Zoar Valley

While we were in western New York vacationing, we headed out to one of my favorite places to hike, Zoar Valley.  The area is one of the best "off the beaten path" places to hike and since the state hasn't developed it, it doesn't even have marked trails.  The area includes both the Main Branch and South Branch of Cattaraugus creek, which were higher than I usually hike due to all the recent rains. 

Cattaraugus Creek: Main Branch - 
The day was overcast so it was tough to get good photos of the amazing cliffs that are around pretty much every bend in the creek, but this photo does give some perspective of how tall they really are.  This is the Main Branch of the Cattaraugus, about a 1/2 mile above the confluence with the South Branch.


Zoar Valley Trail - 
Since the creeks were up, we couldn't hike right down the streambed like I normally like to do.  But the trails through the forest were far nicer than I realized and took us past some of the "out of the way" waterfalls and cascades in Zoar.  This particular stretch of trail traversed a beautiful floodplain covered in Creeping Myrtle (Vinca minor), which is one of my favorite ground covers even if it is not native.

 Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) -
It wasn't especially hot that day, but  we saw A LOT of Garter snakes, mostly right near the water's edge.  They move fast into the brush though, so this is pretty much the only picture I got and thankfully it was in focus.

Shaggy Mane Mushroom (Coprinus comatus) -
This is the first I've photographed Shaggy Mane Mushroom.  As a matter of fact, I think it is the first I've ever even seen the mushroom.  Credit goes to my sister for spotting it, I walked right past it.  I read that Shaggy Mane Mushrooms is an edible mushroom and are farmed in China.  The mushroom must be eaten (or preserved) soon after cultivation though, since it will actually digest it own tissues after a few hours.

Buff Cascade - 
Zoar Valley has a lot of waterfalls and "cascades," which are similar to waterfalls but the water doesn't actually freefall and instead trickles down a rock face.  This particular cascade is known as "Buff" cascade and is listed at 120 feet high.  If you look close, you can see my brother-in-law near the center of the photo, which gives some idea of scale.

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Non-Native - 
St. John's Wort is well known for its medicinal properties which is most likely why it was introduced in North America.  It's actually adapted so well, that many states in the mid-west list it as an invasive species.  Either way, I think its yellow flowers are very beautiful and unique.

Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) Non-Native -
Bird's Foot Trefoil is not a native plant, but it is one of my favorite little yellow flowers.  Its blossoms are particularly beautiful and I recently read that it is the flower in the Girl Scouts logo.

Crown Tipped Coral Fungus (Artomyces pyxidatus) -
Crown Tipped Coral fungi are typically found growing on rotting wood, usually hardwoods, and are white to ivory in color.  At the tip of each "branch" is a small, cup-like depression with three to six "points" that give the fungus its "crowned" appearance.   Apparently it is edible and has a strong pepper flavor when fresh.

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) - 
We found this Great Blue Lobelia not to far from the stream's edge among the other wildflowers and grasses of late summer.  Its pretty little blue flowers grow vertically on a long stalk and are a favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds, and other creatures.

Confluence of Main Branch and South Branch of Cattaraugus Creeks - 
The confluence of the Main and South branches is a beautiful place, even if the flat light in this picture doesn't do it justice.  It's interesting that the South branch gets real wide and very shallow just before the confuence whereas the Main branch gets narrower and deeper with a pronounced stream channel of swifter water.  Many people call the cliff on the right "Indian Head," since the shape of the cliff vaguely resembles a human head.

Orange Jelly Fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus) - 
New York is having a wet summer just as we are and we saw a lot of mushrooms and other fungi in the dark recesses of the forest.  As a matter of fact, the mature old growth forests up there can get quite dense and some sections of the trails were downright dark, even during the midday.  This Orange Jelly fungus was on a log along the trail and it looked to be just reaching its prime.

More Pictures:

Common Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Zoar Valley Cliff

Gossamer Cascade (listed as 130' high)

Orange Jelly Fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus)