I had seen this place on the map a few times and thought about visiting, but it was always too close for a real trip and too far for a day trip. That horrible middle ground made it an unattractive destination to me despite the beautiful photos I’d seen.
That’s another thing with visiting natural attractions like Panama Rocks. If you see too many photos of the destination you start to convince yourself that you’ve seen the best parts and there’s no need to go. Or at least I do. So when I got to Panama Rocks I was pleasantly surprised.
I was aware that I would have free reign to climb all over any rock formation I wanted, but I didn’t realize just what that would mean. The map shows a loop that’s the main walking path and then some smaller paths that go around sections inside the loop. These are just the recommended paths but I spent over 2 hours exploring just the first half of the loop! I was actually trying to find the clues to a treasure hunt in the park. The hunt was based on some real life history too!
Back in the day, there was an unknown bank robber that supposedly hid his fortune in Panama Rocks. It’s a believable story since a number of known criminals used the spot for counterfeiting. The treasure hunt borrows the famous names from the history of the town over, but has you looking for the lost loot. (If you were interested, the names used are from the true story of a murderer who tossed his victim into a vat of beer. NY has a long and colorful history!)
The other interesting bit of information I learned about Panama Rocks, and Panama, NY, is that they truly are named after that Panama. It seems that when a merchant visited the early settlement he remarked that the rock formations looked similar to the ones he had seen in Panama. There were some arguments about if the town should be named after the rocks or one of the founding families, but it was decided that the rocks were there before the settlers and so it was known as Panama Rocks.
It’s not far outside of Erie, PA and this stop is a great reason to avoid the boring toll road of I-90. I’d recommend it to anyone traveling between Buffalo, NY and Erie, PA.
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