Explore the Triple Divide Trail System
The Triple Divide Trail System spans 247 miles from Lake Ontario in New York to the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and is a result of a great collaborative effort by local non-profits, municipalities, state governments, and more.
The Triple Divide Trail System (TDTS) is an eco-corridor that connects parks, trails, and open spaces for 247 miles from Lake Ontario in Rochester to the Susquehanna River outside of Williamsport, PA. It includes water trails for canoes and kayaks, bike trails, hiking trails, nature parks like Letchworth State Park and Pine Creek Gorge in Pennsylvania, as well as corridors of protected land along the upper Genesee River and its watershed. The trail system passes over a triple continental divide separating the headwaters of the Allegheny River, the Genesee River, and the Susquehanna River, lending the TDTS its name. Outdoor recreation and environmental sustainability go hand in hand at the TDTS; the trail system’s proponents believe that giving people access to the beauty of the Genesee River makes them more likely to want to conserve it. Not only does the TDTS emphasize the connectivity of rivers, waterways, and ecosystems, it also illustrates the importance of different municipalities, counties, states, and agencies coming together to work toward a common goal.
In 2010 and 2011, public agencies, local municipalities, small community groups, and volunteer advocates in New York and Pennsylvania developed the first strategic plan for the TDTS, parts of which are now included in formal planning documents in the two states. Two non-profit volunteer groups, Genesee River Wilds, Inc., and Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway, played large roles in the creation and implementation of the TDTS. Since 2008, Genesee River Wilds has worked to develop an environmentally sustainable system of nature parks along the Genesee River, creating, along with multiple collaborative partners, 11 pocket parks that allow new access to the river. Genesee River Wilds, as co-founder Allen Kerkeslager states, is “committed to the integration of economic development through eco-tourism and related means, minimally-invasive outdoor recreation, and conservation of the upper Genesee River.” Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway formed in 1993 with the goal of maintaining a public, multi-use trail and natural greenway corridor along the abandoned Genesee Valley Canal and the Pennsylvania Railroad, Rochester Division, ultimately creating a new state park, the Genesee Valley Greenway State Park, in 2011.
The TDTS benefits the Genesee Valley region in many ways. The buffers of protected land along the river conserve waterways, preserve wildlife habitats, and reduce the threat of floods. At the same time, the creation and maintenance of parks and trails along the river attracts hikers, bikers, and boaters, whether they decide to do the whole trail system or just part. More people visiting these areas results in more visitors to local restaurants, shops, and other businesses, strengthening the economy but not damaging the local ecosystem due to the buffers in place. Lastly, the parks themselves will provide jobs to those constructing buildings like camping shelters, restrooms, and pavilions; those offering environmental education at sites; those selling equipment to the visitors; and more. The TDTS, through the collaborative effort of groups like Genesee River Wilds and Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway, presents a great model for sustainable tourism in rural areas.