Mark Twain State Park
Best Time to Visit: Late Winter - Early Summer
Located at the southern end of the Catharine Valley Trail, this state park lies between the Village of Horseheads and the hamlet of Pine Valley.
The scenic state park provides 3 miles of rolling nature trails through a variety of habitats including woodland, wetland, shrub/scrub and grasslands. In addition, the Chemung Valley Audubon Society has participated in developing a primitive birding trail through deciduous forest, shrub land, and hemlock forest surrounded by a cattail marsh along Catharine Creek.
A map of the Mark Twain State Park Birding trail can be downloaded here.
Mark Twain State Park September Species: 68
In Chemung County, CVAS partnered with Mark Twain State Park and Friends of the Catharine Valley Trail to build the Ek Birding Trail (view the map). Named to honor Rick and Betty Ek, of Horseheads, the trail winds through deciduous forest, shrub land, and hemlock forest and is surrounded by a cattail marsh along Catharine Creek. The Eks had the vision for the project and laid the groundwork to create the new trail, thereby extending the long-established Catharine Valley Trail into Mark Twain State Park. The trail is accessible from parking areas at the Elmira College Murray Athletic Center (“The Domes”) located along Route 14 at 170 Huck Finn Road in Horseheads.
A grant from the National Audubon Society allowed CVAS to commission local landscape artist Wynn Yarrow to create colorful and informative trail signs at Northrup Hill, Gleason, and Mark Twain State Park. Trails are maintained for easy access and are open to the public during daylight hours for hiking and birding. Hunting, trapping, and motorized vehicles are prohibited. Pets must be leashed so as not to disturb wildlife, with no exceptions.
Hiking and wildlife watching are good for our bodies and our sense of well-being. CVAS invites people to use the trails and to enjoy the beauty and spectacle of wild nature in the Southern Tier. “Birding is an inexpensive, healthful, always entertaining outdoor activity that heightens one’s awareness and understanding of the environment and can be done anytime, anywhere,” noted Bill Ostrander. A lifelong birder and Chemung County resident, Ostrander leads Audubon walks that help people learn about and enjoy our area’s birds.
Why do Audubon volunteers invest their time and labor to create and maintain the trails? “When working at the properties, I keep in mind our chapter’s mission to promote the study, enjoyment, and protection of birds and other wildlife,” says Conservation Chairman Brian Dugan. CVAS President Gail Norwood sums it up this way: “Audubon has a passion for education and conservation. We want to invite you, the nature-loving public, to join us and enjoy the many opportunities that we offer.”
The trail is accessible from parking areas at the Elmira College Murray Athletic Center located on Route 14 at 170 Huck Finn Road in Horseheads.
To access trails, proceed beyond the domes and park at the far end of the parking lots on the left (north) side of the road. The shrub/scrub grassland trail head is located at the edge of the parking lot. The woodland and wetland habitat trail head is accessed behind the domes along the tree line.
Coordinates: 42.2167, -76.8359