Chimney Bluffs State Park, Wolcott, NY

No, I’m not talking about visiting hotels in Cedar Rapids, Iowa! Upstate New York has its own amazing skyscrapers. Unlike the glass and concrete constructions that fill up the nation’s most famous island, however, these skyscrapers are crafted from clay and wind. Welcome to Chimney Bluffs State Park near Wolcott, New York, off the eastern shore of Lake Ontario!


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They look very small from afar, but the distance is very deceiving. As we drew near to these formations, they soon loomed beyond us. Notice my two sons walking along the shore and one of the bluffs, in the photo below.

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Apparently, the bluffs were formed from “drumlins,” strange, rounded mounds that pop up along flatter areas of the landscape (common in New York State). Wind, weather, and waves from the lake have eroded the heavy clay soil and formed these unusual bluffs. Some bluffs rise up over 150 feet.


The bluffs are rather unstable. There are no fences or guide rails to keep you off them and onto the hiking trails, but a few sober signs and the precipitous drop below are sufficient to prevent wandering too far.

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The park is very large. We wandered across a vast, flat, green park with asphalt walkways to the edge of the lake. A small footpath at the mouth of the forest beckons you to go further, but make sure you are wearing rugged footwear and are dressed for some rigorous hiking. The paths are cluttered with tree roots, fallen logs, and steep inclines and declines. At several points, the path follows the narrow end of the cliff. This is not a good place to bring your toddlers for a jaunt.

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Can you spot my son at the other end?

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The views of the lake are beautiful. The air is invigorating!

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After a mile or so, you reach the end of the pathway which takes you down, down, down to the lake shore. It is very steep here.

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We walked along the shore for a while. There are many interesting things to see! Besides the tempestuous lake, we saw other signs of erosion:

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Dead fish (he was approximately four feet long):

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And stunning rock designs:

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Smugglers liked the mystery of the location: during Prohibition, smugglers dropped off forbidden Canadian alcohol during Prohibition. New York State acquired the land in the mid-60’s, and the area was slowly developed into a park. The park is very casual (no refreshment stands, no boat launching, no swimming, etc). It’s a wonderful park to visit if you like to explore nature or take in dramatic landscapes.

About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

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