Like a National Park

I’ve often felt like the area around Cayuga Lake (and beyond) is like a national park. It is unified by outstanding landscape features defined by Cayuga Lake and its watershed, and is part of the much larger phenomenon of the Finger Lakes, of which Cayuga Lake is the longest. There are: state and municipal parks, and state forests; there are a national park, a national ¬†wildlife refuge, and a national forest; we have nature preserves, museums, nature centers, and visitor centers; and we have hiking trails, biking trails, two state-designated scenic byways, and a wine trail. And in the midst of it all is 38-mile-long Cayuga Lake, surrounded by its many enchanting gorges and waterfalls. Like a national park, tourists visit our area from around the world.

Taughannock Falls State Park Trumansburg NY Ithaca Cayuga Lake Finger Lakes

One of the most visited spots in the entire Finger Lakes region is the falls overlook at Taughannock Falls State Park.

Of course, there are ways the the Cayuga Lake area is not like a national park: there are towns, cities, colleges, farms, and industry, and most land within the watershed is privately owned. So it can’t really be considered to resemble a national park. Or can it?

Erie Canalway Map Cayuga Seneca Lakes Ithaca Finger Lakes national park service

Map of the entire Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, including Seneca and Cayuga Lakes

It turns out that both Cayuga and Seneca Lakes are part of something like a national park: a national heritage area. They are part of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, because the lakes were connected (and still are) to the Erie Canal and are part of its larger story. So, we are like a national park, but not a traditional national park. There are 49 national heritage areas, mostly in the eastern United States.

Finger Lakes National Forest Cayuga Lake Seneca Lake Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes National Forest straddles the Hector Backbone, the divide between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes.

But we are more than that. The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is structured around the Erie Canal story. That story is part of our story, but we have many more stories to tell, of the land, the people, the wildlife, and the water.

Cayuga Lake, Taughannock Falls State Park, Finger Lakes, Ithaca, NY

Cayuga Lake looking south: Taughannock Point is in the middle of the scene. Photo by Bill Hecht.

In the future, I will create posts and pages describing many of the parks, preserves, museums and other beautiful features and attractions of our national-park-quality landscape. It all fits together!


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