Nov 6, 2017

Chimney Bluffs State Park is unique

I am constantly amazed at how many interesting things there are to see within an hour or so drive from my home, things I didn’t know about.  Plus, there are things that I have heard about but never visited.  Such is the case with Chimney Bluffs State Park in Wolcott.  Actually, I only heard about it a couple years ago but only visited recently.  

The bluffs are eroded drumlins (teardrop-shaped hills) that were formed by glaciers and then shaped by wind, rain, snow and waves into what appear to be chimneys.  However, I think the bluff also brings to mind castles. They are constantly eroding and I wonder how much the recent strong waves and winds have changed them.  It is said that they can erode one to five feet a year. 

The area, like much of the shoreline of Lake Ontario, was once
frequented by smugglers bringing in liquor from Canada during Prohibition. The state acquired the land from a private owner and in 1999 built heated restrooms, a parking lot, picnic areas, and hiking trails.  There is $5 usage fee but no onsite ranger so there is an “honor” pay box. It is open all year making it great for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. There are four miles of hiking trails including a one-mile
trail along the bluff.  Actually, the bluff trail meanders through the woods with view points along the way. At the end there is a stairway down to the shore. Some walk the trail one way and the shore on the other. Walkers are cautioned to stay away from the edge as the waves have undercut the rims. Nine Mile Point Nuclear plant cooling towers are visible from most vantage points. Besides the Bluff Trail there is also a Drumlin Trail, an East-West Trail, and a short trail to Garner Point. 

I find walking in the woods a great way to relax and feel mentally
renewed – maybe it is all the oxygen.  Some of the trees along the path are quite impressive. For those who aren’t into hiking there are benches with great views of the lake.  Along the path from the parking lot to the shore there is a fascinating tree.  One part of the tree has been bent to form a “U”. Such trees are called “Thong Trees” or “Culturally Modified Trees.”  John and I have actually seen others but not in New York State. Originally, the trees were bent by Native Americans as trail signs but doubt that that specific tree is old enough.  

John noticed something along the path that I would have missed, I guess because I was so interested in the Thong Tree.  Nearby are two stumps. The top has been smoothed off and each one has a memorial written on it. Even though the writing has faded and some of the edges have worn away but it is possible to read some of it. Both people were killed in the same accident and were only 20 years old. The walkway from the parking lot to the shore is wheelchair accessible but the bluff trail is not. 

Not too far away is Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum where there are many displays dealing with the area along with more great views of the lake. There are also some great waterside restaurants but they are only open during the summer months.