Week three of Outdoor Nations' Campus Challenge
Make a trip to the Niagara River Gorge
This week, Outdoor Nations is challenging students to sleep under the stars.
Week three of Outdoor Nations’ “Campus Challenge” has begun, with UB sitting at rank 15 out of the 90 schools participating. The Campus Challenge is a six-week event in which students join together on their college campuses to go outside to explore nature. UB is one of 90 schools entered in the nationwide outdoor challenge to be considered the “most outdoorsy school.”
Students can still earn points by doing anything kind of outdoor activity even though this week’s challenge is to sleep outdoors. For those looking to investigate the area more and really rack up the points, Devil’s Hole State Park and Whirlpool State Park are this week’s featured location.
Grand Trunks Hammocks, a well-known brand in outdoor equipment, is the sponsor this week. The company is offering a promo code for discounted hammocks to try and get students to find creative places to sleep under the stars.
All students have to do is find a few trees on campus, sling a hammock and be entered to win the $1000 grand prize. Although, that may result in a wake-up call by campus police or a few geese.
Russ Crispell, director of Outdoor Pursuits, finds the Niagara River Gorge, north of Niagara Falls, to be one of his favorite spots, especially because it’s within 30 minutes of campus.
“It is some of the most spectacular views you will see,” Crispell said. “There are eagles that will fly over and white cedar trees that are estimated 2000 years old.”
The gorge area offers an up-close view of the rushing water from the falls.
Devil’s Hole State Park offers 300 feet of rock steps down the gorge, which connects to a mile-long trail along the river. There is a 2.5-mile route from Devil’s Hole to Whirlpool State Park, which allows hikers to see a great deal of the area.
On the descent down from Devil’s Hole, hikers can go off path to find a deep cave with graffiti written on the walls.
It offers a nice place to take a break, but a little bit of trail blazing is necessary.
There are legends about Devil’s Hole dating back to the 1700’s. There is said to be a group of 350 British Soldiers in 1763 that were stopping for lunch along the river, where Devils Hole sits today. While resting, members of the Seneca Indian Tribe invaded them and some were thrown off of the gorge edge, according to Crispell.
“The Seneca would actually force [European settlers] to go over the edge of the gorge,” Crispell said.
It was also said that Devils Hole got its name from a tribe that used the gorge as a hiding place during times of war. They wouldn’t want people finding out about their hiding place so they would kill anyone who entered the gorge at that point.
“Rumor has it that this area is haunted,” Crispell said.
The 400-step descent is worth it to see the rushing blue water and depending on when you go, you may be able to see a Jet Boat Tour, which flies upstream.
Whirlpool State Park is located south of Devils Hole and offers a similar hike to the waters edge, but the waterfront is where the two places differ.
Niagara Falls water empties out and forms this circular pool within the river. As the water enters the pool it causes what looks like a whirlpool.
“It’s a really beautiful view going down and once you get down you can go left or right. I would not suggest going straight because there are class six rapids,” Crispell said. “Stay away from the edge because there are water surges that can surge up to 10 feet. You could get washed away so stay away from waters edge, that is a warning.”
According to an article by The Buffalo News, the stairs down to the whirlpool have been recently renovated making the steps down a bit safer for less experienced hikers.
Hiking the gorge would give UB much needed points to push the university to the top 10 most outdoorsy schools in the competition.
Evan Grisley is an editor on the features desk and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org