Southern Tier

The Southern Tier of New York State is the geographical region that includes the counties of New York State west of the Catskill Mountains and along the northern border of Pennsylvania.

Lake Erie lies to the west of the Southern Tier, and the north is bordered by the Niagara region and the Finger Lakes. The region is bordered to the south by the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, and together these regions are known as the Twin Tiers.

It is largely a rural area full of dairy farms, quaint towns, and deep forests. Numerous small fairs and markets dot the valleys in the summer and the area is a destination for hunters and leaf peepers in the fall. The occasional city hugs the riverbanks, providing modern amenities and urban comforts while struggling to hold on to the small town charm that is typical of the area.

It is considered to be the northernmost reaches of Appalachia.


Listed east to west:


Other destinations



Most of the Southern Tier(between the Allegany Mountains and the Catskill Mountains) lies within the Allegany Plateau, a vast region of hills and valleys that results from the erosion of a plain/sea bed that uplifted millions of years ago. Fossils can often be found in road cuts and creek beds due to this action. Several rivers run through the area, often cutting broad, flat valleys through the network of smaller ones. Some of the larger are the Allegany, Canisteo, Chemung, Genesee, and Susquehanna Rivers. The Eastern Continental Divide runs right through the middle of the region, between Corning and Hornell. West of the Allegany Mountains the land slopes gently down to the shores of Lake Erie.

Climate is typical 'humid continental' with hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. The region can experience heavy snows, with both lake-effect snow and Nor'easters commonly hitting the area. Two feet of snow from a single storm is not uncommon.


Native Americans have had a long history in the area. Large areas of the Southern Tier belonged to the Iroquois Nation prior to/during colonization. During the Revolutionary War the Sullivan Expedition marched through the area, burning an Indian village at the present site of Owego and culminating in the Battle of Newtown.

Early colonists largely followed the major rivers as they provided food and transportation. Most early industry involved harvesting the forests and shipping the lumber downstream. Elmira was first settled around 1792, with Binghamton, Corning, and other settlements beginning shortly after. The terrain limited canal building, and the area remained sparse until the coming of railroads and the Civil War led to an industrial boom. The region remained a manufacturing center for some time, but generally declined as new technology brought automation and better transportation. Binghamton, however, remained a center of industry and culture right up until the end of the Cold War when its defense heavy economy collapsed.

Today the area is attempting a resurgence. Binghamton is becoming a destination for high technology and the arts much of the rest of the region is trying to draw in tourists interested in the natural beauty and small time charm the area has in abundance.

Pronounced 'tee-OFF-knee-oh-gah'


Locations in the Southern Tier often take their names from Native American and early Colonial history. Many places and features, such as Chautauqua (shaw-TAW-kwa) County, retain their original Indian names and can require a clever tongue to pronounce.

Get in

By plane

The Southern Tier is served by two regional airports with limited flights:

The nearby airports of Syracuse, Scranton, and somewhat farther away, Albany are considerably larger and offer more in the way of connections and services to the eastern portion of the Southern Tier. The western portion may be better served by airports in Buffalo and Erie, PA:

By car

By bus

By train

There is currently no passenger rail service offered in the Southern Tier, although there are some efforts to change this. With New Jersey Transit potentially extending the Raritan Valley Line from New York City to Scranton, Pennsylvania, there have been discussions of Amtrak running service along this line and continuing to Binghamton, Elmira, and other Southern Tier cities. Currently, the nearest Amtrak stations are in Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, and Erie, Pennsylvania.

Get around

The Southern Tier is a large, mostly rural region. As such, the best way to experience it is by car. There are several rental companies that service the area, particularly at the airports.

Public transportation is limited to the major metropolitan centers, with some interconnection between cities by private bus lines.




As with most areas of the northeastern United States, Southern Tier cuisine is the result of the ethnic melting pot that immigration created and food offerings tend to be similar from county to county. There are very few 'traditional' foods of the area as no one ethnicity or crop dominated the region. The city of Binghamton, however, was once a popular immigrant destination. These immigrants brought their cuisine to the region and the area is still home to a large number of fantastic ethnic eateries that have stayed reasonably true to the original dishes.

Outside the cities, the Southern Tier is still an agricultural region and is a great place to find a large variety of local produce. Almost every town has at least one farmers market where fresh, local produce can be purchased. The growing season is short and relatively cool, so fruits and vegetables that favor such conditions are easy to find. The region is well known for its strawberry's in the summer and its apple crop in the fall, but other produce that grows well include cherries, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, corn, and squashes. Maple Syrup was once produced across the region and is still celebrated at numerous maple festivals in the spring. Although production has declined, it is becoming more popular due to the rising interest in natural maple syrup. Dairy is a major industry in much of the Southern Tier. Although the milk produced is generally sold to regional milk bottling companies, a few creameries and cheese factories still exist.

The Southern Tier does have one dish for which it is well known. The Spiedie, chunks of marinated meat grilled on skewers, was born in Binghamton and is quite popular throughout the region.


Before Prohibition, New York was the leading producer of Hops in the US. The western section of the Southern Tier has a rich tradition in beer craft and there are a number of breweries and brewpubs to be found here. The aptly named Southern Tier Brewing Company is located in Lakewood, NY (just west of Jamestown). STBC brews some very fine craft beers and a number of season beers.

Other brewpubs are:


Lodgings depend on a given travelers preferences. Hotels are limited to the cities and to major tourist attractions. Bed and Breakfasts can be found in many of the smaller towns, particularly to the extreme east and west of the region. Additionally, there are many campsites scattered all over the Southern Tier and wilderness camping is allowed in any NYS designated state forest, of which the Southern Tier has many.

Stay Safe

Staying safe in the Southern Tier can easily be accomplished by using some common sense. The cities are generally safe, particularly in the rural areas. Binghamton is a stop on the I81 North-South drug trade and also the East-West trade out of New York City. However, it is limited and crime is generally in line with that of most other Upstate cities.

In wilderness areas, and even in the cities (bears have been spotted in Binghamton), wildlife is the major danger. Bears and several species of Big Cats inhabit the area, however, it is deer that are by far the larger danger. The Southern Tier is overpopulated by deer and vehicle collisions are frequent and sometime fatal. Several species of poisonous animals and insects inhabit the area, although these are somewhat rare. Aggressive Hornets and Yellow-jackets are the most dangerous of this list(due to frequency of occurrence), but others include the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, water vipers, Northern Black Widow Spiders, and Deer Ticks (carriers of Lyme Disease).

Winter weather in the Southern Tier can be very dangerous as well. Severe storms can be unpredictable and hit with unexpected ferocity. The area is subject to both lake-effect snows off the Great Lakes and to Nor'easters(hurricane-like snow storms that come in off the Atlantic). Take all weather advisories very seriously. Stay off the roads and ensure adequate supplies as it can sometimes be days before power is restored or the roads are cleared in remote areas. The locals are notorious for snow-storm bravado, so a good rule of thumb is to clear the road before they do.

Go next

Nearby attractions include Lake Erie, Niagara Falls, Letchworth State Park, The Finger Lakes, Pine Creek Gorge, , The Poconos and Endless Mountains, and The Catskill Mountains.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 22, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.