Enjoy Dramatic Relief at Mendon Ponds Park

December 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm 2 comments

Finger Lakes Summer

View across Hundred Acre Pond

Growing up in Rochester, one of my favorite places to explore with my family, was Mendon Ponds Park. At over 2500 acres, it is the largest park in Monroe County. In 1967 it was designated a national natural landmark in recognition of it’s unique glacial features.

Finger lakes Summer

Mossy Shrine

Supposedly the glacier that covered much of North America, just a few thousand years ago, was an ice sheet that was between 5,000- 10,000 feet thick. (How do they figure this out?) As it moved across what is now New York State it left us the dramatic and unique topography of the Finger Lakes. As it melted, it created additional interesting features.

Finger Lakes Summer

Devil's Bathtub water's edge is swampy and dark

Similar to what happens to our family room after my boys have spent a long weekend playing video games round the clock, there is detritus that alters the permanent landscape:  mounds of shed clothing, candy wrappers, dirty dishes, half filled bottles of beverages. Fortunately they go back to school. I can hose the room down and return it to normal.

Finger Lakes Summer

Enjoy dramatic relief hiking park trails

Not so with glacial remains. During their thousand-plus year retreat they left us kettles kames, and eskers, their signature for how melting water can change a landscape. Mendon Ponds Park is a unique collection of these features all concentrated over a small area.

Finger lakes Summer

Looking across Devil's Bathtub

Devil’s Bath Tub is an example of a kettle hole. This is a hollow (typically filled by a lake) that results from the melting of a mass of ice trapped in glacial deposits. Most kettle holes are less than two kilometers in diameter, and rather deep in proportion to their small diameter.

Finger lakes Summer

Devil's Bathtub, trailside view

The Devil’s Bath Tub is fun to hike because it is a low swampy area surrounded by dramatically steep and windy hills. I used to have cross-country ski races in the park in high school and was regularly humbled by the rugged course which wound up and down over what I now realize are eskers and kames.

Finger lakes Summer

We kame, we saw, we conquered. Is this a kame?

A kame is a small conical hill formed by sand and gravel that accumulated when a river of water ran off the melting glacier into a lake. As the glacier melted more, the rivers would move and deposit into a new pile. Figuring out which mound of till was a kame was a bit harder to distinguish.

Finger lakes Summer

Trail's edge outlines the rising ridge of the esker

Eskers are what give the park trails their dramatic pitch and slope. Rivers on the ice sheet would sometimes bore a hole and flow under the ice in a winding tunnel. When the glacier and water were gone these streambeds looked like low snaking ridges of rubble (till).

Finger Lakes Summer

Till is unsorted, unstratified rock dropped by a glacier.

Mendon Ponds Park contains twenty-one miles of hiking rails, plus shelters and lodges. During the winter, many of these trails are regularly groomed for cross-country skiing, making it one of the nicest spots in Upstate New York to ski.

MendonPark trail map


Entry filed under: Cross Country Skiing, Finger Lakes, Hiking, Kayaking, New York, New York State Parks, Rochester, skiing, Sledding, Snowshoeing, Swimming, Trails. Tags: , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Delia Beck  |  January 25, 2015 at 3:03 am

    so how deep is the devil’s bathtub. I cannot find this answer anywhere!

    • 2. CoteCreative  |  January 25, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      Great question. This is what I discovered: the estimated depth of the Bathtub is forty six feet.

      I don’t think its deep like a lake, I think its deep like a bog: Devil’s Bathtub is a meromictic lake. A meromictic lake has layers of water which do not intermix. The deepest layer of water in such a lake does not contain any dissolved oxygen. The layers of sediment at the bottom of a meromictic lake remain relatively undisturbed because there are no living organisms to stir them up.


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