Watkins Glen State Park is the best known among the other State Parks spread across the Finger Lakes region in New York state. The park is outside the boundaries of Watkins Glen village located in Schuyler county. It can be found on the south end of Seneca Lake, its lower reaches extending towards the village while on the park's upper end lies woodlands. The park has many facilities for both camping and daytime visitors. The park's 1,000-acre topography has 400-foot cliffs, gorges, rim trails, and also Seneca Lake within its vicinity. Other destinations nearby are the chain of other Finger Lakes New York state parks. The best time to visit is springtime and summertime, although anytime may prove to be a good time to explore it.
Watkins Glen State Park is a popular destination for New Yorkers for its close proximity, and it offers alternative parks to explore nearby as well. Its facilities include a swimming pool and camping grounds, and there is a snack bar, gift shop, vending machine, playground and drinking fountains. Reservations are required for these campsites, and some degree of handicap access can be found in most areas of the park, with the exception of the gorge and rim trails. Getting to the park is easy for the average tourist. One need only to take the I-90 Exit 42 to Route 14 South or, from I-86, Exit 52A to Route 14 North. The main entrance is located in downtown Watkins Glen on Route 14. An admissions fee is charged to park visitors.
The park's main attractions are its 19 waterfalls and its annual rainbow trout run in the spring. The park offers hiking, fishing, camping, hunting and bird watching activities. Its three hiking trails provide access to the 800-mile trail system that runs throughout New York state. The Gorge Trail winds through the 19 waterfalls, and includes access to the famous 180 stone steps known as "Jacob's Ladder". Around the park are rock abutments and cliff faces that provide for awesome scenery for the area's hikers and tourists. Many come here for the photography opportunities that the park offers and, in winter, cross-country skiing is a popular activity in the area.
Flora and fauna are scattered throughout the Finger Lakes State Parks, of which Watkins Glen State Park is the most notable member park. Some of these flora and fauna are concentrated in the Finger Lakes National Forest. The animal life there has a number of shrub-land birds that include the northern harrier, sparrows and kestrels, alongside grassland birds like cuckoos, goldfinches, warblers and towhees. There are also thrashers, grouse, goshawk, tanagers, and woodcocks. Animals commonly seen roaming the forest floor are deer, bobcats, and foxes. Those who fancy botanical marvels will find delight in native flowers and plants like the milfoil, plantains, stoneworts and muskgrass. Several fish species, including trout, landlocked salmon, pike, and bass, inhabit its streams and Seneca Lake.
The tourist should be aware that the park's stone trails are affected by weather conditions. They can become wet and slippery or icy and slick, and visitors should take care in using them. The long trails include steep stone steps that ascend and descend, with some having as many as 180 continuous steps, so people should be prepared to engage in some level of physical exertion when venturing into and around the park. For safety reasons, swimming is allowed only in the park's designated swimming pools. Winter always brings some damage to the gorge trail in spring, which thusly has to be rebuilt every year. The rim trails, however, are open year round. Tourists are advised to only take out what they take in, and no removal of any natural parts of the park is allowed. The park is managed by the New York State Office of Parks.
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