Tracy Creek State Forest (Vestal, NY)

northeast section of tracy creek state forest

northeast section of tracy creek state forest

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) apparently sells rights to cut firewood at Tracy Creek State Forest, and it feels that way as you walk through. The only trails are wood roads in varying states of disrepair. The layout of the property is something like a cubist starfish, each of the arms extending into a sea of private property. This can make access a challenge. If you drive something with high clearance that was designed to be taken off-road then you shouldn’t have any trouble. If you’re looking for a place to park your sedan, however, you may end up driving around for a while, particularly along Crumm Road in the northeast.

not tracy creek

not tracy creek

wetland at tracy creek sf

wetland at tracy creek sf

Access is somewhat easier along Collins Road in the southernmost portion of the forest, near the Pennsylvania border.  The small section to the east of that road is probably the most interesting. I read that there was a small wetland there, so I went to see for myself. I followed a trail south from Collins to where the unnamed creek was shown on the DEC map. The trail is really overgrown in places, but does open into a small clearing eventually (above, right). It looks like any field from a distance, but is in fact too wet to walk across in places. A creek (above left), which doesn’t seem to be named on any map I’ve seen, runs through the field. I could see lots of small fish in the creek, though it was difficult to approach because of the marshy banks. There were a couple of trees that had been chewed by beavers a long time ago, but I didn’t see any evidence of a current presence.

tracy creek salamander

tracy creek salamander

This area, in spite of its close proximity to occupied houses, seems to have an abundance of wildlife. I did see signs of deer all over the place, and occasional signs of bear. There are lots of squirrels and chipmunks, naturally, and a variety of birds. A newt ran across the trail in front of me in the northeast section (pictured right), and I flushed a grouse or something near one of the parking spots above the southeast section.

Tracy Creek isn’t the prettiest piece of land I’ve seen in New York, and you can hear some human activity in most parts of the starfish, which forbids a completely idyllic experience. It is interesting, however, and well worth a look. It’s also very close to Binghamton University in Vestal, and students there may find it to be the most easily accessible state land.

Links:

Google Map: Tracy Creek State Forest
NY DEC: Tracy Creek State Forest

Hoxie Gorge State Forest (Virgil, NY)

trail through larch forest at hoxie gorge

trail through larch forest at hoxie gorge

Hoxie Gorge State Forest is most closely associated with the City of Marathon, though it is technically comprised of lands in the towns of Freetown, Cortlandville, and Virgil. It is easily accessible, as it lies along Interstate 81, directly opposite Tuller Hill State Forest.

When I first entered this forest from the south, I followed the DEC map to Russell Hill PFAR from Steve Russell Hill Road and came to a dead end. Nothing is marked, of course, so I thought I’d badly misread something. It turned out that the PFAR is not made distinct from the snowmobile trail shown on the DEC rendering. Google maps clearly shows that there are two access roads which run toward each other (one from the north and one from the south), but don’t meet in the middle. You can’t drive through the entire forest. This is a minor issue, but a good reminder to not rely entirely on free DEC publications.

former farmland planted with spruce

former farmland planted with spruce

There are a number of informal trails which depart from the southern PFAR. One, about 1/4 mile from the dead end, was surprisingly well maintained. The trail immediately opened up into a well manicured clearing on the edge of a plot of planted spruce. Further west, the trail worked its way through  a larch forest, then mixed coniferous and hardwood forest, and finally ended at a fence within earshot of I-81.

On one occasion, I stopped for a while and made a campfire just off the clearing at the top of this trail. As the afternoon drifted into dusk, something could be heard breaking down trees on the other side of some very dense cover. They weren’t small branches. I could hear the wood breaking in stages as more and more force was applied to it. I assume that it was a bear, though I didn’t see it. They are reasonably common in New York, and I don’t know of anything else that would be capable of such a thing. In any case, I made some noise and the racket stopped. Then I doused the fire and left before it got too dark.

northern pfar in hoxie gorge sf

northern pfar in hoxie gorge sf

The PFAR in the northern section of Hoxie Gorge lent some support to my hypothesis on the tree-breaker, as it was completely littered with apples in places. The DEC has apparently planted dozens of apple trees along the road to enhance hunting opportunities in the fall.

The road in the north is steep, and was pretty well washed out when I was last there, though probably passable with a jeep or truck.

Links:

Google Map: Hoxie Gorge State Forest
NY DEC: Hoxie Gorge State Forest

 

 

Not Quite Normal Yet at Otsiningo

otsiningo park still closed after flood

Otsiningo Park is much drier today than it has been in the last few days, but it’s still closed to the public.

otsiningo park, drying out after the flood

otsiningo park, drying out after the flood

A quick look from Front Street shows that the major walkways are no longer submerged. Look a little closer though, and you can see that several trees are still underwater in the area around Otsiningo Park Pond.

There was no indication of a cleanup underway when I passed by this afternoon. I’m sure that all hands are busy with more pressing matters throughout the city.

See previous posts on the flood for pictures taken at the height of the problem.

Receding Flood in Binghamton, New York

interstate 81 from front street near binghamton north

interstate 81 from front street near binghamton north

The waters are receding, and revealing a substantial mess in, and around, Binghamton.

The picture to the right shows I-81, backed up with traffic. I understand that the flooding has affected many of the highway exits in the area, and that its structural integrity may have been compromised in places. The water in the foreground is typically dry land between the interstate and Front Street.

After driving a short distance up Front Street, it was obvious that nearly every low-lying area in the vicinity was underwater. Traffic was tied up on Front Street, as well as I-81, and it was difficult to get more than a few miles. Many people were pumping out their basements and removing sodden furniture and debris from their property.

otsiningo park flooding 9/8/11

otsiningo park flooding 9/8/11

otsiningo park flooding 9/9/11

otsiningo park flooding 9/9/11

These two pictures of Otsiningo Park show slightly different angles, but were taken from the same spot on Front Street, just around the corner from the Bevier Street Bridge. The one on the left shows the level of the flood waters on September 8th, 2011, and the one on the right shows the flood stage at about the same time on September 9th. The water receded substantially, throughout the morning, but the park is still inundated. You can click either picture to enlarge it.

Flooding in Binghamton, New York

It’s not generally the business of Into the Forest to report on natural disasters, but when nature shows up in your back yard it’s hard not to take notice.

otsiningo park in the flood of 2011

otsiningo park in the flood of 2011

These pictures were taken around 1:00 in the afternoon today at Otsiningo Park in Dickinson, New York. The Chenango River runs alongside the park, and through the north side of Binghamton to its confluence with the Susquehanna River in the center of the city.

otsiningo park in the flood of 2011

otsiningo park in the flood of 2011

As you can see, Otsiningo Park is almost completely submerged at this point, and the river is expected to rise further throughout the afternoon. A number of people were walking around, looking at the river. Some of them commented that the downtown area is now completely closed, and has mostly been evacuated.

otsiningo park in the flood of 2011

otsiningo park in the flood of 2011

The Chenango River seems to be within a couple of feet of over-topping its banks south of the Bevier Street Bridge as well, at which point Cheri Lindsay Memorial Park, a Binghamton municipal park, may find itself in much the same condition as Otsiningo.

More importantly, a long stretch of business and residential property will be inundated. If you’re in the city, the FEMA flood maps available at the Broome County GIS Portal may be of interest. On the other hand, you might just get out now while you can if you have a place to go. It’s all helicopters and sirens in here.

 

 

Quaker Lake Public Boat Launch (Silver Lake, PA)

parking area at quaker lake public boat access

completely empty parking area at quaker lake public boat access

We have all likely seen housing developments in which each half of each duplex is allotted approximately 100 square feet of lawn, hemmed in by concrete sidewalks. These sad tufts of lawn collectively serve more as a vehicle for the homeowner’s association to assert its authority, rather than any aesthetic purpose. What these lawns are to greenery, Quaker Lake is to waterways.

Access to the lake has apparently been contentious in recent years. In 2007 there was some dispute over the property boundaries of the state’s access point. The Quaker Lake Cottagers’ Association took full advantage of this opportunity to exclude the rabble from their idyllic status symbol. Due to legal action by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC), they were ultimately unsuccessful and public access was preserved.

shore of quaker lake near the pfbc access point

shore of quaker lake near the pfbc access point

The legal conflict may have been resolved, but the residual tension is still palpable. Most of the shore was conspicuously posted with NO TRESSPASSING signs, as well as signs that forbade walking along the road near the lake. As I looked around, and took a couple of pictures around the dock, there were a number of “cottagers” lounging around on their boats, decks and floats who seemed to be entirely put off by my presence. I do see their point. A lake full of garbage constitutes a tragedy of the commons of the worst sort, and you do risk that when you open something to the public. A close second where tragedy is concerned, is the destruction of a pristine shoreline by building houses and camps all along it, and the “cottagers” have managed to affect that change on their own.

The lake is crowded, and cottages are packed in around it like hogs at a trough. It’s a bit worse than Little York Lake (see Dwyer Memorial Park) in this regard, but the real difference between the two is the relative acceptance of outsiders by the residents around Little York. I suspect that the PFBC launch at Quaker Lake doesn’t get much use.

the end of quaker lake road in silver lake, pa

the bend in quaker lake road

If you want to get Into the Forest, do yourself a favor, and turn around when you get to the end of the road at Quaker Lake. If you’re feeling the need to drop a rock in the pond of some folks’ pretensions, by all means take a right at the scarecrow and look for a left turn to the public landing about a half mile down.

NB: You need a boat launch permit to use water wings in Pennsylvania. One can be obtained from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission at: http://www.fish.state.pa.us/brag/aa_usepermits.htm. At Quaker Lake there are many signs stating the need for a proper registration. I contacted the PFBC, and confirmed that a boat launch permit is adequate for canoes and kayaks. Please check on this yourself, as the rules are subject to change.

Links:

Google Map: Quaker Lake
PA FBC: Press Release on Legal Action

Note on Abbreviations

Into the Forest uses the following abbreviations:

DEC Department of Environmental Conservation (NY)
MUA Multiple Use Area
OPRHP Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation (NY)
PFAR Public Forest Access Road
PFBC Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PA)
SF State Forest
SP State Park
WMA Wildlife Management Area

Dwyer Memorial Park (Preble, NY)

picnic area at dwyer memorial park

picnic area at dwyer memorial park

Dwyer Memorial Park feels like a cross between a typical municipal park and an old campground. Not only does it not feel like you’ve gone Into the Forest, but it’s actually quite isolated from the forest in the surrounding hills. There are loads of picnic tables, each with a grill for afternoon cookouts, each seemingly with its own small stand of trees. There are restrooms on the premises, though the use of them might constitute the greatest adventure in the immediate area. I also noticed the somewhat rusted backstop of a baseball diamond, which is by far the tallest of a number of factors which contribute to the slightly run-down feeling of the park.

eastern shore of little york lake

eastern shore of little york lake

Dwyer Memorial borders on two lakes. The northernmost of the two is aptly named “Green lake,” as its water has a greenish tint and is a bit cloudy. I’m not sure what conditions have caused this, but I assume that they are naturally occurring since people were fishing there without any apparent concern. Little York Lake lies to the south of the park, and is its most inviting attribute.

Little York is pleasant, but far from pristine. Its water is clear and clean, though a bit weedy for my liking. Schools of small bait fish were abundant in the shallows. I was able to throw a line in when I was there, but didn’t catch anything. I can’t say what a serious effort might yield. Pleasant, rolling hills almost completely surround the lake. Unfortunately the shoreline is tightly crowded with camps and houses. The clearest view of the natural scenery around the lake is to the east, which was saved from residential construction by the conspicuous presence of Interstate 81.

boat access at little york lake

boat access at little york lake

Altogether, the experience is less an escape than an enrichment of an already familiar environment. Navigating Little York Lake is like  swimming through a suburb. It is interesting, and can be fun, but not by any means a wilderness.

 

Links:

Google Map: Dwyer Memorial Park
NY DEC: Little York Lake
NY DEC: Green Lake (map only)

Whitney Point MUA (Triangle, NY)

open field in whitney point mua

open field in whitney point mua

Whitney Point Multiple Use Area (MUA) is enormous. It spans three townships in Central New York (Triangle, Willet, and Cincinnatus), and encloses the better part of Whitney Point Reservoir (see links below). So far, I can only comment on the portion of the MUA which lies in the Township of Triangle at the north end of the reservoir. One of the things that makes this MUA unique is that it includes many different habitat types. The property follows a long stretch of the winding Otselic River, and includes plenty of shoreline around the lake, but also has forests and fields. Pretty much anything that can be done in the wild part of New York, with the exception of camping, can be done here.

pheasant habitat improvement zone in whitney point mua

pheasant habitat improvement zone in whitney point mua

All sorts of hunting take place on the property, and it seems that sections of the land were maintained with specific game species in mind. In many cases, this is obvious. A sign is a dead giveaway (see picture to the right), as are the plots of apple trees that can be seen along County Route 152. Target shooting is apparently permitted as well. I was able to put in at the boat ramp at the mouth of the Otselic River, and heard intermittent gunfire as I fished the shallows in the northern reaches of Whitney Point Reservoir. I noticed a lot of bluegill along the shore, and briefly hooked what appeared to be an eight to ten inch crappie. I can’t say for sure because I only saw it for a second as it jumped a foot above the water and threw the hook.

great blue heron in the otselic river

great blue heron in the otselic river

Shortly after that, I paddled further north into the Otselic river, and came across a blue heron which allowed me to drift within fifty feet before taking flight. The picture to the right was clipped from a video which can be viewed here.

If you are looking for a picnic table by the lake, you might try Dorchester Park on the southeastern shore of Whitney Point Reservoir. If you’re Into the Forest, American-made pickup trucks, and a backdrop of bird noises and gunfire, then drive a few miles past Dorchester to Whitney Point MUA by the Hamlet of Upper Lisle. It’s a good time.

Links:

Google Map: Whitney Point MUA
NY DEC: Whitney Point MUA
NY DEC: Whitney Point Reservoir
NY DEC: Whitney Point Reservoir (.PDF map only)

Stump Pond Public Boat Launch (New Milford, PA)

pfbc sign at the edge of stump pond

pfbc sign at the edge of stump pond

When I got to Stump Pond, I couldn’t stop laughing for about ten minutes. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) has thoughtfully erected a sign to mark a small parking area, but also to prevent passersby from accidentally trying to walk across the pond. Approximately 95% of the water surface is completely covered by lily pads. Funnier still, were the signs prohibiting the use of combustion engine-driven boats, and warning against the inadvertent transfer of invasive plant species to the pond. I could imagine an airboat traversing the water here, but any propeller below the waterline would be a Salad Shooter in short order. Where invasive species are concerned, I’m hard pressed to believe that anything could out-compete what’s already in there.

a squirrel could run across stump pond without getting wet

a squirrel could run across stump pond without getting wet

The pond may be aesthetically disadvantaged, and from a paddling perspective it is, but that doesn’t mean that it’s uninhabitable. The water itself is fairly clear, though someone must be dumping gallons of fertilizer in there to promote such aggressive plant growth. As I walked along the bank, bushels of frogs were comically springing into the water with every vibration. A blue heron was eating something, and I did see several fish (or snakes, or crocodiles) break the surface of the water as I sat by the edge. There might be incredible fishing in that mess, but, lacking a Pennsylvania license, I didn’t test the weedy waters.

best view of stump pond

best view of stump pond

But for its close proximity to a moderately well-traveled roadway, Stump Pond might give you the feeling of having gone Into the Forest, but not in a good way. It might be worth the trip if you enjoy roadside shore fishing, but I’m not even convinced of that.

NB: You need a boat launch permit to use water wings in Pennsylvania. One can be obtained from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission at: http://www.fish.state.pa.us/brag/aa_usepermits.htm.

 

Links:

Google Map: Stump Pond