Plants and Wildlife


Back to Nature

Construction of New York’s canals dramatically changed the nature of the state. Not only were vast acres of forest felled to make way for the canal and its towpath, but the canal system spurred the growth of farming, industry, and cities that further altered the land.

Over the past 200 years, the landscape has continued to evolve and change. In many places, abandoned sections of the original canal have reverted back to nature. Today, the vast canal waterway system and public lands that adjoin it provide important habitats for plants and wildlife in upstate New York.

Take a closer look.

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor’s water, wetlands, and rich woodlands are home to an impressive variety of wildlife. A visit by land or boat is sure to reward even casual observers with the sight and sound of birds, mammals, frogs, dragonflies, and other fascinating creatures. Here are a few birds and mammals you may see along the canal.

  • Great Blue Heron

    Great Blue Heron

    Lisa Ermer

  • Tree Swallow

    Tree Swallow

    J. Mackay

  • Mallards


    Gary Eisenhart

  • Wood Duck

    Wood Duck

    Claire Dawson Talbot

  • Common Merganser

    Common Merganser

    Lynn Cleveland

  • Mink


    Peggy Button Barringer

  • White Tailed Deer

    White Tailed Deer

    Dave Valvo

  • Snapping Turtle

    Snapping Turtle

    Ed Lehman

"Swallows followed us, swooping and diving around the boat at a discreet distance. Geese flew overhead in formation, urging us on with their primeval honking cries. Far off we saw eagles and buzzards gliding on air currents, cormorants skimming low over the water and everywhere the blue heron."
- Leo McNeir : Cruising USA- New York State, Canals & Rivers
Northern Hardwood Forest Throughout the Corridor

red and sugar maple, American beech, paper birch, red spruce, red pine, eastern white pine, quaking aspen, eastern hemlock variety of songbirds, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers; white-tailed deer, red fox, red-backed salamander
Oak-Hickory Forest
Finger Lakes and central part of the Corridor white, red, and black oak, hickory, Eastern white pine, black cherry, red maple, white ash blue jay, wild turkey, scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak; gray squirrel, northern flying squirrel, gray fox, eastern box turtle, spotted salamander
Floodplain Forests
Mohawk and Hudson rivers and along streams, especially where flooding occurs

red and sugar maple, maple, shagbark hickory, white, black , and green ash, American sycamore, eastern cottonwood, swamp white oak, black willow, American basswood
belted kingfisher, bank swallow, spotted sandpiper, green heron, yellow warbler, wood duck; mink, river otter, spring peeper, wood frog, gray treefrog
Hemlock-Northern Hardwood Forests Champlain Region on lower and mid elevation slopes; Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (western NY) eastern hemlock sugar maple, American beech, yellow birch, red spruce, Eastern white pine, red pine blackburnian warbler, northern goshawk, barred owl, pileated woodpecker; red and gray squirrel, chipmunk, red-backed salamander, wood frog
Cattail Wetlands Abandoned sections of towpath era canals; low areas adjacent to rivers and streams where soils are wet. cattails, arrowhead, pickerelweed, purple loosestrife, bulrushes, sedges, blueflag iris
wading birds, ducks, and geese, including great blue heron, green heron, Canada goose, mallard, American black duck; painted turtle, muskrat, red-spotted newt