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Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area

WARNING: The only safe gorge and creek access at this site is from the Valentine Flats Trail and Forty Road parking lot in the Town of Persia. There is no safe gorge or creek access from any location in Erie County or from any location in the Town of Otto, Cattaraugus County. Please read and be familiar with the important visitor information prior to visiting.

Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area locator map

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The 3,014-acre Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area (MUA) is one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse environmental areas in Western New York. Zoar Valley MUA is known for the spectacular scenery created by its deep gorge, sheer cliffs, flowing waterfalls, and dense forests.

Stay on marked trails. The MUA contains hazards associated with rocks, steep slopes, cliffs and swift water. Safe gorge and creek access is only from the Valentine Flats Trail and Forty Road parking lot. There is no authorized, safe trail to access Cattaraugus Creek on the Erie County side or from the Town of Otto, Cattaraugus County portion of the Multiple Use Area.

*Note: It is important to check Cattaraugus Creek water levels (leaves DEC website) when planning a day of activities on the water at Zoar Valley.

See the Zoar Valley MUA Frequently Asked Questions page for answers to some common questions about the property.

Featured Activities

Hiking

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General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips.

Valentine Flats Road Parking Area

The Valentine Flats Road parking area is located at the end of Valentine Flats Road in Cattaraugus County. This lot provides access to the Overlook Trail and to Valentines Flats by marked foot trails. There is no parking on the south side of Valentine Flats Road.

View of Zoar Valley's gorge area
Zoar Valley's spectacular gorge offers breathtaking scenery

The Overlook Trail is a short trail with vistas of the valley, creek and cliffs.

The Valentine Flats Trail is a steep trail into the gorge area ending at the confluence of the South Branch and Main Branch of Cattaraugus Creek. This trail was an old access road leading to a former farm on the flats along Cattaraugus Creek near the confluence. The trail winds down into the gorge through the hemlock/hardwood forest for about 0.8 miles. Along the flat flood plain, the trail winds through a black walnut plantation with thick brush before reaching the creek. Since it takes considerable time to hike in and out of the gorge, please plan for enough daylight hours to make the hike safely.

Holcomb Pond Trail

The Holcomb Pond Trail system runs between the Holcomb Pond parking lot and the Ross Pond parking lot. The trail drops down from the road steadily through a mixed hemlock/hardwood forest and around ponds before looping back up to the road. Hikers must stay on the marked trail, away from the edge of the gorge. There is no gorge or creek access from this trail.

Forty Road

The Forty Road parking area is located at the end of Forty Road in the Town of Persia, Cattaraugus County. This lot provides easy access to the South Branch of Cattaraugus Creek and offers a short, universally accessible trail leading from the parking area to a scenic overlook at the old bridge abutment. Due to private land upstream, hiking is permitted downstream only.

Purchase a trail supporter patch to provide funding for maintenance of trails and associated facilities.

Paddling

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*Note: It is important to check Cattaraugus Creek water levels (leaves DEC website) when planning a day of activities on the water at Zoar Valley.

General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Canoeing, kayaking and rafting are popular activities in Zoar Valley. Various rafting outfitters offer rafting trips within the gorge area. Hand-carried water crafts can be launched from the Cattaraugus Creek Waterway Access on North Otto Road.

Rafters enjoy Zoar Valley

The rapids in the gorge range from Class 2 through Class 4, depending on water level. You can walk around most of them, unless the river is running too high. Strainers are the most common hazard. A white water kayak and the ability to perform an Eskimo roll are very strongly recommended. PFDs and a throw bag are essential. The stream is mostly floatable above 2.0 feet, can get sticky in some drops around 2.5 and will require moderate skill levels. Above 3.0, extensive experience in a white water kayak is very strongly recommended. Above 4.0, only very experienced white water paddlers should be out there. The put-in is at the DEC public fishing parking lot on the left descending bank upstream of the North Otto Road Bridge. The take out is on the left descending bank immediately downstream of the Aldridge Street bridge in Gowanda.

A float trip without rapids can be enjoyed by paddling the creek section upstream from the Multiple Use Area gorge. It is scenic, with some strainers, but has no real drops. Put in at the upstream side of Hammond Hill Road Bridge at and take out on the left descending bank just upstream of the North Otto Road Bridge. This section of Cattaraugus Creek flows through private ownerships, so one must stay within their vessel.

Fishing

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General information on fishing includes fishing tips with links to seasons, rules and regulations.

Zoar Valley MUA features fishing opportunities on Holcomb Pond, Ross Pond, Cattaraugus Creek and the South Branch of Cattaraugus Creek. The Cattaraugus Creek and the South Branch are both trout streams, with steelhead. DEC also holds public fishing rights on Cattaraugus Creek (PDF) downstream from Zoar Valley MUA.

Hunting & Trapping

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Wildlife Management Unit: 9M and 9H

General information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules and regulations.

Zoar Valley MUA features both small and big game hunting opportunities. Popular game for this area include deer, ring neck pheasant, grey squirrel and grouse. DEC releases farm raised ring neck pheasant birds at two sites in the unit.

The area also features trapping opportunities for beaver at Ross Pond and Holcomb Pond.

Note that the hours of use are only sunrise to sunset. Tree stands must be removable and must not harm the tree.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

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General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Zoar Valley MUA is open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter. The Holcomb Pond Trail system, including the Holcomb Pond and Ross Pond loops, are designated cross-country and snowshoe trails.

Watchable Wildlife

Bald eaglet photo by Pete Nye, DEC
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General information on watchable wildlife includes tips for viewing wildlife and links to other watchable wildlife locations.

Zoar Valley is a New York State Watchable Wildlife site. The wildlife to watch includes broad-winged hawks, American kestrels, red-bellied woodpeckers, woodchucks, fox, midland painted turtles, and red-spotted newts. The wildlife at Zoar Valley MUA is best viewed from trails and the viewing platform near the Forty Road parking area.

Raptors use the wind currents, thermals while soaring high above the gorge. They can be seen all year but are most abundant during migration periods. Other birds and small mammals can be seen from early spring through fall.

In recent years there has been an increasing number of bald eagle sightings on the area which lead Department staff to believe there may be one or more active nests along the Cattaraugus Creek. DEC monitors the area by aerial survey annually in order to confirm nest locations.

Accessible Features

The Forty Road Parking Area features a universal access point
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General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

Zoar Valley MUA features an accessible parking area, short trail, and viewing platform at the end of Forty Road. The universally accessible trail runs from the parking area to a scenic overlook platform where the road once crossed the creek.

Directions

The Google Map links below leave DEC's website.

  • Valentine Flats Road Parking Area is located at the end of Valentine Flats Road in Cattaraugus County (42.443657°N, 78.904134°W - Google Maps). A kiosk is provided here which shows a location map with hiking trails.
  • Ross Parking Area is off Vail Road near Unger Road (42.451078°N, 78.879255°W - Google Maps).
  • Holcomb Pond Parking Area is off of Vail Road between Unger Road and Button Road (42.451906°N, 78.862755°W - Google Maps).
  • Forty Road Parking Area is located on Forty Road near Point Peter Road (42.425211°N, 78.897056°W - Google Maps). A kiosk is provided here with additional information.
  • Cattaraugus Creek Waterway Access is located outside of Zoar Valley MUA to the east, on North Otto Road (42.455777°N, 78.812004°W - Google Maps).

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Rules, Regulations, and Outdoor Safety

All users of Zoar Valley MUA must follow all State Forest Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Private property sign in Zoar Valley MUA
Private property sign in Zoar Valley MUA

Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.

Stay on marked trails. The MUA contains hazards associated with rocks, steep slopes, cliffs and swift water. Safe gorge and creek access is only from the Valentine Flats Trail and Forty Road parking lot. There is no authorized, safe trail to access Cattaraugus Creek on the Erie County side of the Multiple Use Area.

Specific Rules

Anyone visiting this property must observe the rules and regulations, which protect visitors and the forest environment. Note that the rules and regulations on this unit have recently changed, please be familiar with the new part 190.25 regulations (leaves DEC website) before you visit. Camping, fires, alcoholic beverages, and glass containers are not allowed in Zoar Valley MUA. See the link above for the full set of rules and regulations specific to Zoar Valley MUA.

Frequently Asked Questions

See the Zoar Valley MUA Frequently Asked Questions page for answers to some common questions about the property.

Planning and Management

Forestry staff stands besides a group of tall Tulip Trees in Zoar Valley

The management goals for Zoar Valley MUA are to provide recreational opportunities, to maintain a healthy forest and ecosystem. Within Zoar Valley MUA, a separate land management area, known as the "unique area" has been designated. Zoar Valley Unique Area is comprised of the gorge and a buffer area along the rim of the gorge.

Outside of the Unique Area, land management activities include converting conifer plantations to natural forest stands or grasslands, maintaining existing grasslands and shrub land communities, enhancing conditions for unique species and habitats, increasing overall species and forest diversity, and controlling unwanted exotic species. Timber harvests are one of the tools used to meet this management objective.

Many of the upland old fields have been planted with conifers and high value hardwood trees. Some open fields are still being managed for wildlife habitat and receive periodic mowing or wildlife shrub plantings. A field along Vail Road has been planted with American Chestnuts in an effort to help re-establish them after decades of devastation from the Chestnut Blight fungus. Information on the chestnut plantings may be obtained from the New York Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation (TACFNY) who manages them under a Volunteer Stewardship Agreement.

DEC developed the draft Niagara Frontier Unit Management Plan (PDF) which describes the management activities for these lands. Public comments were accepted on the draft UMP from August 17 until October 15, 2021.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Where to Find Nearby Amenities

  • Gas, dining opportunities, lodging, food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Persia and Springville.

Cattaraugus County Tourism (leaves DEC website) and Erie County Tourism (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guidebooks and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.