zoom. I'm sure I could have gotten a lot of likes on social media, but my life was a little more important to me in the heat of the moment. Damn my instincts!

This encounter wasn't the scariest experience I've had in Zoar Valley's North Rim, as I could've easily lost my life trying to descend and then scale a cliff one time. As mentioned in the original post, several people have lost their lives here in the past and therefore it's advisable to remain a safe distance from the rim's edge if you're ever out this way. There are now signs all along the rim warning hikers to keep 15 feet (roughly 2-3 people stretched out) from the edge. Whether or not you think 15 feet is a bit excessive, the regulations and signs were put in place for a reason. You can take decent photographs from both sides of Cattaraugus Creek without endangering yourself, especially if your camera has similar zoom capability as mine. And if you want a little off-trail adventure without putting your life at risk, there's some relatively benign options at the western end of the trail near the waterfalls/cascades. You might get a bit muddy, but at least you won't end up in the obituaries!

It wasn't a sunny bluebird morning by any means, but the damp and foggy conditions had its own appeal. At times, it felt like I was walking through a tropical rainforest and not in Western New York on a 50-degree morning. Also, the heavy rains enhanced the flow of the waterfalls in the area.

Here are some photos from today's adventure. Additional photos can be seen on this page.















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Old 07-03-2021, 10:46 PM   #3
Deb dePeyster
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Beautiful photos - they make me want to go there. You don't hear much about the Zoar Valley. Thank you for sharing.
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Old 07-04-2021, 07:07 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Deb dePeyster View Post
Beautiful photos - they make me want to go there. You don't hear much about the Zoar Valley. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you. Zoar Valley is an enchanting place that has drawn me and other Western New Yorkers in for decades. Here are a few websites that can help you and others prepare for an enjoyable visit:

https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/36931.html
https://frankbroughton.us/zoar_valley.html
https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/n...tiple-use-area

Just one word of caution: The second link, while informative, contains info on some extremely dangerous and potentially fatal climbing sections that are now legally off-limits. More details on the DEC's recently-imposed restrictions can be found here:

https://www.wivb.com/news/zoar-valle...-restrictions/
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Old 07-05-2021, 05:53 PM   #5
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Nice photos. I've been wanting to visit Zoar Valley for a while. At one point I had a tentative trip planned this spring but it fell through.

I've done some poking around in gorges elsewhere in far western NY and they've always been neat spots to explore. Just gotta watch out for the nudists.
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Old 07-05-2021, 07:36 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
Nice photos. I've been wanting to visit Zoar Valley for a while. At one point I had a tentative trip planned this spring but it fell through.

I've done some poking around in gorges elsewhere in far western NY and they've always been neat spots to explore. Just gotta watch out for the nudists.
Thanks. Western New York might not have much to write home about in terms of mountains/hills, but we do have some nice gorges and waterfalls out this way. Niagara Gorge, Letchworth, and Zoar Valley are the most impressive and popular gorges and there are others that don't get quite as much attention: Chautauqua Gorge, Caz Creek Cliffs, Eighteen Mile Creek, J.C. Nicely Park in West Falls, parts of Darien Lake State Park along Ellicott Creek, Sonyea State Forest, Stony Brook, and the Conklin Gully & High-Tor area are all worthwhile to explore. And of course there are some really nice ones further east in the Finger Lakes region: Watkins Glen, Havana Glen, Robert Treman and others.
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Old 08-13-2021, 12:50 PM   #7
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The latest news from Zoar Valley (other than the recent rescue):

Quote:
Warning: Vandals removing safety signs at Zoar Valley

GOWANDA, N.Y. Efforts to improve safety at Zoar Valley seem to be working with fewer calls this summer than in past years, but there's a new challenge for the forest rangers who patrol the area.

Many of the new signs meant to keep people from getting too close to the edge have been removed.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) believes vandals are to blame.
https://www.wgrz.com/article/sports/...f-e7c45077922f
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Old 09-15-2021, 11:47 AM   #8
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For anyone that's interested, a virtual public meeting will be held this evening regarding proposed restrictions at Zoar Valley M.U.A. You must register to attend the meeting. You can register here.

The proposed restrictions are as follows:

Quote:
2) Amend 6 NYCRR section 190.25, Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area, including the Zoar Valley Unique Area by adding new subdivisions (r), (s), (t) and (u) to read as follows:

(r) No person shall proceed upstream, either by land or water, in the area beginning at the abandoned Forty Road bridge abutments, and extending upstream on the South Branch of Cattaraugus Creek to the state land boundary line, except for licensed anglers for the purpose of fishing, or by authorized permit issued by the department;

(s) No person shall enter any area designated as restricted by the department, except on trails designated and marked by the department, or by authorized permit issued by the department;

(t) No person shall enter the area within 15 feet of cliff edges; except on trails designated and marked by the department; when engaged in ice climbing or rappelling by rope; or by authorized permit issued by the department;

(u) No person shall scale or climb cliff walls, including any waterfall, except when engaged in ice climbing or rappelling by rope; or by authorized permit issued by the department.
More information can be found here:
https://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/2359.html#Zoar
https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4979.html#Public

A lot of people on social media are unhappy about these proposals, so I expect there to be some fireworks tonight...
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