Zoar Valley Gorge
Photo by Will Stoner
Zoar Valley canyon is a western New York paradise, famed for old growth forest, rushing whitewater, 14 waterfalls, wetlands, endangered plants and wildlife, and 400-foot cliffs. This public property forms part of Erie County's southern boundary and Cattaraugus County's northern border. Its most spectacular feature is a 6.4-mile long canyon inside the approximately 3000-acre Zoar Valley State Multiple Use Area. Map of Zoar Valley.
The Ancient Forest of Zoar Valley
A seven-year research study by the Western New York Old Growth Forest Survey (of the Niagara Frontier Botanical Society) documented nearly 600 acres of rare ancient forest in Zoar Valley! Most of the 600 acres is the "rarest of the rare" - virgin ancient forest dating to 500 years old. Virgin, old growth climax forest that has never been deliberately disturbed by humans, is almost unheard of anywhere in the Northeast. Zoar’s canyon slopes are lined with at least 6 miles of ancient forest. In the old growth forest, one can marvel at 250 to 500 year old hemlocks, red oaks and pines. Zoar is home to massive old growth trees that can extend up to 5 – 6 feet in diameter, and grow to heights of over 150 feet.
Cattaraugus Creek meanders through the canyon before emptying into Lake Erie. In addition to being a recreational destination for white water rafters and kayakers, Cattaraugus Creek is also well known for its excellent water quality and as an important spawning ground for several species of Great Lakes fish, including wild Steelhead.
The ancient forest has persevered through the odds and should be preserved for current and future generations as a testament to an intact northern hardwood ecosystem. The ancient forest protects Cattaraugus Creek water quality, supports rare and endangered species, and adds to the breathtaking beauty of the canyon.
Final Zoar Valley Unit Management Plan (UMP)
In December of 2006 the final UMP for the Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area (MUA), which outlines future management and protection for Zoar, was released. The final UMP recommended that the NYS legislature dedicate a portion of Zoar, consisting of the gorge and a 300’ buffer around the rim of the gorge, as a State Nature and Historic Preserve. On June 7, 2007, the NYS Senate joined the Assembly in passing legislation to dedicate this land as a State Nature and Historic Preserve. This formal designation will ensure strong protection for the gorge and adjacent lands for future generations to enjoy. CCE will continue to monitor and ensure that the entire Zoar Valley MUA is protected.
Bruce Kershner, environmental author and avid forest ecologist, died on February 16, 2007, at the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in Cheektowaga, NY. Bruce was a renowned old growth forest authority who discovered nearly 300 old growth forests in Eastern North America where previously no one thought they existed. These include the second tallest hardwood forest in Eastern North America, outside of the southern Appalachians; New York State’s oldest forest; and the largest assemblage of old growth, the Niagara River corridor. Bruce’s numerous ecological studies included Zoar Valley and Allegany State Park, and he published a dozen books.
We are all much more inspired and knowledgeable thanks to Bruce's dedication and accomplishments. His knowledge and passion about the natural environment will be greatly missed.
Special Feature Publication:
For anyone interested in visiting the awe-inspiring natural wonders of Zoar Valley Canyon:
Guide to the Ancient Forests of Zoar Valley Canyon, by Bruce Kershner -
Learn about the value of old growth forests, identifying tree species, how to recognize old growth and enjoy many well-written "guided tours" of the magnificent Zoar Valley multiple use area!
Available for $11.00 each
(plus $3.00 for shipping/handling)
For a copy of Guide to the Ancient Forests of Zoar Valley Canyon, please contact CCE's Western New York office at:
733 Delaware Road, Box 140 Buffalo, NY 14223
Phone: (716) 831-3206
updated by bsmith 3/21/10