Genesee RiverWatch

Paddle the Genesee on Roc the Riverway Weekend Oct 3rd & 4th

Saturday, Oct 3, 10am-2pm. Guided Paddle of the Lower River from the NEW Petten St. Dock

Join Genesee RiverWatch and the Genesee Waterways Center for a guided paddle on the Lower Genesee. We will leave from, and return to, the brand new, ADA compliant, canoe and kayak dock at the foot of Petten Street. Enjoy a rare, water-level view of Turning Point Park and Rochester’s unique “wilderness in the city” hidden in the gorge of the Genesee.

Guides will describe the history of the Lower Genesee, including its role as a lake port and terminus of the Underground Railway. Cost is $25.00 per person and includes canoe or kayak rental. Maximum two adults per canoe. All children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Pre-registration is required: Call 585-820-8860 with questions. Meet at the parking lot at the river end of Petten Street off Lake Avenue. Masks are required.

Sunday, Oct 4th, 10am-5pm. Paddle the Genesee River and Erie Canal from the Genesee Waterways Center

Join the Genesee Waterways Center and Genesee RiverWatch for an end-of-season celebration of the Genesee River and Erie Canal. From 10am – 5pm we will be offering discounted paddling at the Genesee Waterways center for all participants. NO REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Simply show up at out Genesee Valley Park Facility and we will provide you with a paddle, PFD, and a canoe or kayak for up to 3 hours of paddling. Cost is $15/person. Enjoy a riverside view of downtown Rochester, explore the southern Genesee River, or travel east on the Erie Canal and see the beautiful Red Creek all from our docks at the Genesee Waterways Center. Contact for more information. Masks are required.

Aquatic Education Update Sept 2020

Hello Friends,
Genesee RiverWatch, Inc., through the Aquatic Education Network (AEN), is available to support you as you re-imagine what teaching and learning looks like this fall. Check out our Sept 2020 update for ideas.

September 2020 Aquatic Education Network Update

City of Rochester and Genesee RiverWatch Announce New Boater Access Site on the Genesee

Kayakers and canoeists have a new and safe access site on the Lower Genesee.  The ADA-compliant dock is on the west side of the river at the foot of Petten Street, just south of the O’Rourke Bridge.  It allows cartop boaters to launch and land their boats out of the way of the powerboat wakes and lake swells prevalent north of the bridge. It also replaces the current, informal, riverbank site that requires boaters to wade into the river from a Brownfield area.

The new dock was built by the City of Rochester with funding help from Genesee RiverWatch donors.  It is the realization of a dream that began with both City planners and RiverWatch volunteers in 2016 and supports the public access goals of the City’s Harbor Management Plan.  The City was seeking ways to capitalize on the beauty of the Genesee and expand recreational opportunities on the river.  Genesee RiverWatch seeks to connect people to the river and had direct experience using the power boat launch ramp next to the Marina and the muddy informal bank site at Petten Street.  It was clear that a dock facility dedicated to paddlers would be safer and could be a focal point for recreational boating, aquatic education programs, and potential river-based events.  With this in mind, City Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Norman Jones, earmarked funds in the City’s capital budget for the project.  Genesee RiverWatch received a major donation from Genesee Brewery and significant additional funding from Rochester Gas & Electric, the Popli Design Group, and individual supporters.

Using the new dock, recreational boaters can paddle upriver to Turning Point Park, Seth Green Island and Lower Falls; exploring the Genesee’s “wilderness in the city” – an area that can only be fully appreciated from a boat. When we are past the current COVID emergency, the rapidly expanding Waterways Center/Genesee RiverWatch program of guided paddles in the lower river will have a proper facility for their Seth Green-to-harbor trips.  In addition, K-12 and college students in aquatic education programs and potential canoe/kayak races will have a dedicated dock available for their activities.  More information about canoe/kayak access points on the river is available on the newly updated Genesee River Blueway Map

The dock is open now for use.  Please be considerate of other paddlers and the boaters who rent slips in the immediate area.  After unloading your boat, park your car at the back side of the lot and away from the spaces marked for boat trailers.

Genesee River Blueway Map Launched

A new Genesee River Blueway Map is ready for use by canoeists and kayakers who wish to explore and connect with the river.  The downloadable Overview Map shows current river access locations from Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario.  A web-based Interactive Map gives users detailed information about each access point, including photos of the sites.  Printed copies of the Overview Map will be available at access points over the next few months as signage and map holders are installed. The advantage of the online map is that it can be updated as necessary to provide current information about access points.

Genesee RiverWatch partnered with the Genesee Valley Conservancy and Genesee River Wilds to update the Genesee River Blueway Trail Map, originally developed by Genesee River Wilds and the Genesee Valley Conservancy. The work was funded by a $25,000 grant from New York Sea Grant and financial and in-kind support from the Greater Allegany County Chamber of Commerce.  

As part of this project, Genesee RiverWatch developed a prioritized list of sites for new and improved access based on input from stakeholders and citizens, aerial imaging, GIS, the work of others, and site visits. This work is summarized in the Genesee River Canoe/Kayak Access Improvement Plan 2019.

Genesee River Canoe/Kayak Access Improvement Plan 2019

Genesee RiverWatch, in partnership with Genesee Valley Conservancy and Genesee River Wilds, has created a Canoe/Kayak Access Improvement Plan that prioritizes car-top boat access sites on the main stem of the Genesee River that need upgrading and locations for new sites. The Plan was developed using stakeholder and general public input, the results of several in-field assessments, GIS/aerial imaging, and our team’s extensive knowledge of access sites. This plan will be used to solicit funding to make the upgrades to existing sites and build new ones.

The Plan identifies the need for 6 new sites: 3 to fill in gaps of more than 10 miles between access locations; and 3 others where new access is needed. It also prioritizes 8 existing sites that need varying degrees of upgrade to improve safe access.

Aquatic Education Going Virtual

The NOAA funded Our Lakes, Streams, and Rivers education initiative has been turned into a “virtual” program under the guidance of St. John Fisher College (Mike Boller) and the Aquatic Education Network. Twenty teachers have been chosen from thirty-three applicants for training to enable them to provide Meaningful Watershed Education Experiences (MWEE) to middle and high school students in the 2020 – 2021 school year. This project is part of Genesee RiverWatch’s efforts to facilitate educational experiences that connect students and teachers to the Genesee River.

Streambank Restoration Update Summer 2020

Genesee RiverWatch has several streambank restoration projects underway in 2020.  These are important because restoring the banks of the river reduces sediment and phosphorus loads in the river, improving the quality of the water for recreational use and wildlife habitat along with preserving valuable farm land.

Streambank Restoration – Town of Angelica, NY

Genesee RiverWatch has begun work on its part of a US Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&WS) project to restore a 2,720 foot section on eroded Genesee River bank in the Town of Angelica, NY.  This project is funded by $523,000 from the Kodak Environmental Response Trust. USF&WS is responsible for the design and construction of the project and is using bio-engineering techniques over rock riprap to stabilize the river bank. Genesee RiverWatch has secured the necessary environmental permits and archeological reports and will design and install the riparian buffer. Construction began the week of July 20th and is expected to take 6-7 weeks to complete.  The riparian planting work will occur in the fall.

Streambank Restoration – Town of Houghton, NY

Genesee RiverWatch has been awarded a $197,000 grant from the Great Lakes Commission to stabilize 1,800 linear feet of un-buffered agricultural field along the Genesee River in the town of Houghton, New York.  Along with $119,000 in-kind donation from the owner, the total project cost is $316,000. This restoration will reduce sediment and phosphorus loads to the river while adding 1,800 feet of new riparian zone and protecting valuable farmland. The landowner has lost approximately 2.6 acres of land over the last ten years. This project will emphasize the use of bioengineering techniques and habitat enhancement that incorporates plants in combination with natural materials such as logs, live stakes (e.g., cuttings from species like willow), and brush bundles (i.e., branches from live woody plants). This approach creates a natural appearance and habitat for fish and wildlife. Bioengineering designs can lead to long-term stabilization of a shoreline, reducing the need for future work. Permit application and supporting documentation were submitted on May 5th.  The NY Department of Environmental Conservation issued a Notice of Complete Application on August 13, 2020. Shortly after the 15-day public comment period we expect to have all of the necessary permits. Construction is planned for the summer of 2021.

Edelweiss Farms Streambank Restoration

The work to stabilize 1,980 feet of streambank at Edelweiss Farms near the Village of Fillmore, NY was completed in the Fall of 2019. This $284,000 project, supported by a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, stabilized the bank and established a riparian buffer. In 2020, a no-cost extension of the grant was approved that will allow us to use a small amount of remaining grant funds to stabilize a 50 foot section above the upstream end of the site, mitigate the impact of the Rush Creek discharge to the river on this project. Work is expected to be completed by year end 2020.

2020 Genesee RiverWatch Events Postponed/Canceled

Due to the current health crisis, the following events planned for 2020 are either canceled or postponed. We are hoping for a better 2021!

  • 7th Annual Genesee River Basin Summit – The summit was originally planned for April 29th. We hope that the virus will be under control by fall and that we can re-schedule the Summit then. Along with this postponement, we are deferring the Elizabeth Thorndike Environmental Leadership Awards. 
  • We had planned to participate in the Letchworth Earth Day event and ADK’s Outdoor Expo. Both have been canceled.
  • In partnership with the City of Rochester, we have planned to open the new Petten Street canoe/kayak dock before Memorial Day. At this point, we don’t know how the shutdown will affect the City’s construction schedule. When we know more, we will publicize an update on our website and Facebook page.
  • Our two cruises on the Lower River in 2019 were so successful that we had scheduled three for 2020 on July 26th, August 23rd, and October 3rd. These have been canceled.
  • In association with the Waterways Center, we had outlined an extensive list of public paddle trips on the river and Canal as well as a “learn to paddle” day and a family outing day. At this time, these events are canceled.

Call for Experts and Resources for Environmental Education Program

Hello Friends,

Genesee RiverWatch and its Aquatic Education Network is partnering with St. John Fisher College on a grant they recently received from the NOAA for the Our Lakes, Streams, and Rivers program. We are gathering a database of resources for teachers to use as they develop their Meaningful Watershed Education Experiences through the program. We are looking for:

  • People who are willing to speak with teachers or classes about their work related to watershed stewardship. If you are interested, send us your title, organization, topic(s) you could speak about, and your contact information.
  • Educational resources or educational fieldwork opportunities you may know about in the Genesee River and Lake Ontario watershed. 

Please let us know if you can assist with either (or both) of these. We appreciate your input and expertise. Thank you for your interest in providing education about the Genesee River Watershed to area students. For more information about the grant and NOAA’s Our Lakes, Streams, and Rivers program, visit:


Chris Widmaier

Mike Boller

Genesee RiverWatch works to improve the water quality of the Genesee River and its tributaries to create environmental, recreational, and economic assets for its communities. We also connect people to the river, encouraging them to explore, experience and celebrate the river. The Aquatic Education Network, an initiative of Genesee RiverWatch, is an educational program to connect K-12 students with the river system to learn how rivers are impacted by human activities and communities. 

WXXI: River advocates continue their work during COVID-19

By Alex Crichton, WXXI, Rochester, NY, July 1st, 2020.

An organization dedicated to achieving a healthy and sustainable Genesee River ecosystem is outlining its 2019 accomplishments.

And the group’s work moves forward, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

George Thomas is executive Director for the Genesee Riverwatch, a largely volunteer organization that works to protect and celebrate the river.

“Trying to improve water, that’s the protecting part, and celebrating is trying to get people on the river and near the river to enjoy the resource,” he said.  Credit

Thomas says the group has been able to continue its many projects because it’s mainly been a volunteer and virtual organization for four years.

The Genesee Riverwatch outlined many accomplishments in its 2019 report, including publication of the group’s first report card on the Genesee River Basin’s water quality.

It received a “C.”

“We have a couple of tributaries that are doing well, and a couple that aren’t.  That’s where we kind of get our focus, so rather than concentrate on Oatka or Black Creek, we look at places like Canaseraga or other ones that are having a bigger negative impact”

The group gave Canaseraga Creek the lowest grade of “D.”

Thomas say moving forward, restoration projects are a priority.

“Lot of work that needs to be done. We’re looking at 20 to 30 years worth of restoration work, but we also are really getting interested now in working closely with other groups to improve access to the river, “ he said.

Thomas says the Genesee River is a natural asset that many people don’t appreciate,  and from an economic development standpoint, most of the improvements the city is talking about through its ROC the Riverway Project are associated with the river.

He adds the Genesee Riverwatch is always looking for volunteer help, especially when it comes to the organization’s many tree planting projects.

Click here to view the 2019 report from the Genesee Riverwatch