Turning Point Park boardwalk autumn cover

Exploring The Genesee River

The 157-mile Genesee River originates 10 miles south of the Pennsylvania border. As it flows north, it passes over Letchworth’s three major waterfalls and meanders through several towns, including Mount Morris, Geneseo, Caledonia, Avon, Rush, Scottsville, Chili, and Henrietta. At Genesee Valley Park, the river merges with the Erie Canal and continues north through Rochester, flowing over Court Street Dam and High, Middle, and Lower Falls before reaching Lake Ontario.

The Genesee River is often mistakenly thought to be a rare example of a river flowing north. However, several north-flowing rivers, including the Niagara and Oswego Rivers, are within an easy day trip from Rochester, and dozens more are found within New York State. Nevertheless, the Genesee is the only river that flows across the entire state of New York.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Major Trails

Genesee Riverway Trail

The GRT is a 24-mile National Recreation Trail that runs alongside a 12-mile stretch of river through Rochester’s urban corridor. This trail is a great way to explore the city’s scenic, historic, and cultural areas. It starts at Lake Ontario and travels south through Turning Point Park, Seneca Park, Maplewood Park, High Falls Historic District, Corn Hill, and the University of Rochester, ending in Genesee Valley Park. Along the way, the GRT crosses eight bridges and three waterfalls. Although it is mainly paved and dedicated, some areas are steep and narrow or require the use of streets, mainly through the city center. The GRT connects with the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail and Erie Canalway Trail in Genesee Valley Park, making the park a great starting point for a hike or bike ride.

Genesee Valley Greenway

The greenway—also a designated National Recreation Trail—passes through Scottsville and Rush in Monroe County. It then goes through Caledonia, Avon, Geneseo, Mount Morris, Letchworth State Park, and Portageville in Livingston County, and finally ends in Cuba in Allegany County. At Wadsworth Junction in Scottsville, you can connect with the Lehigh Valley Trail, which features a unique trestle bridge crossing the Genesee River.

City of Rochester

The Genesee River spans roughly 12 miles between GVP and Lake Ontario.

Aqueduct Park Rochester

Aqueduct Park

Aqueduct Park is a pocket park on the Genesee River. It’s privately owned but open to the public, making it a favorite lunch spot for downtown employees. 50 E. Main Street

Ford Street Bridge
GRT Bridge University Rochester
U of R pedestrian bridge

Bausch + Lomb Riverside Park

The University of Rochester maintains this linear park that stretches along Wilson Boulevard to the Ford Street Bridge. It features several pedestrian bridges, initially used for the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which allow for crossing the Genesee River. 711 Wilson Boulevard

Blue Cross Arena Memorial Park at night
Rochester Wall Art subway aqueduct
Rundel Library from Blue Cross Arena
aqueduct tunnel

Blue Cross Arena Memorial Park

The park behind Blue Cross Arena offers a spectacular view of the Rundel Library at night. A platform lets visitors glimpse the abandoned subway and canal aqueduct under Broad Street. 1 War Memorial Square

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Erie Canal Aqueduct & Subway: Rochester’s Transportation Heritage

Before the canal coursed through Genesee Valley Park, it flowed through the city using the Erie Canal aqueduct to cross the river.

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Corn Hill Landing Sam Patch
Rochester skyline river
under Freddie Sue bridge
Riverie riverboat tour

Corn Hill Landing

Corn Hill, Rochester’s oldest residential neighborhood, boasts impressive examples of early architecture and some of the city’s original homes. Take a river cruise onboard the Riverie from the Corn Hill Navigation waterfront center. The area features several restaurants with waterfront seating. Exchange Blvd

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Rochester-Area Boat Tours

Discover the breathtaking beauty of the Great Lakes, Genesee River, Erie Canal, and Finger Lakes on one of these Rochester-area boat tours.

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Major Charles Carroll Plaza
Genesee Crossroads Park
Crossroads Park

Genesee Crossroads Park

This linear park connects Main Street with Andrews Street, with the Sister Cities footbridge spanning the river at Major Charles Carroll Plaza. 69 Andrews Street

Genesee Gateway Park
Genesee Gateway Park skyline view
Genesee Riverway Trail
rochester skate park
Roc City Skate Park

Genesee Gateway Park

To find excellent views of the Rochester skyline, visit this linear park between Ford Street and the Frederick Douglass–Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge at I-490 on the east side of the river. The Genesee Riverway Trail (GRT) has a large parking area behind the Bivona Child Advocacy Center. Head north along the GRT to check out Roc City Skatepark. 151 Mount Hope Avenue

Water Trails Around Rochester NY Genesee River through Genesee Valley Park
Genesee Valley Park crossing
Genesee Valley Park
Genesee Valley Park
Genesee Valley Park

Genesee Valley Park

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1888, find GVP where the Erie Canal, Red Creek, and Genesee River intersect. Visitors can rent kayaks and canoes from the Genesee Waterways Center. Enjoy the four beautiful concrete footbridges that connect the park across each waterway. When Olmsted originally designed the landscape, the Erie Canal ran through Rochester over an aqueduct—now the Broad Street Bridge. In 1918, the state changed the canal route to follow the city’s southern border through Genesee Valley Park, leading to the addition of the bridges. 1000 E. River Road

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Genesee Valley Park

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1888, find Genesee Valley Park where the Erie Canal, Red Creek, and Genesee River intersect.

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High Falls Genesee River Rochester rock wall
High Falls Genesee Rochester
High Falls Rochester NY Genesee west bank
High Falls Rochester NY Genesee River pedestrian bridge
Pont de Rennes

High Falls

High Falls is the name of the waterfall, the neighboring historic district, and a future Rochester state park. Popular spots to view the falls include High Falls Terrace, the Pont de Rennes pedestrian bridge, and Genesee Brew House’s rooftop patio, where you can enjoy a casual meal and a tasty beverage. On the west side of the river, visitors can walk along cobblestone streets to learn about the area’s hydropower history and see the top of the falls near the Gorsline Building at 4 Commercial Street.

Learn more about the proposed state park at High Falls

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High Falls on the Genesee River

High Falls is the name of the waterfall, the neighboring historic district, and the future Rochester High Falls State Park.

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Maplewood Lower Falls
Maplewood Middle Falls
Maplewood Park Lower Falls
Maplewood Park Kelseys Landing
Maplewood Park Cascongiagon Indican Village
Maplewood Rose Garden orange
Maplewood Rose Garden

Maplewood Park

This two-mile linear Olmsted-designed park follows the river from Middle Falls north to Kings Landing, the oldest cemetery in Rochester. Most visitors start at the Rose Garden in Lower Maplewood and walk down the stairs to access the Genesee River Trail. Walking upstream, you’ll find Lower and Middle Falls. The trail heading downstream leads through Middle Maplewood and along Seneca Parkway, which Olmsted also designed as part of the park system. After passing under the New York State Route 104 Veterans Memorial Bridge, the path continues into Upper Maplewood. It ends at the Pure Waters Pedestrian Bridge, which spans the Genesee River and connects to Seneca Park.

The area, known as Casconchiagon—River of Many Falls—was the site of a Seneca Nation village until 1819.

After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Kelsey’s Landing became a terminus for the Underground Railroad, where boats would dock and guide freedom-seeking African Americans, including Frederick Douglass in 1859, to safety across Lake Ontario to Canada. 89 Maplewood Drive

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Maplewood Park & Rose Garden

Maplewood Park is a linear park that follows the river from Driving Park and the Lower Falls to just north of Route 104, ending at the pedestrian bridge over the Genesee.

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ororke bridge cover
Fishing Charlotte pier
Charlotte Pier
mouth of genesee at lake ontario
port of rochester riverside
Ontario Beach Park volleyball
Ontario Beach Park

Ontario Beach Park

At the northernmost tip of the city, the Genesee River borders the park to the east. Besides a sandy beach with plenty of parking, visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk and pier, indulge in the original 1902 Abbott’s Frozen Custard, ride on the 1905 Dentzel Carousel, and tour the 1822 Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse. 50 Beach Avenue

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Ontario Beach Park

Besides a sandy Lake Ontario beach with ample parking, visitors can enjoy the carousel, pier, lighthouse, and Abbott’s Frozen Custard.

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Dinosaur BBQ
Promenade at Erie Harbor Dinosaur BBQ
Dinosaur Promenade at Erie Harbor
Dinosaur BBQ
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Promenade at Erie Harbor

The public walkway and seating area behind Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is ideal for viewing the Court Street Dam, especially when the water level is high. Roc City Skatepark is a short two-minute walk from this location. 103 Court Street

Seneca Park pedestrian bridge autumn
Seneca Park pedestrian bridge autumn
Seneca Park pedestrian bridge autumn
seneca park pond

Seneca Park

The 20-acre Seneca Park Zoo is a small portion of the 300-acre county park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1893. The zoo operates a seasonal ZooTram shuttle, transporting visitors between the extreme ends of the park for a nominal one-way fee. Many people walk through the zoo and take the tram back up to the main entrance, appreciating Seneca Park’s scenic views. Beyond the zoo, you will find a trout pond surrounded by pavilions, a playground, and hiking trails. The north trail leads toward Lake Ontario over a tiny but steep waterfall, with several risky descents to the river’s edge using deteriorating wood steps. The south trail ends at the scenic Pure Waters Pedestrian Bridge, part of the Genesee River Trail, which spans the river to connect with Maplewood Park. 2222 Saint Paul Street

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Seneca Park and Zoo

The Seneca Park Zoo is only a small part of the 297-acre Seneca Park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1893.

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Turning Point Park winter walk
Turning Point Park boardwalk autumn
Turning Point Park
Turning Point Park

Turning Point Park

The park’s most striking feature is a 3,572-foot-long bridge over the Genesee River Turning Basin. The boardwalk takes visitors onto the river, close to blue herons, swans, turtles, deer, and other wildlife. Consider starting your walk from the north at Petten Street by the marina and O’Rorke Bridge for minimal elevation change. Along this section, you’ll see the abandoned 150-foot Spirit of Rochester, which offered lake cruises from 1985 to 2004. To begin at the south end, park in the Boxart Street lot. Most people walk north and down the steep, paved road toward the river, but you can also take the train-grade path by heading south for a half-mile from the parking lot and turning left at the Genesee Riverway Trail’s split near Brewster Harding Park. This route through Bullock’s Woods follows a seasonal creek with a small waterfall. 260 Boxart Street

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Turning Point Park

Turning Point Park’s most striking feature is a 3,572-foot-long boardwalk over the Genesee River Turning Basin.

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Central Library Rundel Building
Central Library 1936 Rundel Building

Fun fact: Lights on ROC coordinates the lights that color Rochester’s skyline. Their calendar shows what the colors represent on a particular day. lightsonroc.com

Monroe County

Black Creek
Black Creek

Black Creek Boat Launch

At the junction of Black Creek and the Genesee River is a concrete ramp for motorboats and an accessible kayak launch. From here, kayakers can paddle either Black Creek or the Genesee River. Motorboats can travel south on the Genesee River toward Rush or go north to connect with the Erie Canal. Alternatively, you can continue to Corn Hill Landing before reaching the Court Street Dam. 16 Black Creek Road, Chili

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Black Creek Park

Black Creek Park features a variety of trails with varying lengths. Enjoy a walk around the pond or launch a kayak onto Black Creek.

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Breese Park
Breese Park

Breese Park

You’ll find a large parking lot, picnic tables, and woodland play areas along a hard-packed gravel path that follows the river. To see the native bluebells and trillium in full bloom, visit between late April and early May. 108 Westcombe Park, West Henrietta

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Breese Park

Breese Park is located along the Genesee River in West Henrietta. Set your sights on late-April to early-May to see the native bluebelle and trillium.

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Greater Rochester

Genesee Valley Wildlife Management Area

The Department of Environmental Conservation manages 717 acres of riverfront property, including mature forests, open fields, and wetlands. The property spans both Livingston and Allegany Counties, and there is roadside parking available near the end of Otis Smith Road. Please be aware of hunting seasons before visiting this area. 10527 S. River Road, Hunt, Livingston County

Indian Fort Nature Preserve
Indian Fort Nature Preserve

Indian Fort Nature Preserve

Managed by Genesee Valley Conservancy, this 60-acre research reserve provides an area for hiking and birding. The reserve features a pond, creek gullies, and small waterfalls best seen in the spring or after heavy rainfall. The forest trails can be muddy. Visitors can bring their kayak and paddle less than a mile upstream to reach the mouth of Canaseraga Creek. 3432 Jones Bridge Road, Geneseo, Livingston County

Top 10 - Letchworth State Park
Upper Falls in Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park

To experience the stunning beauty of the Genesee River through Letchworth State Park, plan a day trip that includes a visit to the Mount Morris Dam and Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls. Take a hike along Trail 1 for breathtaking views of the gorge. You can also join Adventure Calls Outfitters for a guided rafting trip downstream from Lower Falls to St. Helena, a journey of about five and a half miles. Admission fee. Park Road, Mount Morris, Livingston County, and Castile, Wyoming County

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Explore Letchworth State Park

Letchworth has something for everyone, from hiking one of the park’s 29 trails and picnicking beside a waterfall to taking a scenic drive.

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Go on a four-hour round-trip journey to visit the source of the Genesee River in Gold, Pennsylvania, in the Pennsylvania Wilds region. The rain that falls in this mountain area flows in three different directions and is the start of three major rivers: the Allegheny, Genesee, and Susquehanna.

Google Map of Locations

View the map separately here.

The Genesee is a spectacular river! The Letchworth gorge, with its three cataracts, has been called “the Grand Canyon of the East,” and where the river passes through the City of Rochester, there is another deep canyon with three additional cascades. The walls of these canyons, and of smaller tributary streams, offer a view into the geologic past reaching back more than 400 million years. The fossil record in the Silurian and Devonian rocks traversed by the river is one of the most diverse to be found anywhere in the world.

Upstate New York, Field Guide, by Bradford B. Van Diver

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H2O Heritage: Exploring Rochester’s Freshwater Resources

Rochesterians are fortunate to be surrounded by abundant freshwater resources that present us with unique stewardship opportunities.

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Paddle, Pedal, and Trek Along Rochester’s Waterways

With parks, preserved wetlands, historic neighborhoods, and miles of trails, Rochester has no shortage of adventures for outdoor enthusiasts.

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Water Trails: Over 50 Places to Explore Rochester’s Waterways

Paddle your way to peace and quiet along Rochester’s water trails. Use these launches for canoes, kayaks, and small motorized watercraft.

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Unlock the Wonder: 12 Ways to Fully Experience the Erie Canal

Experience the beauty, history, and community of the Erie Canal through activities that offer a unique perspective of life along the canal.

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Take a Paddle: Quiet Water for Canoes and Kayaks in New York’s Finger Lakes
by Rich and Sue Freeman

Library | Amazon

Take Your Bike: Family Rides in the Rochester (NY) Area
by Rich and Sue Freeman

Library

Take Your Bike: Family Rides in New York’s Finger Lakes Region
by Rich and Sue Freeman

Library

Where are your favorite spots along the Genesee River?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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