Boating on the Genesee River

For the Seneca people, the Genesee River defined their home both by setting an eastern boundary and by providing the necessities needed to create thriving communities such as water, food, protection, and an avenue for transportation. Today our relationship with the river is quite different. We no longer have to live on the banks of the river; we are quite efficient at getting water to move where we need it to go for drinking and crops through irrigation and water pipes. While the Genesee River is certainly a feature of Livingston County, the waterway is not a boundary separating or protecting one group from another like it was in the past. Also automobiles have replaced boats as the preferable form of transportation for most people. Because we are much more removed from the Genesee than the Seneca who lived here, it is easy to forget how much the Genesee provides to us, however there are many fun ways that we can appreciate the river today.

White Water Rafting in Letchworth State Park- Credit: Adventure Calls Outfitters (click the image to go to their website!)

White Water Rafting in Letchworth State Park- Credit: Adventure Calls Outfitters (click the image to go to their website!)


Recreational boating is a popular way that we can create a more personal relationship with the river. People in small watercrafts like kayaks, canoes, and rafts are commonly seen paddling on the Genesee, especially during warmer months. Letchworth State Park is particularly popular for white water rafting, because the river is a bit more rapid and bumpy causing the people in the boat to be splashed as they try to navigate the river.

Just like we have different moods throughout our day, the Genesee River too has different personalities depending on the terrain on which it flows. Boating allows us to experience these personalities from the river’s perspective. Writer and Rochester-native Robert K. Wing observed the many characters of the Genesee during his canoe trip with his friend between Belfast and Rochester, NY. He published his account in Outing Magazine in 1885. He began his story writing:

It might be supposed that a canoe-cruise through thickly unpopulated western New York would not afford much material for description. To strangers, the Genesee, if ever heard of, is known either as furnishing the water-power of Rochester, or for giving rise to the falls over which Sam Patch met his death. Even the average inhabitant of Rochester is familiar with the river only in the six miles between the city and Lake Ontario… To him, for all practical purposes, the Genesee River rises in Rochester and empties in Lake Ontario. Residing in Rochester my curiosity impelled me to explore this mystery.

Click here to read what Wing had to say about the Genesee River in Livingston County.