Enjoy the Outdoors Safely this Summer

Allegany County is a great place for residents and visitors alike to enjoy the outdoors in the warm summer months. As a Forest Ranger, which are police officers within DEC’s Division of Forest Protection, our main duties in this great region are patrol, enforcement, and education on DEC lands; search and rescue; and wildfire suppression, investigation, and prevention.

There are nearly 60,000 acres of state land open for free public recreation administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in the county, including State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, the Wellsville-Addison Galeton (WAG) Trail, and fishing access sites.  There are also Allegany County-managed forests; the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail, managed by New York State Parks; numerous Genesee River access sites operated jointly by the county and the Genesee River Wilds organization; and Moss Lake, a Nature Conservancy property.  In addition to paddling opportunities, Cuba Lake and Rushford Lake are large enough to accommodate motorized watercraft.  The Finger Lakes Trail is part of a network of long-distance footpaths including the North Country and Appalachian National Scenic Trails that stretch all the way from North Dakota to Vermont, and from Maine to Georgia, passing through Allegany County along the way.

When hiking this summer, be sure to become familiar with the area that you plan to visit. The DEC’s website has maps of each State Forest showing the location, access sites, and trails.  Carry a compass and/or a GPS, and know how to use them.  Tell somebody back home where you plan to hike, and when you plan to return.  If you become lost, do not hesitate to call 911.  Cell service, although not 100 percent reliable everywhere, has improved in recent years.  If lost, your coordinates can be obtained by the dispatchers and relayed to Forest Rangers and other responders to locate you if necessary.  Do not panic and remain where you are.  Carry plenty of water to avoid dehydration.  After your hike, remember to check for ticks, which have increased in our area and are the major carrier of the Lyme disease.

Primitive Camping is allowed on all DEC State Forests in Allegany County. Camping is primitive in nature; there are no facilities. Follow ‘Leave No Trace’ principles by bringing all garbage home with you – there is no trash pickup.  Leave the area as you found it, or better.  Dispose of human waste by digging a trench in topsoil (and covering) at least 200 feet from the campsite and from water.  Campfires are allowed by using any firewood you find on site that is both dead and down.  You may bring natural untreated firewood with you if you are traveling 50 miles or less from its source.  This distance restriction is to help prevent the spread of invasive species. Keep the fire contained in a cleared burn area if a ring is not already provided, and make sure it is cold out when you leave.  On State Forests you may tent camp most places, if you set up at least 150 feet from roads, trails, and water.  In addition, most of the State Forests have scattered designated sites if you wish to be closer to your vehicle or are using a trailer or RV to stay. Free camping permits, required for stays longer than three nights, or any length for groups of 10 or more people, are available from Forest Rangers (see listing below). Camping on Wildlife Management Areas is generally prohibited, except for under permit from DEC’s Division of Wildlife on designated sites for Hanging Bog Wildlife Management Area. 

 When boating or paddling this summer, stay within your safety experience level for the conditions you plan to encounter. Kayak paddling on the Genesee River has become extremely popular in Allegany County due in part to an abundance of access points along its south-to-north route. The river conditions can vary depending on recent rain amounts, changing from a gently flowing float, to having to get out frequently to pull over rocks in shallow water, to near whitewater conditions requiring higher-than-average skill levels. River gauges are located in Portageville and Wellsville and can be read online through the United States Geological Survey website. The best source of information is obtained by looking for yourself at the part of the river you plan to visit before you start your paddle to determine if it is safe for you.  Remember that the Genesee through Allegany County is a largely wild river; there are twists and turns and may be trees down. 

Whether paddling in rivers, ponds, or lakes, or operating motorboats, alcohol causes impairment and can have deadly consequences.  Similar to driving, an operator can be charged with Boating While Intoxicated.  Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) are required by law to be worn by children under 12 years old in any watercraft under 21 feet at all times. Although only required for ages 12 and up during the colder half of the year, they are strongly encouraged and every person not required to wear them must still carry them in the boat, canoe, or kayak. If towed on water skis or operating a personal watercraft (such as a jet ski), people must wear a PFD. 

Operation of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and Utility-Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) have become increasingly popular in the county.  Be aware it is illegal to operate these vehicles on DEC lands, or on the roads on DEC lands. The exception to this is that a person with certain partial disabilities or medical conditions can obtain a permit to ride on designated trail systems on some DEC parcels in the area. Some town governments have begun the process of designating their town maintained roads as permitted for off-road vehicle use but you must know where you are – only certain towns have done this, and you may not legally operate on county or state highways (with small exceptions for crossings), even within a town with designated permitted roads.  Wherever you do ride, helmets are required for ATV use and recommended for UTVs.

New York is home to tens of thousands of acres of State lands to visit, dozens of campgrounds, and thousands of miles of trails across the state for hikers of all abilities. “Love Our NY Lands” and follow @NYSDEC on social media to recreate responsibly, plan ahead, and Leave No Trace™.  All New Yorkers and visitors should be able to access, enjoy, and feel welcome on state lands. These lands belong to all of us, our families, and our neighbors. While enjoying these shared spaces, please be respectful of other visitors. All of us have a responsibility to protect State lands for future generations. On Twitter, also follow @NYSDECAlerts, which provides real-time updates from certain DEC-managed lands across New York State; visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/119881.html to learn more.

For more information on outdoor activities please see the phone numbers and websites listed below.  Have a safe and fun summer!

NYS DEC

Forest Rangers based in Allegany County, direct cells – (585) 415-1521, (585) 278-7777

Lands and Forests office, West Almond – (585) 466-3241

Allegany office (Division of Wildlife, Forest Ranger office) – (716) 372-0645        

DEC’s Love Our Lands  – https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/119881.html

Places to Go (state land information) – https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/82098.html

Hike Smart NY (more outdoor safety tips) – https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28708.html

Other Local Resources

Genesee River Wilds

Western NY Wilds (Allegany County Tourism)

Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC)

Tall Pines ATV Park – (607) 478-8805:

NYS Boating Safety course information

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