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Peaceful Waters

Take a dip in Rushford Lake

Each fall, Rushford Lake drains into the Genesee River, a symbolic end-of-summer ritual that accompanies the winterproofing of this lakefront community in Allegany County. It’s a temporary hibernation, however, and each spring the lake fills up again, cottages are opened, lawn games are unpacked, boats are launched, beckoning Buffalonians, Rochesterians, and all who venture down with pristine waters and an abundance of warm weather activities. One of New York’s best-kept secrets is about 60 miles south of Buffalo and 80 miles from Rochester, a summertime oasis that makes a great option for a daytrip or long-term retreat.

Formed in 1927 after the construction of a dam on Caneadea Creek, Rushford Lake is a 585-acre body with Rush Creek feeding into the south end, and a dam on the east side feeding into the Genesee River. It was the setting for the 2004 film Ghost Lake, a low-budget zombie flick where the residents drowned by the construction of the dam a hundred years prior (apparently no one told them) rise from the murky waters to terrorize unknowing cottagers. Don’t let this horror story give you the wrong impression: Rushford Lake and the surrounding area offers the kind of pastoral scenery that urbanites crave.

Buffalonians can make the trip through a number of routes, but I’ve found that the 190S-90W-400-39E-98S (which turns into 243-E) route to be the quickest. Once you’re there, the lake is your playground, the central hub of activity that includes boating, beach access for swimming, water skiing, fishing (brown and rainbow trout, bass, carp, and perch, among others), and cottage rentals. Before you end your excursion, hike or drive up Slusher Hill on the south end off Rush Creek Road for a spectacular view of the lake.

On the way down, you’ll pass through the town Arcade and right by the Arcade and Attica Railroad on Main Street, which has been in operation since 1880 when it was built as a link to the Pennsylvania Railroad. Today, you can board the steam engine train as it takes you on a nostalgic 90-minute ride.

Just north of Rushford Lake, off Sand Hill Road, is Moss Lake in the town of Caneadea. The 83-acre preserve was designated National Natural Landmark in 1973 and boasts a large collection of wildlife and unique flora for visitors to revel in. The boardwalk and trail that circles the 15-acre bog allows for some stellar bird watching, where you might be able to spot any of the 75 species that have been seen at the preserve. The preserve is open daily and free to the public.

Head to the historic town of Angelica, about 25 minutes from Rushford, for shopping in any of the antique shops or country stores in this quaint, history-filled village. Take a step back in time with a walking tour that will visit 21 historical locations that are true architectural wonders.

If you’re in the area between July 19 and July 21, follow NY-19 S to the town of Wellsville for the 38th Great Wellsville Hot Balloon Rally. The weekend festivities includes four mass hot-air balloon launches with more than 40 pilots and their balloons taking to the sky, along with a merchant sidewalk sale, music, food, and fireworks.

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