nature & waterways

NY will have free fishing for veterans on Nov. 11

Posted 6 November 2020 at 7:26 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Photo by Tom Rivers – A fisherman is pictured in the Oak Orchard River in October 2014.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced today that New York residents and non-residents can fish for free without a license on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11.

New York’s Free Fishing Days encourage more people to get outdoors and enjoy the state’s world-class fishing opportunities. Legislation signed by the Governor in 2015 allowed an increase in the number of authorized statewide Free Fishing Days. Every year since, Veterans Day has been designated as a Free Fishing Day.

“The Veterans Day Free Fishing Day is just one way to acknowledge the contributions of our veterans while offering the opportunity to enjoy some of the best fishing spots in the nation, right here in the Empire State,” Governor Cuomo said. “I encourage everyone from expert anglers to beginners to take advantage of this Free Fishing Day and enjoy everything New York has to offer.”

The Free Fishing Days program is administered by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative. The free fishing days program began in 1991, to give people who might not fish a chance to try the sport at no cost, introduce people to a new hobby, and encourage people to support the sport by purchasing a New York State fishing license.

Free Fishing Day participants are reminded that although the requirement for a fishing license is waived during free fishing days, all other fishing regulations remain in effect.

New York State continues to encourage people to engage in responsible recreation during the State’s ongoing response to Covid-19. This fall, anglers should be mindful in taking precautions to stop the spread of Covid-19 while enjoying the outstanding fishing opportunities throughout the state.

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1 white-tailed deer in Orleans detected with rabies

Staff Reports Posted 22 October 2020 at 10:48 am

A white-tailed deer in Orleans County had rabies, one of four to test positive in upstate recently, according to researchers at the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab.

A DEC environmental conservation officer collected a white-tailed deer carcass after it was found dead in a pond by the homeowner in Orleans County on Oct. 13. The DEC officer noted that other deer had been seen swimming in the pond.

Quick collection and proper handling of the animal by ECOs and NYS Wildlife Health Program staff at Cornell using appropriate PPE was strictly followed and essential when handling wildlife as it may be infected with rabies or other infectious diseases. The brain sample was removed and sent to NYS Wadsworth lab for testing and was reported positive for rabies, according to the Cornell lab.

A deer also tested positive for rabies in Cortland Country after it was euthanized on October 1 by a DEC Environmental Conservation Officer who found the deer “circling in a yard.” The deer also “appeared thin” and was approachable by humans.

Appearing tame or being approachable, anorexia, and incoordination or restlessness are some of the clinical signs of rabies.

Other deer have testing positive for rabies Ontario County and Cayuga County.

Hunting season is about to begin across New York. It’s important for hunters to remember that all mammals, including white-tailed deer, are susceptible to rabies, Cornell officials said.

“Remember to include disposable gloves in your hunting gear as you head into the field,” Cornell said in a news release. “Wear gloves when field dressing or butchering your harvest and be sure to discard the gloves in the trash. Wash your hands with soap and water when you are finished. Rabies virus can be transmitted through the animal’s saliva and blood into an open wound. Do not consume animals that appear abnormal. To report neurologic deer, please contact your DEC Regional Wildlife Office.”

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Canal water will supplement streams, boosting fishing in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 October 2020 at 3:00 pm

Johnson, Oak Orchard and Sandy creeks will get additional water

File photos by Tom Rivers: Anglers try to catch Chinook salmon and brown trout in the Oak Orchard River in Carlton.

The state is doing a pilot program using water from the Erie Canal to enhance popular fishing tributaries in Western New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the initiative today. It is part of the “Reimagine the Canals” initiative, where the state is using the canal to expand tourism and assist small businesses in the region.

This fall, the Canal Corporation increased regulated water releases into Orleans and Monroe County’s premium streams—Oak Orchard Creek and Sandy Creek.

In early November and early December, other Lake Ontario tributaries – Eighteenmile, Johnson, Oak Orchard, Sandy and Salmon Creeks – will see higher flows.

This will entice more brown trout, steelhead, and Atlantic and Pacific salmon populations to run up these streams, improving conditions for the fish and expanding opportunities for local and visiting anglers, Cuomo said in a news release this afternoon.

“This fall, New York is enhancing some of our world-class fisheries and expanding opportunities for anglers into December by creatively using water from the Erie Canal to bolster fishing conditions and to extend the season,” Cuomo said. “As a fisherman, I’m pleased to see our incredible Lake Ontario tributaries will be host to even better experiences for anglers. This innovative use of iconic infrastructure continues our strong tradition of ecotourism while supporting our small businesses.”

The Oak Orchard River is one of several tributaries that will have its water levels boosted to improve the local fall fishery.

The New York State Canal Corporation is methodically releasing water from the Erie Canal into Lake Ontario tributaries, increasing the water levels and flows in streams and encouraging fish to travel farther upstream, which expands areas for ideal fishing conditions. In addition, the Canal Corporation will extend the annual draining of the canal in Western NY to create a longer season for anglers.

“Fishing on the Lake Ontario tributaries was already world-class and well known to experienced anglers,” said Brian U. Stratton, NYS Canal Corporation director. “We’re proud that our Canal’s infrastructure can be used to enhance the fishing experience for New Yorkers and be a catalyst for restarting the economy in Western New York.”

Throughout the length of the program, the Canal and tributary waters will be monitored for quantity and quality to document the success of the pilot program.

“The Reimagine the Canals pilot project will encourage even more New Yorkers to get outside and enjoy our state’s natural resources,” said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. “Water releases will benefit both the fish in these waters and the angling public by providing quality fishing opportunities, bolstering tourism, and supporting local economies.”

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Erie Canal closes to boaters on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Photo by Tom Rivers: A crew from Russia reached Orleans County on Aug. 7 as part of an epic journey in an 18th century replica boat named Pilgrim. The Densmore Road bridge is in the background in this photo in Albion. Sergey Sinelnik is the captain and has long dreamed of sailing around the world. He led the crew to Duluth, Minnesota. Duluth is the sister city of his Russian hometown.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 October 2020 at 8:24 am

The Erie Canal, which opened late this year due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, will close to boaters at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. This will conclude the 196th annual navigational season on the historic waterway.

All recreational and commercial vessel operators should exit the canal by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the State Canal Corp. said in a notice.

The closure on Oct. 14 will allow Canal Corp. workers and contractors to begin working on a backlog of maintenance projects that were deferred earlier this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic while the weather is favorable, The Canal Corp. said.

The organization is pushing to complete projects ahead of the 2021 season, which is currently scheduled to begin in May barring any unforeseen circumstances.

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Medina scene among winners in annual Erie Canal photo contest

Staff Reports Posted 6 October 2020 at 10:47 am

Cory Pawlaczyk took this photo of a sunrise along the Erie Canal in Medina. It won second place in the “Along the Trail” category in an annual Erie Canal photo contest.

WATERFORD – A photograph of a sunrise along the Erie Canal in Medina is among 12 winners selected in the 15th Annual Erie Canalway Photo Contest.

Cory Pawlaczyk took the photo that won second place in the “Along the Trail” category. The contest is organized by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. Winners were chosen from a competitive group of over 435 entries, but only the top three were chosen in each of four categories. In addition, 12 photographs received an Honorable Mention including one of a tugboat by Susan Starkweather Miller of Albion.

“These remarkable images remind us that the NYS Canal System remains a symbol of strength for our communities, providing a distinct sense of place and pride in where we live, work and play. We are delighted to share them widely,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Susan Starkweather Miller of Albion won an honorable mention for this fall photo of the Tugboat Dewitt Clinton at Adams Basin in Monroe County.

Winning images can be viewed online (click here) and will be featured in the 2021 Erie Canalway calendar, which will be available for free at libraries, visitor centers, and by request beginning in December.

Winning images capture the beauty and uniqueness of the waterway, canal communities and landscapes.

“As New Yorkers, we are lucky—it’s easy to take for granted the natural beauty around every corner,” said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “The Erie Canalway’s annual photo contest gives us an opportunity to see our waterway’s iconic infrastructure through the eyes of others and appreciate its beauty. The amateur photographers who captured these images offer a glimpse into the past, present and future of the canal and remind us just how fortunate we are to have an amenity like this at our fingertips.”

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Photos: Letchworth State Park shows off autumn glory

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 October 2020 at 3:18 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

CASTILE – The Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park drew a crowd of people on Saturday to see the plunging water from the falls and the changing foliage of the forests.

The leaves in Orleans County are just starting to change while they are further along about an hour away in Wyoming County, home to Letchworth which was voted the best state park in the country in 2015 in the USA Today Readers’ Choice Award. Letchworth beat out 19 other state parks that were nominated in the United States.

This group enjoys being up close to the Middle Falls.

There was a hot air balloon giving rides over Letchworth on Saturday afternoon.

The hot air balloon added to the spectacle of color and nature at the park.

The Upper Falls isn’t too far from the Middle Falls. The Genesee River runs through Letchworth State Park.

This group with several RIT students showed up with their cameras.

The Portage High Bridge opened in December 2017, replacing a railroad bridge built in 1875. The bridge is 235 feet above the waterfalls, and stretches nearly 1,000 feet across the gorge. The new bridge cost $75 million and serves the Norfolk Southern Railway.

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New signs on canal highlight kayak launch sites

Photo by Tom Rivers: This sign in Albion along Albion-Eagle Harbor Road was recently installed to promote the boat and kayak launch. The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor also had signs installed in Orleans County at the Canalport Marina in Medina, Medina Bates Road Ramp and Holley Canal Park.

Posted 30 September 2020 at 9:30 am

Press Release, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor has recently installed new signs to mark the NYS Canalway Water Trail at more than 140 launch sites along the Erie, Champlain, Cayuga-Seneca, and Oswego canals.

The blue and yellow signs are intended to help paddlers identify safe put-in and take-out sites from the water and assist with wayfinding to launch sites from land.

“The NYS Canal System is among the state’s greatest recreational assets. We’re thrilled that these signs will welcome paddlers and make it easier for them to experience the history and beauty of the canals,” said Bob Radliff, Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Water trail signs are designed to work in tandem with the NYS Canalway Water Trail Guidebook and Navigational Map Set and the online  Paddlers can use these resources to plan a day trip, weekend adventure, or multi-day thru-paddle (click here).

This project was prepared with funding provided by the New York State Department of State under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund, as part of Montgomery County’s Kayak Share Project, and by the NYS Canal Corporation, both as part of the state’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative. In addition, critical support was provided by the National Park Service.

“More and more New Yorkers are bringing their kayaks, paddleboards, water-bikes, and other non-motorized watercrafts to the waters of our Canal System, eager to explore the iconic waterways and natural beauty along the banks,” said Brian U. Stratton, director of New York State Canal Corporation. “These signs will help ensure visitors can access the water safely, and allow them to navigate the canals appropriately from their first paddle.”

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Canal grants available for projects that make an impact

Posted 14 September 2020 at 1:09 pm

Press Release, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

WATERFORD – The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is now accepting applications for its IMAPCT! Grant program. The grants range from $2,500 to $12,000 and will be awarded to municipalities, not-for-profits with a 501(c)(3) designation, and federally-recognized Native American tribes within the boundaries of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Applications are due by Friday, October 23rd.

“Over the past 12 years, we have awarded 83 grants to communities and non-profit organizations that have spurred $2.35 million in additional investments in heritage preservation, recreation, and education,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “We are eager to provide much-needed funding to help organizations get projects off the ground this year.”

The National Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor apporoved $60,000 of IMPACT! grants for eight projects in canal communities in 2020. None of the projects receiving funding are in Orleans County, but one includes repairs to a mural at the Lift Bridge Book Store in nearby Brockport.

The grant program is competitive, and applications should focus on one or more of five key priorities: showcasing the canal corridor’s distinctive sense of place, protecting canal historic and natural resources, promoting recreational opportunities, creating “must-do” travel experiences, and spurring heritage-based economic growth.

A one-to-one match consisting of non-federal support is required and the awards are distributed on a reimbursement basis at project completion. This grant program is made possible with support from the National Park Service and the New York State Canal Corporation.

“Our state’s canals helped build the New York we have today, and the IMPACT! Grants program supports Governor Cuomo’s ongoing mission to both preserve the system’s rich history and showcase all that it has to offer New Yorkers,” said Brian U. Stratton, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation. “These grants have helped communities and organizations across the state boost economic activity while safeguarding the critical environments and historic sites along our canals, and during this exceptionally difficult time for New York, we are thrilled to once again support these efforts in partnership with the Heritage Corridor and the National Park Service.”

Applicants are strongly advised to contact program staff to discuss proposed projects prior to submitting an application. Please contact: Andy Kitzmann, 518-237-7000 x201,

For more information, click here.

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Wildlife Refuge announces hunting changes for 2020-2021 season

Posted 17 August 2020 at 9:12 am

Press Release, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

BASOM – Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) announces online permits for the youth waterfowl hunt and COVID-19 waterfowl blind draw procedures.

Additionally, the Refuge announces the 2020 Final Hunting Plan for Iroquois NWR has been approved and awaits publication in the Federal Register.

The Iroquois NWR Youth Waterfowl Hunt remains the same except permitting will now be done online (click here). Permits are available first come, first serve from August 15 until September 15. The permit is free, but space is limited to 15 participants this year. You will receive your permit letter and Parental Consent Form upon checking out on RecAccess.

The pre-season waterfowl lottery draws will once again be on RecAccess. However, morning blind draws for the entire regular season will now be held at the Refuge Shop at 1101 Casey Road, Basom, NY 14013 to ensure the safety of staff and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Details of how we will safely proceed will be disseminated through our website, Facebook, and RecAccess as opening day approaches.

The 2020 Final Hunting Plan has been approved and posted on our website (click here). This plan includes changes to the 2020-2021 hunt seasons on Iroquois NWR, including other migratory birds, small game, fall turkey, and the second session of the waterfowl season. Once these changes are published in the Federal Register, we will be able to implement them. This will be reflected on our website and fact sheets as appropriate. Please continue to check our website periodically for updates.

For further information please see our website or contact Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge at or Visitor Services Specialist Eric Schaertl at 585-948-5445 x7036. Iroquois NWR is located midway between Buffalo and Rochester, NY and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Still time to get out and enjoy summer

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 August 2020 at 11:55 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

BARKER – These kayakers were out in Lake Ontario last evening for a spectacular sunset. They are out in the water near the Lighthouse Christian Camp in Barker, about 2 miles west of the Orleans County line.

The Toronto skyline can be seen in the background.

These kayakers paddle back to shore.

This group of three had fun riding a Jetski on the lake.

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Rare raptors draw bird lovers to Kendall

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 August 2020 at 1:21 pm

Pair of Swallow-tailed Kites have been spotted on 272, Creek Road

Photos by Tom Rivers: Josh Ketry, a bird enthusiast from Buffalo, scans the sky for a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites. Those raptors normally are in Florida but are making a rare appearance in New York.

KENDALL – The church parking lot at the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Kendall has been drawing a crowd of people from all over the state in recent days.

There have been as many as 40 to 50 people in the lot, holding binoculars or peering through telephoto lenses.

Josh Ketry was able to get a photo of one of the birds in flight. He has come to Kendall three of the past four days to observe the Swallow-tailed Kites.

They are chasing a “life bird,” a pair of raptors from down South. Two Swallow-tailed Kites are making a rare appearance in the state. Birding enthusiasts theorize they were knocked off their normal path from the hurricane.

The two raptors have been spotted in Kendall for the past 10 days. But they didn’t become a big draw until Sunday, when birders started sharing on social media and websites that the Swallow-tailed Kites were hanging around Route 272 (the Monroe-Orleans Countyline Road) near the Creek Road intersection.

Josh Ketry, 41, of Buffalo was in Pennsylvania on Sunday on a birding expedition when a friend texted him about the Swallow-tailed Kites in Kendall. Ketry immediately changed course and drove 3 ½ hours to Kendall. He was back Tuesday and again today.

“This is a lifer so I’m chasing it,” he said.

He has been able to photograph the two birds. They are bright white with black on their wings and back. They tend to glide in the air. Ketry said they have been observed eating cicadas and dragonflies while in Kendall.

Ketry started getting into birds about 3 ½ years ago. He enjoyed the outdoors and hiking and wanted to make it more exciting. He set a goal of seeing an owl on a hike. They it became seeing eight different types of owls.

His list has continued to grow and he has made many friends through the hobby.

“It gave me a quest,” he said. “I’m fascinated by them.”

Lisa Scheppke of Queens and Josh Ketry of Buffalo chat in the parking lot of the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Kendall late this morning. Crowds have been in the church parking lot since Sunday drawing birders from all over the state.

Cornell University has many online resources to help people identify birds, and alert them to rare bird sightings. Click here to see Cornell’s entry on the Swallow-tailed Kite.

The Swallow-tailed Kites have been crowd-pleasers so far. Ketry said hundreds of people have been able to make the sighting. They two have the added draw of flying in a pair, and they haven’t just passed through the area briefly. They have stayed for more than a week, allowing birders to mobilize to try to see them.

Lisa Scheppke, 53, made the trip from Queens in New York City. She has been a birder for about a decade. She will often go a trips with friends to see birds. It is typically a solitary hobby, with long walks through trails and the woods to see the birds.

She reached Kendall last evening but missed the two Swallow-tailed Kites. She was back at 8 this morning. She was feeling discouraged until they made their first appearance of the day at about 10:45 a.m. They tend to be spotted first in the day at 11 a.m.

Stacy Robinson left her home in the Adirondacks at 4:30 this morning to drive to Kendall to see the Swallow-tailed Kites.

“They are a beautiful bird,” she said, holding her binoculars. “This is unusual too because they are a pairing.”

Scheppke, after seeing the Swallow-tailed Kites, said she was likely headed to the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge in Central New York on the way back to NYC.

Stacey Robinson left her home in the Adirondacks at 4:30 this morning and arrived in Kendall at 10:30. Fifteen minutes later the trip felt worth it when she saw the Swallow-tailed Kites. Two of her friends from Albany and Ticonderoga also drove to Kendall and urged her to make the trip.

Robinson said she has been birding the past eight years “obsessively.” She is retired as an assistant at an animal hospital. She said birders check their social media and online communities to see if there have been life bird alerts.

“Birders are very good about sharing information,” she said. “You never know when the next one is coming.”

She said the hobby has taken her throughout the region, to small towns, nature preserves and wildlife refuges.

William Norton, 24, of Hamlin only had to drive about 5 miles to get in position to see the two Swallow-tailed Kites. He has been a bird watcher since he was 16.

He said there are many different colors among birds, and they make distinctive noises.

“It’s just relaxing,” he said about the hobby. “You’re out in nature.”

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Deadline Aug. 28 for Erie Canal photo contest

Posted 12 August 2020 at 9:28 am

Frank Forte was one of the 2019 photo contest winners with this photo of The Max Jacob on the Erie Canal.

Press Release, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

WATERFORD – The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is calling for entries for its 15th annual Erie Canalway Photo Contest. Images should convey the unique character of New York’s canals and canal communities.

Entries must be postmarked by Aug. 28. Winning photos will be featured in the 2021 Erie Canalway calendar.

Images will be judged in four contest categories: On the Water, Along the Trail, Canal Communities, and Classic Canal. Judges will select first, second, and third place winning images in each category, as well as 12 honorable mentions.

Submitted images must be taken within the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, which spans 524 miles across the full expanse of upstate New York. It encompasses the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain canals and their historic alignments, as well as more than 230 canal communities.

Download official contest rules and an entry form by clicking here.

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All lift bridges, locks now operating on canal system

Photo by Tom Rivers: A vehicle drives over the Main Street lift bridge in Albion on Friday evening. Orleans County has seven of the 16 lift bridges on the canal.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 July 2020 at 9:57 am

The State Canal Corp. announced on Friday that all lift bridges and locks are now operating for the navigation season on the Erie Canal.

The Canal system is scheduled to close to navigation on Oct. 14. Maintenance was delayed this spring due to Covid-19 with canal crews operating at a reduced capacity and construction suspended.

The boating season was scheduled to open on May 15 but that was pushed back to June 26. This year is the 196th season the canal is open.

While all the locks and lift bridges are open on the Erie Canal, the state continues to work on locks on other sections of the canal system: Lock C-12 (Whitehall), Lock O-7 (Oswego) and Lock CS-2/3 (Seneca Falls).

The Whitehall lock on the Champlain Canal is expected to open on Aug. 10. The lock in Oswego on the Oswego Canal is expected to open on Aug. 10. The lock in Seneca Falls on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal is expected to open on Aug. 3.

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Erie Canal reopens to boaters on Friday

Photo by Tom Rivers: The tugboat Syracuse carries inspectors and officials from the State Canal Corp. on the Erie Canal in Albion on Sept. 14, 2016. The canal will reopen to boaters on Friday.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 June 2020 at 11:48 am

The State Canal Corporation has announced today that portions of the system will reopen to boaters on Friday. That includes the section in Orleans County and Western New York.

The sections reopening will begin on Friday at 7 a.m. That’s ahead of the July 4 date that was planned for the start of the navigational system during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The season was scheduled to open on May 15, but was pushed back due to Covid-19. The public health emergency delayed the Canal Corp’s maintenance work that is needed before the canal can reopen.

The Canal Corporation has been working to get the system ready since Phase 1 of the state’s reopening started in mid-May for most of the canal system.

“Construction and maintenance activities continue at several locks across the system,” the Canal Corp. announced today.

The canal system is scheduled to close to navigation on Oct. 14.

The lift bridges, including the seven in Orleans County, will be operational each day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. until Sept. 17. From that day until the season closes on Oct. 14, the bridges will be operational from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Orleans has seven of the 16 lift bridges on the canal system. The lift bridges in Orleans include Holley, Hulberton, two in Albion, Eagle Harbor, Knowlesville and Medina.

Click here to see the notices to mariners from the Canal Corporation for more information about other sections of the canal.

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Photos: Mother possum carries her babies in Ridgeway backyard

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 June 2020 at 4:57 pm

RIDGEWAY – Hannah Hill of Ridgeway sent in these photos taken this morning, when she saw a mother possum carrying a bunch of babies on her back on Oak Orchard River Road.

The Orleans Hub has been around for more than 7 years and many people have sent in wildlife photos. I believe this is the first time we’ve had possums featured.

“I know it’s not news, but local and adorable none the less 😊,” Hill said in an email to the Orleans Hub.

I didn’t know that the mother possums have a pouch in their abdomens for the babies when they are small. As they get bigger, the babies climb on the mother’s back while she is out scavenging.

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