A visit to the Finger Lakes region of New York is not complete without hiking through Stony Brook State Park’s stunning Gorge Trail. We hope to inspire you to visit Stony Brook through our beautiful photos.
Picture jagged gorges, flowing waterfalls and vibrant fall foliage in every direction. Stony Brook offers its visitors gorgeous natural beauty in the rolling hills of New York State along with many things to do for the entire family.
While Stony Brook is one of the smaller state parks in the finger lakes, it still packs a mighty punch with 3 large waterfalls, stunning stone staircases, narrow channels and a swimming pool.
In our detailed guide, we will show you:
- Where to find Stony Brook State Park
- Entrance fee and parking information
- 10 best things to do at Stony Brook
- Stony Brook State Park hiking trails
- Best time of year and day to visit
- Where to eat and stay nearby
- Tips for your visit
Our only goal is to show you exactly what to expect when visiting Stony Brook State Park.
Now, let’s hike to Stony Brook Gorge Trail!
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Our Stony Brook State Park Experience
Why trust us to help with planning your visit to Stony Brook?
Well, for starters Kristen is a Finger Lakes native, growing up in a small town about 30 miles from Dansville. We also temporarily lived in the region when Mark first moved to the US in 2019 and we have visited Stony Brook several times.
Having traveled the US extensively, we think the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York is one of the best places to visit in America.
This region offers a myriad of gorgeous topography and a fabulous wine scene not to mention it’s one of the best locations in the US to experience vibrant colors of the fall foliage.
While we no longer live in the area, Kristen’s family still lives in upstate New York and we always return to this beautiful area several times a year.
What Can You Expect From This Guide?
This comprehensive first time visitor guide covers everything you need to plan the perfect visit to Stony Brook State Park in upstate New York.
You will find information about parking and entrance fees, a walk through of the entire Rim and Gorge Trail loop, camping information as well as nearby hotel and restaurant options.
Our main focus is to provide you with hiking and photography insights along the spectacular Gorge Trail at Stony Brook in Dansville NY.
We want you to be fully prepared so you can make the most of your visit to Stony Brook State Park Gorge.
Stony Brook State Park Factfile
- State Park: Stony Brook
- City: Danville
- State: New York
- Address: 112 E Buttermilk Falls Rd
- Telephone: (585) 335-8111
- Campgrounds: 88
- Cabins: 8
- Area: 568 Acres
- Things To Do: Hiking, swimming, waterfalls, photography, camping
- Major Waterfall: Middle Falls (40 ft high cascade)
- Open: All year (gorge and rim trails closed in winter)
- Annual Visitors: ~100,000
After flowing through the state park, Stony Brook empties into the Canaseraga Creek. This creek is a major tributary to the Genesee River where it meets in Mount Morris.
The area has a history of private resorts which have been enjoyed by many generations. But today, it delivers a beautifully winding brook showcasing beautiful waterfalls and refreshingly cool water.
Where Is Stony Brook State Park?
Stony Brook State Park is only 3 miles or a 5 minute drive from Dansville, NY.
Dansville is about 50 miles south of Rochester and about 15 miles south of Conesus Lake, one of the eleven Finger Lakes in the region.
You can visit nearby Ithaca for exploring Buttermilk Falls as well as Robert H Treman, Taughannock Falls and even Watkins Glen State Parks as part of a wider Finger Lakes road trip.
Take I-390 to Exit 4 (Dansville/Hornell) then turn south onto Route 36 and follow it for about a mile.
The north entrance to Stony Brook State Park will be on your left.
Driving Distances And Airports
Let’s take a quick look at driving distances and times to Stony Brook State Park from nearby major cities as well as the closest airports to Stony Brook for you to consider if visiting from further afield.
Stony Brook distance from nearby major cities:
- Binghamton, NY – 125 miles (2h)
- Syracuse, NY – 130 miles (2h)
- Rochester, NY – 60 miles (55m)
- Scranton, PA – 185 miles (3h)
- Buffalo, NY – 80 miles (1h 30m)
- Albany, NY – 270 miles (4h)
Waterfalls and wineries draw visitors to New York’s Finger Lakes, particularly in summer and fall.
Search for your flights using the best search engine, Skyscanner. We love this platform because it compares prices on all flight platforms to find you the best deal.
The same goes for renting a car when you get to a New York airport. Get a benchmark price using Rental Cars then see if you can beat it.
If you are flying into the Finger Lakes region, you might like to read our expert tips on how to find cheap flights.
Here are the closest airports near Stony Brook State Park:
- Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) – 130 miles (2h)
- Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) – 60 miles (55m)
- Elmira / Corning Regional Airport (ELM) – 65 miles (1h 10m)
Stony Brook State Park Entrance Fees
Visitors do not pay an entrance fee to gain entry into Stony Brook State Park, which means you do not have to pay anything to walk the Stony Brook Gorge Trail.
In addition, you do not need a reservation to enter Stony Brook State Park. It is free to enter from dawn to dusk during open season for as long as you desire.
But most New York State Parks charge a vehicle usage fee to enter each facility. So while Stony Brook is free to enter, you will pay US$ 9 for parking your vehicle.
This vehicle fee is collected mid-May to mid-October from 9:00am to 5:30pm everyday from the end of June to Labor Day weekend in September and only weekends or holidays for the remaining time frame.
Payment is not taken at the gate but at a machine where you can pay cash or card.
Let’s take a look at official parking areas and our tips on how you can beat the crowds when parking.
Parking Options At Stony Brook State Park
There are three different parking lots and entrances for Stony Brook State Park. These include North entrance, South entrance and the Group Camp entrance to the west.
Stony Brook North Entrance Parking
Parking at Finger Lakes State Parks can be challenging on weekends between Spring and Fall, particularly on holiday weekends. Plan accordingly and arrive early if possible to avoid the chaos.
We visited Stony Brook early in the morning mid-week in October. This was the perfect time to visit because we had the park to ourselves for a few hours.
But if you visit on the weekends in summer, the park will be extremely busy.
The North Entrance is known as the picnic and recreation center. This area offers visitors several picnic areas with tables and grills as well as the Clara Barton shelter.
In this northern section of the park, you can also find restrooms, a natural stream-fed pool and entrance to the popular hiking trails.
Another benefit to this side of the park is the large playground, tennis court, volleyball court, baseball field and a basketball court.
If this is your first time to Stony Brook, we recommend you park at the North entrance.
Stony Brook South Entrance Parking
Your other alternative is to park at the south entrance parking lot, which campers tend to use.
The south entrance is where the camp office, campsites and Shawmut shelter is located. You can also find bath houses, playgrounds and restrooms.
If you are not camping, we wouldn’t recommend parking at this entrance. Unless the park is very busy, then this might be a better entrance to get away from the crowds.
The Group Camp entrance is also located to the west of the south entrance.
Stony Brook Waterfalls
The extremely popular Stony Brook Gorge Trail features 3 main waterfalls including a lower, middle and upper falls. Even in October, these waterfalls were running well with a steady stream.
Many of the waterfalls at Stony Brook have plunge pools at their base and visitors in the past could swim in these small pools. Unfortunately, this has caused a lot of damage to Stony Brook.
In 2017, swimming and wading in the creek at Stony Brook is no longer allowed so please save your swimming for the natural pool located near the north entrance.
These rules are in place to protect us and the environment. It’s important to leave no trace and explore the outdoors responsibly.
3 Main Waterfalls At Stony Brook State Park
If you walk the Gorge Trail beginning at the north entrance, you will come to Lower Falls first. This small waterfall is about 40 ft in height and its a picturesque sparkling cascade.
We like lower falls because its a very steep waterfall with an impressive drop. Be sure to take a few photos from the side of lower falls too.
As you continue along the Gorge Trail up a staircase, you will come to Middle Falls which is about half the size of lower falls. Middle falls is the shortest of the main falls in Stony Brook at about only 20 ft.
We like middle falls because despite being the shortest falls, this waterfall is often the widest. The water runs in beautiful gradual steps and its extremely attractive.
The last waterfall along the Gorge Trail is a little bit more difficult to see as its not directly on the trail. The Gorge Trail will lead to the campground so you will only see a glimpse of upper falls from the trail.
Upper falls is about 45 ft in height and this is the largest cascading waterfall at Stony Brook. You will pass old supports for the bridge that once stood near upper falls.
But we will show you where to find a better view of upper falls later in our guide.
Additional Stony Brook Waterfalls
While these 3 waterfalls are certainly popular, there are a few additional smaller falls throughout the park. Here is where you can find more waterfalls at Stony Brook:
- One small waterfall near the swimming pool
- Three smaller falls upstream from the campground
- One smaller waterfall before lower falls
- Side stream with several tiny falls
If you want to see Stony Brook’s waterfalls at their best, you should visit in spring when the snowpack is melting.
Enjoy waterfalls? Don’t miss our popular guide to hunting the best Upstate New York waterfalls.
Stony Brook State Park Trails
Hiking is one of main attractions at Stony Brook State Park and there are a total of three Stony Brook hiking trails.
The most popular hike at Stony Brook is the Gorge Trail which is 0.75 miles in length one way. This Gorge Trail is often combined with either the East or West Rim Trail to make a complete loop.
Here are the three Stony Brook hikes (distances are one way):
- East Rim Trail (E) – 1.5 miles
- West Rim Trail (W) – 0.85 miles
- Gorge Trail (G) – 0.75 miles
There are also two popular snowmobiling trails at Stony Brook with one trail located in the east (SE – 1.5miles) and one trail located in the west (SW – 0.85 miles).
Use this Stony Brook State Park trail map here to find new trails.
10 Best Things To Do At Stony Brook State Park
If you are looking for things to do at Stony Brook State Park, there is much more than just hiking. This is a very popular spot for camping because it much quieter compared to the other upstate NY State Parks.
Here are 10 things you can do at Stony Brook State Park:
- Have a BBQ
- Go camping
- Hunt responsibility
- Hike any of the 3 trails
- Rent a pavilion or shelter
- Enjoy the gorgeous fall foliage
- Search for the beautiful waterfalls
- Snowmobile or snowshoe in winter
- Take a dip in the natural swimming pool
- Play tennis, baseball, volleyball or basketball
You can find more information about a Stony Brook hunting permit here.
Stony Brook State Park Gorge And East Rim Trail Loop Hike
Let’s take a hike through Stony Brook State Park via the Gorge Trail first then looping around up to the East Rim Trail back down to the north entrance.
This hike is very similar to the Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail, but less challenging than the Watkins Glen Gorge Trail if you have hiked any other trails nearby.
We recommend starting with the Gorge Trail, especially if you arrive early in the morning because everyone heads for the Gorge Trail as the day progresses.
Stony Brook Gorge and East Rim Trail Loop distance: 2.25 miles roundtrip
Hiking difficulty rating: Moderate
Difficulty is listed as moderate because portions of the East Rim trail are steep and there are many stairs along the Gorge Trail.
By hiking this loop, you will pass by the main campground area near the south entrance of the state park.
You can check out the comments on AllTrails to see what hikers have recently said about Gorge and East Rim Trail Loop hiking conditions.
1. Begin At The North Rim Entrance
Begin your hike along the Gorge Trail near the main parking lot not far from the block of restrooms.
We are going to upfront with you here, there are many stairs along the Gorge Trail which many people find difficult. But if you are an experienced hiker, this trail will be easy.
Stick with it though because the views get even better the farther you venture into the Gorge.
As you head to the start of the Gorge trail, you will pass by a large wooden playground, restrooms and the large natural swimming pool.
Once you have gone past the swimming pool, you are now on the famous Gorge Trail at Stony Brook State Park. You can start by the pool or on the official trailhead which is just nearby.
We recommend starting by the pool because it parallels the main trail and it’s more scenic. So once you park at the north entrance, just beeline it for the swimming pool.
Before you get to the first of the 3 stunning waterfalls along Gorge Trail, you will cross Stony Brook creek two times.
2. A Stone Footbridge And Wooden Bridge
The first footbridge is one of our favorite sections in the park. During our visit in the fall, this natural stone bridge looked fantastic against the fall foliage in the gorge.
We had to the entire Gorge Trail to ourselves since we arrived early in the day so we took our time shooting many different angles for our photos (more photos later in this guide).
Besides the waterfalls, this section is arguably the most photogenic area of the park so don’t blow by it racing to the waterfalls. Be sure to take the time to appreciate the bridges.
3. Lower Falls
As we mentioned earlier, the first waterfall you will see along the Stony Brook Gorge is Lower Falls. This 40 ft high waterfall seems to just easily slide down the rock face and ends in a shallow pool.
Next to Lower Falls, you will find the first set of stairs on the trail. Continue up the trail and look to the left to see a side profile of this waterfall.
Lower falls is located about 0.4 miles down the Gorge Trail. This spot is another one of our favorite photography locations at Stony Brook State Park.
Want more waterfall inspiration? Don’t miss our guide to the best waterfall quotes.
4. Middle Falls
Once you have walked up the entire staircase near Lower Falls, you only have to walk a short distance until you reach the second waterfall, Middle Falls which is 20 ft in height.
While this waterfall is about half the size in height compared to the other 2 large waterfalls at Stony Brook, Middle Falls is very wide and this gives it a magestice appearance.
In addition to the waterfalls, take note of the beautiful surroundings in the Gorge. Summer and fall offer incredible vegetation that line the walls of the Gorge Trail.
While Stony Brook State Park does have three major waterfalls, only two of them are located directly along on the Gorge Trail.
5. Upper Falls
Lower Falls and Middle Falls are the only two waterfalls you can see clearly from Stony Brook Gorge Trail because otherwise you will have to walk through the creek which is not permitted and we don’t recommend.
But we will show you how to see upper falls at Stony Brook in two different ways many people don’t often talk about.
As you continue along the Gorge Trail, you will come to old stone bridge abutment which will lead to a large wooden staircase leading to the south entrance.
Take this large staircase about 1/3 of the way up and you will be able to see Upper Falls. However, this will be an obstructed view so we have a better suggestion.
6. South Entrance Campground
At the top of the wooden stairs, you will encounter the south entrance parking lot as well as the campground. This is where you can find showers, restrooms and the Shawmut shelter as well.
We are going to loop around to the East Rim Trail so follow the signs pointing to East Rim Trail. This trail will require a hike uphill with both stairs and a small elevation gain.
If you do not feel up to this, you can always go back down the Gorge Trail.
7. Larry’s Lookout
The East Rim Trail will start with your descent down another set of stairs and you will cross the creek once again via another bridge.
On the other side of the bridge, you will find more camping spots and the trail will change into a wooded path that is relatively flat.
However, once you have hiked through the campground, the trail will gradually increase in elevation along a dirt path. This will take you to Larry’s Lookout which is signposted on the side of a green fence.
From Larry’s Lookout, you can see upper falls of Stony Brook State Park. The waterfall is not very close, but you can take a decent shot with a camera and a zoom lens.
8. East Rim Trail
Once you have enjoyed the view from Larry’s Lookout, continue climbing the East Rim Trail.
To be honest this trail is pretty boring and it follows a mostly wooded path the entire route.
However, the East Rim trail is shaded for more of the trail and it’s very quiet compared to the Gorge Trail. So if you want to get away from the crowds, take one of the Rim Trails.
We like East Rim Trail because you will have a high vantage point to see the other waterfalls. We were able to take some great shots framing these waterfalls with the fall foliage.
The East Rim trail will eventually loop back around to north entrance and you will cross one more stone footbridge near the near of the trail.
Photography At Stony Brook State Park
Stony Brook State Park is a wonderful environment to shoot nature photography.
The perfect time to arrive would be early on an overcast October weekday for brilliant Autumnal colors, no crowds and ideal light. But not everyone can be so selective so arriving early is our best advice.
Smartphones are more than capable for social media platforms but if you want to take home some extra special images you’ll need to remember a few things:
- Use a mirrorless or DSLR camera and a lens with focal length between 12 – 24 for wider shots as well as a tripod.
- We would recommend a tripod for shooting silky waterfall shots anywhere in the park.
- You need stability to create the silky water appearance by shooting from anywhere around 0.3 seconds to 3 seconds using shutter speed priority mode.
- Start at 1 second exposure and then make more images at faster and slower shutter speed until you are happy with how the water looks.
- Visit early in the day before intense daylight but if it is bright, use an ND filter to stop down the light.
- The the bottom half of the Gorge trail is by far the best photography location at Stony Brook State Park.
- If you’re a beginner, shoot in RAW & JPEG. You can use your jpeg now but once you have more experience you will be grateful for the RAW file you can go back to and edit.
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What Facilities Are Available At Stony Brook State Park?
The north entrance of the park has restrooms, playgrounds and playing fields for the kids. You can find also plenty of green space for relaxing and picnics.
There are no restaurants or cafes at the park, but there are a number of grills and picnic tables so you can bring your own barbecue grub along.
Are Dogs Allowed At Stony Brook State Park?
Yes, dogs are allowed at Stony Brook State Park, but dogs are not allowed on the Gorge Trail. There is a maximum of two pets allowed in campsites and they must be on a leash no more than 6 ft in length.
Proof of rabies vaccination may also be required if asked by park staff. Pets are not permitted on the playground or in buildings at Stony Brook.
Is Swimming Allowed At Stony Brook State Park?
Yes, swimming is allowed at Stony Brook State Park but only in the natural stream-fed swimming pool at the north entrance.
The swimming pool at Stony Brook State Park is generally open late June to the first weekend in September (Labor Day weekend).
The dates and hours are subject to change due to weather, staffing and other environmental concerns. Be sure to contact the park office to check swimming conditions prior to visiting.
Please do not swim in the plunge pools along Stony Brook Gorge Trail as this is no longer permitted and will have negative effects on the beautiful environment.
Best Time To Visit Stony Brook State Park
Stony Brook State Park will be extremely busy on weekends between April and October, particularly during holidays.
From experience, we recommend staying clear on these days unless it’s the only time you can make your visit.
Best Time Of Year
The last week of September and first week of October are the two best weeks of the year to hike Stony Brook Gorge Trail. This time of year brings vibrant fall foliage and the gorge truly comes alive with color.
In winter, all three hiking trails (Gorge, East Rim, West Rim) are closed as well as the playgrounds, restrooms and the south entrance.
However, the north entrance, picnic areas and snowmobiling trails are open and ready for use in winter.
Summer is extremely hot and busy at Stony Brook. You also won’t experience fall colors, but you will see lush emerald green leaves lighting up the gorge which are also very attractive.
In April, the Gorge Trail will reopen after the spring scaling season. This is the best time of year to see heavily flowing waterfalls and experience comfortable hiking conditions.
If you are visiting the Finger Lakes in winter and want to hike a Gorge Trail, head to Taughannock Falls State Park and hike to the impressive waterfall which will likely be frozen.
Best Time Of Day
Early morning is by far the best time of day to hike Stony Brook Gorge Trail. You will beat the crowds and be able to take photos with no people around.
We arrived around 6:00 am on a mid day in October and had the Gorge Trail to ourselves for a few hours.
Arriving late afternoon is another alternative as most people are leaving for dinner or to beat a dark drive home.
When To Avoid
Stony Brook Gorge Trail is extremely busy on weekends between April and October, particularly holiday weekends. We recommend avoiding the rush between 11:00am – 2:00pm.
Not only will your photos have loads of people, but you will also have to deal with waiting around as others block the tunnels or bridges.
The only way to enjoy your Stony Brook State Park experience is to visit when it isn’t packed full.
However, if you plan to visit Stony Brook to camp, use the playgrounds or have a picnic, you should be able to find some space to spread out from others.
Keep in mind many of the picnic areas are first come first serve with the exception of the Clara Barton and Shawmut shelter.
Where To Eat Near Stony Brook State Park
The small town of Dansville is right on your doorstep at Stony Brook, but you could also try nearby Mount Morris and Geneseo.
Below we have listed some of the best local restaurants but don’t forget you are in the famous Finger Lakes wine region and there are plenty of winery options nearby.
Here are top rated restaurants in Dansville, NY:
- Big Sky Restaurant and Saloon – American with a large menu
- Dom’s Original – Fast food full menu all day
- Scovill’s Grill – Next to Brae Burn Golf Course serving locally sourced beef
- Sunrise Restaurant – Family restaurant with American fare
- Wong’s Kitchen – Chinese with full buffet option
If none of those options work or you need a quick bite before moving on, you can find a few of the typical chain restaurants like McDonalds and Taco Bell in Dansville, but try to support the local restaurants when you can.
Where To Stay For Stony Brook State Park
There are a few hotel options in and around Dansville, Geneseo and Mount Morris, NY.
But if you are planning to visit many of the state parks around the Finger Lakes region, you have a few different options.
Let’s take a look at some of the best hotel options in and near Dansville, NY:
Hotels Near Stony Brook State Park
While Dansville has a few places to eat, the small town does not have very many hotel options. Your best bet for hotels would be in the nearby cities of Geneseo, Mount Morris, Nunda and Lakeville.
Geneseo, NY Hotels
- Hampton Inn Geneseo – 25.0 miles from Stony Brook
- Quality Inn Geneseo – 25.0 miles from Stony Brook
- Temple Hill Bed and Breakfast – 23.0 miles from Stony Brook
Mount Morris, NY Hotels
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson – 20.0 miles from Stony Brook
Nunda, NY Hotels
- Letchworth Farm – 18.8 miles from Stony Brook
Lakeville, NY Hotels
- Rodeway Inn – 30.0 miles from Stony Brook
Hotels Near New York State Parks
If you want to visit more New York State Parks, consider staying South of Ithaca one night for Treman and Buttermilk, before moving North of Ithaca the next day for Taughannock.
Or maybe you would prefer to set up base in the built up downtown area of Ithaca for a long weekend?
Hotels In Southwest Ithaca
There are 4 budget friendly hotels ideally located within 1 mile of Buttermilk Falls and close to Robert H. Treman State Park. All of these hotels option are about 90 miles from Stony Brook.
Hotels In Downtown Ithaca
Staying centrally in Ithaca works best if you’re staying for 3 or more days because you won’t have to rush around the State Parks. Plus, over that period you will need amenities on your doorstep.
Downton Ithaca, NY is about 95 miles from Stony Brook State Park.
Hotels In Northwest Ithaca
Northwest Ithaca is the prime location for Taughannock Falls State Park and it is about 80 miles from Stony Brook.
Stony Brook State Park Camping
There are 88 tent sites, 8 cabins, 1 group cabin and 2 pavilions at Stony Brook State Park. The two pavilions range in price from $50 to $75 and can accommodate 60 to 75 people.
Stony Brook campground does not have water or electricity at campsites or in the cabins, but you can find comfort stations in each loop as well as a dump station.
Stony Brook Campgrounds
Reservations for campsites can be booked up to 9 months in advance and each site can be booked for up to 2 weeks. Campground season is mid-May through mid-October.
Nightly fees for camping are about US$ 15-20/night and US$ 105-140/week.
You can book a Stony Brook campsite here.
The group campsite at Stony Brook costs US$90 / night and it can be reserved from May to Columbus Day. There is a maximum of 60 occupants and 10 vehicles at the group site.
Stony Brook Cabins
Cabins are available at Stony Brook between end of April and beginning of October.
Weekly fee for cabins is US $45.50/night and US $318.50/week.
You can book a Stony Brook Cabin here.
Stony Brook State Park Interactive Map
Click into the interactive map, zoom in or out and move around the area to find all recommended restaurants, hotels and points of interest.
- Dark Green – Hotel recommendations around Dansville, NY
- Light Red – Restaurant recommendations around Dansville, NY
- Purple – On site tent, RV and cabin accommodations
- Blue – Stony Brook North Entrance
Stony Brook State Park Photos
We loved visiting Stony Brook in October during the fall foliage season so we took many photos. Here are some of our favorites highlighting the beauty of Stony Brook:
Stony Brook State Park FAQ’s
Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about Stony Brook in Dansville, New York.
The Rim and Gorge Loop Trail at Stony Brook State Park is 2.25 miles in length and should take about 75 minutes to hike.
Yes, Stony Brook and the region of upstate New York has black bears. However, there are no grizzly or brown bears in this area. Black bears are omnivores and eat berries, fruit, grass, seeds, insects, etc.
There are three hiking trails at Stony Brook State Park. You can hike Gorge Trail, East Rim Trail and West Rim Trail.
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We hope this guide to hiking the Stony Brook Rim and Gorge trail helps with planning your visit to upstate New York!
Please let us know if you have any questions planning your visit to Stony Brook State Park or upstate New York in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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