Hall Island State Forest (Oswego) Hall Island is really not an island, but a long peninsula. The land was once cleared for use by the owners of an old farmstead in the mid 1800’s. The land, however, was purchased by the Salmon River Power Company and low lying areas then flooded after the construction of the Salmon River Reservoir dam in 1910 – 1912. The reservoir was constructed for the purpose of hydroelectric power generation which is still in use. Article 9, Titles 5 and 7, of the Environmental Conservation Law authorized the Department of Environmental Conservation to manage lands acquired outside the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Management, as defined by these laws, includes watershed protection, the production of timber and other forest products, recreation and kindred purposes. Hall Island was purchased by the State of New York under this program in the 1930’s. Today, the land has been transformed into a fully functioning forest and provides a vast array of ecological, economic, and recreational services for hundreds of people each year
Griggs Gulf State Forest (Cortland) Griggs Gulf State Forest, like many of New York’s State Forests, was once cleared and farmed by European settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans. Unfortunately, the upland soils of the Allegheny Plateau are thin, relatively steep, and acidic. As such, the ground is not fit for intensive farming. When combined with harsh winters and a short growing season, it is easy to understand why farmers abandoned these lands in pursuit of greener pastures in the Midwest. In order to reduce soil erosion, protect water quality, provide forest products and create recreational opportunities, the State of New York began acquiring property designated for reforestation during the 1930’s. As a result, the once barren lands were transformed into forests, and today they provide diverse ecological, economic, and recreational services for New York residents and visitors.
Dog Hollow State Forest Cortland) The land that is now known as Dog Hollow State Forest was sold to the State of New York in 1963 and 1964 to undergo reforestation. Dog Hollow State Forest, like many of New York’s State Forests, was once cleared and farmed by European settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans. Unfortunately, the soils common in the area are relatively steep and acidic. As such, the ground is not fit for intensive farming. When combined with harsh winters and a short growing season, it is quite understandable that farmers abandoned these lands in pursuit of greener pastures in the Midwest. In order to reduce soil erosion, protect water quality, provide forest products and recreational opportunities, the State of New York started acquiring property during the 1930’s and planted many trees on it. The Department of Environmental Conservation, under Article 9, Titles 5 and 7 of the Environmental Conservation Law, has been given authorization to manage lands acquired outside the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Management, as defined by these laws, includes watershed protection, the production of timber and other forest products, recreation and kindred purposes. Between the years 1964 and 1967, over 49,500 trees were planted in Dog Hollow by Department employees and Camp Georgetown crews. This land has been restored to forest and today provides diverse ecological, economic, and recreational services
Frozen Ocean State Forest (Oswego) The majority of the land in Frozen Ocean State Forest was acquired by the state in purchases made during the 1930’s, but also as recently as the 1990’s. The name is said to have originated from the fact that during the winter season, extremely cold winds sweep across the land turning the woods into endless stretches of frozen forest, the way that the ocean stretches endlessly across the horizon seemingly frozen in time.
Fairfield State Forest (Tioga) The land that is now known as Fairfield State Forest was sold to the State of New York between the years 1932 and 1940, with an additional purchase in 1962. Like many of New York’s State Forests, the land had originally been cleared and farmed by European settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans. Unfortunately, the soils common in the area are relatively steep and acidic. As such, the ground is not fit for intensive farming. When combined with harsh winters and a short growing season, it is quite understandable that farmers abandoned these lands in pursuit of greener pastures in the Midwest. In order to reduce soil erosion, protect water quality, provide forest products and recreational opportunities, the State of New York started acquiring property during the 1930’s and planted many trees on it. The Department of Environmental Conservation, under Article 9, Titles 5 and 7, of the Environmental Conservation Law, has been given authorization to manage lands acquired outside the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Management, as defined by these laws, includes watershed protection, the production of timber and other forest products, recreation and kindred purposes. More than 434,000 tree seedlings were hand planted at Fairfield State Forest by the Cornell Civil Conservation Corps(CCC) Camp in 1934. In 1938, the Slaterville Springs CCC Camp S-125 hand planted 30,750 more trees. The Conservation Department planted an additional 18,7000 more seedlings in 1963 using only a tractor and spade. Thus, the land that encompasses what is now known as Fairfield State Forest has been restored to forest and today provides diverse ecological, economic, and recreational services.
Donahue Woods State Forest (Cortland) Donahue Woods was acquired by the state during the 1930s as part of the Roosevelt Administration’s plan to counteract the effects of the Great Depression. The land had originally been used for agricultural purposes, which proved unsuccessful due to the poor quality of the soil and short growing seasons. The State Reforestation Act and the Hewitt Amendment, and later the Environmental Bond Act, provided a means for abandoned farm land to once again become productive under the management of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Today, Donahue Woods State Forest provides diverse ecological, economic, and recreational services for many residents and visitors of Central New York.
DeRuyter State Forest (Madison) DeRuyter State Forest, occupies a narrow ridge-top with a deep cut channel that feeds the Middle Branch of the Tioughnioga Creek. The 1875 Atlas of Madison County reveals a well established population of farmers in and around what is today DeRuyter State Forest. Cheese factories, sawmills and tanneries operated throughout the town and the New York, Oswego & Midland and the Cazenovia & Canastota Railroads linked distant markets with local farm and manufactured goods. During the late 19th century DeRuyter was a wide open landscape of farms, and fields and one could look west from Stanton Road and see the shimmering light reflected from DeRuyter Reservoir, built in 1863 as a feeder to the Erie Canal. Soon, however, industrialization and heeds to the cry of “go west young man” drew people away from rural New York and the pastures and cropland of DeRuyter that once fueled the local economy were slowly reclaimed by native forest. Using funds authorized from the State Reforestation Act of 1929, the Conservation Department purchased land from, among others, Charles Boyd, Fred Hurt, Anna Granville and George Congers to create DeRuyter State Forest. Beginning in 1935, recruits from the Civilian Conservation Corp Camp S-103, located in DeRuyter, planted hundreds of acres of red pine and Norway spruce on the forest. Today these planted forests mask ,but don’t completely hide, a rich history of settlement, abandonment and regrowth. The Boyds, Hurts and Granvilles, along with their herds of cattle and sheep, have moved on; but today DeRuyter’s regrown forest is home to a different group of residents. In early spring hawks nesting in planted pine fiercely protect their young while turkey toms pump up and show off in search of a mate. A buck deer bounds off through a thicket of witch hazel while a flock of cedar waxwings perch in a cherry tree to share in its juicy fruit. The low croak of a raven, a grouse drumming on a stump and a chorus of screaming spring peepers remind us that these seemingly lonely woods are alive with activity.
Danby State Forest (Tompkins) Danby State Forest is located on the Allegheny Plateau, which is made of sedimentary bedrock that formed some 350 million years ago when the region was covered by an ancient saltwater sea. Geologists believe that the plateau was created during a collision of the North American and African continents some 250 to 330 million years ago. The collision lifted the bedrock, which has since been shaped by continual weathering and the advance and retreat of continental ice sheets (glaciers). The glaciers created the ‘U’ shaped valleys of the region and the Finger Lakes. Tompkins County was originally home to members of the Iroquois Confederation or Haudenosaunee, specifically the Cayuga Nation. The Haudenosaunee was established in circa 1570 under the influence of Hiawatha. It was a bond between five nations: the Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, and the Onondaga. In 1715, the Tuscarora nation was added making it a league of six nations. The Cayuga’s, who were the main inhabitants of the Tompkins County area, did not use the land heavily. They had semi-permanent dwellings placed near freshwater sources which enabled them to hunt and transport game, as well as irrigate their crops without causing great stress to the land. Early European settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans referred to the area as “Dark Forest” because the forest was so dense that only small traces of light penetrated through the forest canopy. However, the new settlers had many forest superstitions and they had little or no experience in producing forest goods. They therefore decided to clear the area almost entirely for use as farmland. The timber that was not used for carpentry was burned, becoming a valuable byproduct known as potash. This process continued until almost the entire land was converted from dense forest to open fields. As time progressed, it became apparent that the soils had major limitations for intensive crop production, including a seasonally high water table, low fertility, moderate to high acidity, and steep slopes. Early farmers quickly learned that the long harsh winters and thin, fine textured upland soils of the area would not support intensive agriculture. As such, many of the farmlands were abandoned as farmers sought deeper and more productive soils in the Midwest. Originally part of the Watkins and Flint Purchase, Danby State Forest lands were added to the state forest system from 1933 to 1997. The most significant acquisition took place in January of 1956 when about 6,200 acres were added to the State Forest from the federal government. Chiefly former farms, the federal lands were acquired as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal under what was then called the federal sub marginal land purchase program. In total, about 50 farms were acquired under the sub marginal land purchase program, with an average land parcel size of about 150 acres. The lands that comprise the Danby State Forest were once rural farming communities. Before federal and state ownership, four schoolhouses and five cemeteries were established on Danby State Forest lands. The 1860 Historical and Statistical Gazetteer of New York State lists grain, butter, apples and potatoes as the top agricultural and dairy products produced in the town of Danby. Evidence of the Bald Hill farming community can be found today. Family cemeteries on Danby State Forest include: the Fisher Settlement Cemetery (Ward/Theron Family), the Grant Farm Cemetery, the Green and Mettler Cemetery, the Larue Hill Farm Burying Ground (Bogert/McGowen Family) and the Ryant Family Burial Ground (also called the McFall Family Burial Ground). Burials in these cemeteries took place from as early as 1821 to as late as 1918. The Friends of Bald Hill, DEC Adopt-A-Natural Resource Partners, have extensively researched the rich history of Bald Hill. In the past several years, the group has located and mapped many of the former farm buildings, sawmill locations and school foundations on the State Forest. Danby State Forest has a history of forest fires. On November 10, 1931, a serious forest fire broke out and burned over 2,000 acres of the “wildest sections of Bald Hill.” An article from the Ithaca Journal reports that over 200 volunteers, county workers and State Troopers battled the fire which burned mostly second growth timber. On November 12, 1931 an article in the Elmira Advertiser stated that “already the fire had licked up thousands of young pine and elm trees in one of the richest strips of tree country in the Southern Tier.” Reports indicated that the fire may have started from careless hunters or from the railroad as it passed through West Danby at the base of Bald Hill. From 1934 to 1967, Civilian Conservation Corp crew members and Camp MacCormick members planted about 1.1 million trees on Danby State Forest. Most of the trees planted were softwoods such as eastern white pine, red pine, Japanese larch and Norway spruce. However, some hardwood trees were planted as well. In 1934, about 38,000 northern red oaks were planted.
Cuyler Hill State Forest (Cortland) New York State purchased most of the land that is now called Cuyler State Forest between 1933 and 1965, with a recent addition purchased in 1991. During the 1930’s, programs initiated by the Roosevelt Administration were an attempt to create new jobs and counteract the effects of the Depression. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked diligently on a massive tree planting campaign to combat serious soil erosion that resulted from poor agricultural practices in the past. CCC Camp S-118 was established in Truxton and planted more than 1,488,500 trees in Cuyler Hill State Forest. In addition, the DeRuyter CCC Camp S-103 planted more than 1,001,200 trees, and the Conservation Department added another 542,500 tree saplings. A total of just over 3 million trees were planted in the forest between 1936 and 1979. As a result of the hard work of hundreds of young men, the forest now provides diverse ecological, economic, and recreational services to residents and visitors of New York.
Cliffside State Forest (Tompkins) Prior to European settlement, the lands within and surrounding Cliffside State Forest were Native American hunting and fishing grounds, and the neighboring Cayuta Creek was used for transportation to the Susquehanna River. In fact, the word Cayuta is believed to be of Native American origin. Cliffside State Forest was originally cleared and farmed by European settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans. The neighboring hamlet of Cayuta was formed in March of 1824. Lumbering has always been an important part of the local economy. The first water powered sawmill was built in 1816 on Cayuta Creek. In 1928, Burton J. Cotton and Howard A. Hanlon built a sawmill in the hamlet in Cayuta. The sawmill, now owned by Wagner Lumber Company, continues to produce locally grown hardwood lumber. Originally part of the Watkins and Flint purchase, about 891 acres of the Cliffside State Forest (nearly 90%) was acquired from the federal government in January of 1956. From 1933 to 1937, as part of the Roosevelt Administration’s New Deal, the federal government purchased about 8 million acres in the Southern Appalachians through what was called the “submarginal” land purchase program. The program purchased land with limited crop production capacity such as the Cliffside State Forest and in some cases promoted the resettlement of farm families whose lands had been bought by the federal government. The remaining 86 acres of the Cliffside State Forest was acquired from the Lehigh Railroad in 1985.