Book Review: Secret Places: Scenic Treasure of Western New York and Southern Ontario

Secret Places: Scenic Treasure of Western New York and Southern Ontario
By Bruce Kershner
ISBN-10: 0840391234
ISBN-13: 978-0840391230

Secret Places: Scenic Treasure of Western New York and Southern Ontario is a book written by a local author, Bruce Kershner.  Kershner was an environmentalist, author, high school biology teacher and forest ecologist in Western New York. Mr. Kershner was a renowned authority on old growth forests. He won numerous awards for environmental activism which include “Environmentalist of the Year” from the Sierra Club (Niagara Group) and the Adirondack Mountain Council. In 1996, he was awarded “Environmentalist of the Year in New York State” by Environmental Advocates of New York. Kershner lead several ecological studies in WNY at locations such as Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve, Zoar Valley, Allegany State Park, and the Niagara Gorge.  Sadly, Mr. Kershner passed away in 2007 after a long battle with esophageal cancer.

Maps of Chimney Bluffs on Lake Ontario coast.

Mr. Kershner’s love for WNY and the environment is evident in the book. The text is written in a format that makes you laugh. It contains a wealth of little known facts about the secret place along with some whimsical humor mixed in.

Each secret place contains a written description of the location including its history and points of interest. The entries also have a hand drawn map of the location with detailed illustrations pointing out points of interest. You really get a sense of the author’s humor and excitement for the areas.

Zoar Valley Map

The secret locations are all in Western New York and Southern Ontario. They include Zoar Valley, Reinstein Woods, the Niagara Gorge, Little Rock City and Griffis Sculpture Park. There are a total of 25 secret places. One of my favorite entries, though I have not visited the location is “Swallow Hallow and the Frog Orgy Experience”. Apparently in the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge you can hear “the bizarre sounds of singing, peeping and chattering frogs (in a state of orgiastic fervor—this is the sexual version of “Spring Break”).” I look forward to witnessing the orgy.

My other favorite entires include:

  • Skinny Dipping Beach at Zoar Valley: “a traditional skinny dipping beach since the 1960s when hippies “liberated” the area from the inhibitions of prudish society.”
  • Directions to Buttermilk Falls: “…turn left into the village of Leroy (the “Birthplace of Jello”)”.
  • About Reinstein Woods: “..Lily Pond reminds many fo the famous Monet painting of water lilies. In essence, the Preserve is a living “million-dollar painting” and raises the question, “Does art imitate nature, or does nature imitate art?”

Bring plastic bags with you so you can clean up the environment!

Mr. Kershner’s descriptions and details add enjoyment to every secret place we have visited this far. We have visited a few locations we would have never found by ourselves. He even reminds us “Bring plastic bags with you so you can clean up the environment!”

Every WNY outdoor enthusiast should own and treasure a copy.

Although, I have been to several of the “secret places”, I have not visited them all. To honor the memory of the author, I am making it a goal to visit all 25 places listed in the book and do a trip report on each location. The trip reports will include some of Mr. Kershner’s commentary of the location, photos and an updated digitized map. My trip reports are in no way a replacement for the actual book. Every WNY outdoor enthusiast should own and treasure a copy.

Side note: A friend of mine suggested this book to me. When I looked it up, my wife said, “Hey, that’s my high school biology teacher, I think my dad has that book.” My wife remembers Mr. Kershner as a energetic, whimsical and even a little cooky, teacher, loved by all. Her favorite memory is Mr. Kershner dressing up as a mad scientist and feeding his students a Jello brain. She said he really enjoyed teaching, loved his students and the environment.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Secret Places: Scenic Treasure of Western New York and Southern Ontario”

  1. Pingback: Secret Places: Little Rock City Western New York - Outside Chronicles

  2. Pingback: Secret Places: The Eternal Flame - Outside Chronicles

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