While Westchester is home to close to a million human beings, there’s actually more wildlife in the county than a person might expect. There are plenty of gorgeous public parks and preserves that are open to hikers hoping to sneak a peak at an animal in its natural habitat. Whether you’re into birds, butterflies, groundhogs, turtles, or any of the other species that call Westchester home, here are some great public spots in Westchester you’ll likely see an animal out in the wild.
With a beautiful, scenic view overlooking the Hudson in Yonkers, the Lenoir Preserve is home to many different kinds of wildlife. This 40-acre preserve was formerly home to two Hudson River estates, and boasts a number of unusual trees and shrubs imported from around the world each year. These imports provide shelter for many kinds of wildlife including woodpeckers, owls, and bats. If you’re looking to observe hawks, stop by the Lenoir Preserve every spring and/or autumn to learn about raptor identification markings such as flight patterns and silhouettes. Every summer the butterfly garden is at its height and the dragonfly pond provides the necessary habitat for numerous aquatic insects and attracts birds and other wildlife. There is also a Nature Center onsite, which houses many different nature exhibits, as well as a picnicking area, a trailhead for hiking, cross-country skiing, drinking water, and a bird sanctuary. The Lenoir Preserve is wheelchair accessible.
Cranberry Lake Preserve
Since 1967, migratory birds, turtles, and dragonflies used Cranberry Lake Preserve’s 190-acre park as a safe haven. Within the preserve are a variety of habitats such as a four-acre lake, cliffs, and scrubland, mixed hardwood forest, vernal pools, and a swamp. If you’re interested in learning the history of Cranberry Lake Preserve, we recommend following the History Trail where you can then see the remains of a 19th-century farmhouse and an early 20th-century stone-mining operation. Also offered is the Nature Center, home to a variety of interactive and educational displays with programs offered every weekend. Cross-country skiing, a museum, a trailhead for hiking, drinking water, and a bird sanctuary is also available at Cranberry Lake Preserve.
Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
At 4,315-acres, the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is Westchester County’s largest park. Because of the varying terrain, landscapes, and miles of wooded trails, this reservation provides an array of activities for all seasons. Whether you are looking to go on a picnic, camp, fish, or go cross-country skiing, Ward Pound Ridge has it all. In history, the name used to be spelled, “Poundridge,” credited to Native Americans originally living in the area until 1938. But when Westchester County bought the property, they added the “Ward” into the name in order to honor William Lukens Ward, Westchester’s leader from 1896 to 1933. Some of you may be wondering what the reservation has in common with an upcoming 2015 film, Pearl Jam and the largest trail race east of the Mississippi, but you’ll just have to watch The Leatherman Legend and find out for yourself! And don’t forget, the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is home to the Trailside Nature Museum and the Gallery in the park, where interpretive programs and exhibitions of work are held weekly. There is a playground, a picnic area, exercise and fitness areas, fishing, campgrounds, sleeping shelters, sledding, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, a museum, and nature study areas available to its visitors. Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is wheelchair accessible.
Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary
A sanctuary located on the shore of the Long Island Sound along a migratory flyway, the 179-acre Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a great diversity of marine life. With its mixture of both salt and fresh water, Read Wildlife Sanctuary now hosts over 5,000 ducks, which led the sanctuary to be recognized by the national Audubon Society of New York as an Important Bird Area. There are three miles of trails through the forest and field where you will find yourself in a bird sanctuary surrounded by the opportunity for nature study. Along the half-mile of publicly accessible shore, the intertidal habitat harbors a wide diversity of plants and animals. No campfires, swimming, or dogs are permitted at any time. Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary is wheelchair accessible.
Running along the eastern edge of the North County Trailway and bordered by the New York City reservoir property, this 208-acre natural preserve located in Ossining, NY, has a lot to offer. Because of features such as the native woodland and open fields, butterflies and migrating birds will be seen in abundance in the late spring each year. Since Kitchawan was a former research facility of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, hikers will find remnants of old stone walls that typically divided crop fields and private properties a century ago. Not only is this a perfect environment for nature study, but also available to its visitors is a trailhead for hiking, a winter recreational area, and cross-country skiing during the appropriate seasons.