Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is a 7,000-acre (28 km2) preserve located on the north end of Cayuga Lake, situated in the middle of one of the most active flight lanes in the Atlantic Flyway.
The Main Pool and Visitor Center
Shortly after you enter the main park in Seneca Falls, you’ll find a seasonal Visitor Center with brochures, restrooms and a gift shop. The Seneca Hiking Trail forms a one-mile loop from the Visitor Center parking area, around the refuge’s headquarters area and the observation tower.
The 3.5 mile Wildlife Drive loop opens in April and closes for the winter. There are places where you can pull to the shoulder of the one-way, gravel road, so you can go at your own pace. Keep in mind there are only a few places where you are authorized to stop your vehicle, (you are encouraged to remain in your vehicle at all times) and space is limited. A cell phone audio tour along the drive will inform you throughout. Bring binoculars and cameras (an a few snacks!), keeping your eyes peeled for Bald Eagles. Remember, it’s not all about what you see, but what you hear! Open your windows if the weather allows, and listen to the peaceful sounds of nature.
You’ll exit the drive on Route 89. If you head south, at the corner of Routes 89 & 5/20 you’ll find Montezuma Winery. After all, you are in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country!
Even more refuge north of the thruway
Half of the wetland complex lies north of the thruway, along the Erie Canal up to about Savannah, accessible by feeder roads. Heading north on Rt. 89 there are smaller, quieter pools where you can quietly sit watching migratory birds and looking for nests. While the bulk of visitors will focus on activities and trails surrounding the main pool, take a look at this map for other areas to explore. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website, “Two hundred forty-two species of birds, 43 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles, and 16 species of amphibians can be found on the refuge for at least part of the year.”
Montezuma Audubon Center
Extend your day trip beyond the refuge and visit the Montezuma Audubon Center in Savannah, NY on your way back to Rochester. There you will find a visitor center, observation platforms, even kayaks for rent. You’ll find current event listings on their Facebook page. The folks here are some of the most passionate educators, and their raptor programs are fascinating.
- Cost: Free
- Located in Seneca Falls, roughly 80 minutes / 55 miles from Rochester (get directions)
- More information: fws.gov/refuge/montezuma/
I’m looking forward to going back at different times throughout the year. We visited in November and in July, and I would love to witness the snow geese migration in March!