WNY Family Magazine September 2018 - Page 52

FAMILY TRAVEL continued... “One night just as Van Detto was closing up, a robber with a gun came in and Maud jumped up on the robber and scared him so much that he ran out, as the story goes,” Jean Rooker said. “He was a big dog.”  Erie Canal Heritage Park, 1675 Rooker Dr., Port Byron, 315-776-4601, www.newyork- canals.org/preservation_portbyron.htm. Look for the signs on the Thruway. • Letchworth State Park has been a lifelong favorite. It has long been considered one of the shining jewels of the state park system and is a place of wondrous peace, serenity, and beauty. The park is also not much more than an hour’s drive for many area residents, making it perfect for a day trip. Fall is an ideal time for a visit.  In 2015, Letchworth won the USA Today Readers’ Choice Award for Best State Park in the United States. Letchworth came out on top of the 19 other state parks nominated for the contest, chosen from more than 6,000 parks across the nation. The park has been dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East.” It is here that the Genesee River runs fast and deep between towering rock walls, forming a 17-mile gorge with three dra- matic waterfalls. It is named after William Pryor Letchworth, who rescued and preserved the area. Letchworth is now 14,350 acres and offers cavernous gorg- es, three waterfalls, inspirational “lookouts,” historical monu- ments, a one-of-a-kind museum, camping and lodging options, miles of hiking trails, swimming pool, picnic areas, shelters, pavilions, and much more. Letchworth, a Buffalo businessman, retired early from his business and devoted himself to social reform. His efforts bet- tered the lives of thousands of Indians, the poor, juvenile de- linquents, prisoners, epileptics, the blind, and the mentally ill. He was an early conservationist and transformed the once scarred landscape into a place of unspoiled beauty. Nearly every species of North American tree grows here, thanks to Letch- worth. Two years ago, the Humphrey Nature Center opened and offers environmental education opportunities for school groups, scouts, youth organizations, and the public. It houses many in- teractive exhibits that especially highlight the plants and ani- mals, geology, and river ecology of the park. Outside there is an outdoor classroom, butterfly garden, a bird observation station and trails that leave from the center that bring visitors to the Trout Pond, Inspiration Point Overlook, and patches of old growth forest. Hikers can choose among 66 miles of hiking trails. Trails are also available for hosebackriding, biking, snowmobiling, 52 WNY Family September 201 8