After driving by the parking area on Water Street exit roughly two thousand times and each time thinking, “I really ought to go investigate that soon,” I finally made it down the extension of the Lackawanna Rail Trail. The trail has been an easy bike ride through the city for a few years now, and the extension from the Water St. parking lot to the Lowman crossover opened in November 2017. The trail is a very gentle 8.7 miles from one end to the other – ideal for bikers, joggers, and wheelchair friendly (built to ADA standards). The trail is not plowed in winter, which means if good powder falls and you’re quick on the draw, it’s probably a very nice cross-country ski. Because it’s flat and straight, so it’s easy to get into a groove and hold a steady pace.
If you’re less speedy and more curious, then it’s an unexpectedly great walk. You might think that an urban trail that follows the highway would be boring and bereft of nature, but hey, it’s the opposite! Armed with my binoculars and leashed dog, I moseyed along looking into the woods. Because the trail is balanced between the highway and the edge of the river, where there traditionally has not been much in the way of foot traffic, the wildlife still seems unused to humans (and dogs) coming right up to into their habitat. I saw dozens of species of birds, including a juvenile bald eagle and a red-tailed hawk with a talonful of squirrel, and even more bird nests – at least ten Baltimore Oriole nests, hanging like little baskets of dryer lint from the spindliest of twigs. The bright black-and-orange songbirds will be livening up the trail soon as they migrate back in spring. This forest-river ecotone is rich with wildlife! My dog found fox scat, and didn’t to eat it or roll in it, so it was a glorious day for both of us.
And what I absolutely loved the most after the eagle sighting was the ability to linger and take in the bend in the river. I adore that view upsteam – roughly just before the exit sign to Elmira heading west on I-86 – but since I usually just the briefest of sidelong glimpses while zipping home on the highway, I’ve never gotten to really relish the view. I can tell you now with confidence that it’s a beautiful sunset on that bend in the Chemung. Well worth the hour-ish walk on the Lackawanna trail.
Three surprises from my stroll:
- Impressive number of birds, from songbirds to waterfowl to raptors.
- Highway noise not bad at all! For a walk immediately parallel to the highway, the traffic noise wasn’t very loud. I’d suspected it would be more unpleasant but I was able to tune it out easy, and you’d be able to carry a conversation with no trouble.
- There are lovely benches along the trail for resting. But – this is totally mystifying to me – they face the highway. If I were inclined to sit and rest along this trail, my personal preference would be to look out over the Chemung River, watch some osprey fishing, see some folks enjoying a canoe paddle, take in the autumn foliage on a warm day. But the benches have you sitting and observing the traffic. Though once I asked my dog to sit in front of the scenic river, and walked over the other side of the trail to take her photo at the bend, it occurred to me…. they might be… selfie benches!
Elmiraland is a website, blog, and social media presence dedicated to everything Elmira. Taking time to enjoy what’s around us; always looking forward to what’s next!