Sandy Bottom Nature Trail boardwalk

52 Nature Centers, Preserves, Refuges, and Observatories Around Rochester

Our nature centers, wildlife preserves, management areas, etc., all serve to protect and sustain life, while making nature accessible to people to enjoy and learn from. 

There are many groups throughout New York State, including the state itself, that care deeply about protecting the land and the wildlife that inhabits it.

While they all have similar goals, there are distinct differences in the names each area takes on—center, park, preserve, refuge, sanctuary, management area, or observatory among many others. Understanding the difference will help you understand the kind of environment you will interact with.

Letchworth State Park Humphrey Nature Centers
Humphrey Nature Center
Helmer Nature Center sunlight
Helmer Nature Center
Cumming Nature Center
Cumming Nature Center

Nature Centers

Definition: A nature center is an organization with a visitor center or interpretive center designed to educate people about nature and the environment. Usually located within a protected open space, nature centers often have trails through their property.

Nature centers are the places of childhood. I went to summer camp for years at Helmer Nature Center in Irondequoit. They host family-friendly events that bring people and nature close together in a learning environment.

Corbetts Glen
Corbett’s Glen
Sandy Bottom Park Nature Trail raised boardwalk
Sandy Bottom Nature Trail
Tinker Park pathway
Tinker Park

Nature Parks

Definition: A nature park or natural park is a landscape protected by means of long-term planning, use and agriculture. These valuable landscapes are preserved in their present state and promoted for tourism purposes.

Montezuma NWR
Montezuma NWR
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge
Iroquois National Wildlife

National Wildlife Refuges

Definition: National Wildlife Refuge System is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and plants.

Farm Sanctuary Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen Farm Sanctuary
Rochester experiences: Farm Sanctuary Watkins Glen
Farm Sanctuary
Mendon Ponds Wild Wings
Wild Wings

Wildlife & Animal Sanctuaries

Definition: A wildlife sanctuary, is a naturally occurring sanctuary, such as an island, that provides protection for species from hunting, predation or competition; it is a protected area, a geographic territory within which wildlife is protected. An animal sanctuary differs in that the animals have been rescued from a dangerous environment and transported to a place of sanctuary.

Sanctuaries act on behalf of the animals, and the caregivers work under the notion that all animals in the sanctuary, human and non-human, are of equal importance. A sanctuary is not open to the public in the sense of a zoo; that is, the public is not allowed unescorted access to any part of the facility. A sanctuary tries not to allow any activity that would place the animals in an unduly stressful situation.

Bird Observatories

Definition: A bird observatory is a center for the study of bird migration and bird populations. They are usually focused on local birds, but may also include interest in far flung areas. Many bird observatories conduct bird banding.

Christine Sevilla Wetlands Reserve sunfilled boardwalk
Christine Sevilla
Christine Sevilla boardwalk
Christine Sevilla
MacKay Wildlife Preserve
MacKay Wildlife Preserve

Nature Preserves

Definition: A nature preserve is a protected area of importance for wildlife, flora, fauna or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research.

Honeoye Lake scenic overlook Inlet WMA
Honeoye Inlet
Braddock Bay Marina Trail
Braddock Bay Marina Trail
Braddock Bay
Braddock Bay Park

Wildlife Management Areas

Definition: Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are protected areas set aside for the conservation of wildlife and for recreational activities involving wildlife.

Rush Oak Openings Unique Area
Rush Oak Openings Unique Area

Unique Areas

Definition: Lands of special natural beauty, wilderness character, geological, ecological or historical significance; the unique areas may include lands within a forest preserve county outside the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.

11 National Natural Landmarks near Rochester

These National Natural Landmarks, recognized for their outstanding biological and geological resources, are all within a two-hour drive of Rochester, NY.

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71 Hiking Trails Around Rochester

Here are a few less populated, rustic, or unusual trails around Rochester that will inspire you to take a hike. A diverse collection of rail-trails, waterside trails, and inland trails.

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Geologic History of the Rochester Area

These day trips into Rochester’s geologic history, filled with drumlins, fossils, house-sized boulders and a meromictic lake, will leave you awe-struck!

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Where are your favorite nature centers around Rochester, NY?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!

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COVID-19 NOTE: Some of the information you find in our articles may currently be inaccurate due to closures and cancellations.

Please follow the most current recommendations from the CDC and New York State for spending time away from your home. The great outdoors can provide a well needed respite & escape during stressful times. Please move quickly through parking lots, trail heads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit. Please day trip responsibly.