The Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust is working to expand its community and educational programming in northeastern Oswego County
By Norah Machia
The Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust is in the business of getting people outside, and the agency is working to expand its community and educational programming in northeastern Oswego County.
“Getting outside for exercise or just to take in the natural world around us, helps both our physical and mental health,” said Linda Gibbs, community programs director for the nonprofit land trust. “Just sitting outside listening to natural sounds and breathing fresh air can lower our blood pressure and relieve stress.”
The Tug Hill region is located between Lake Ontario and the Adirondacks, and covers parts of Oswego, Oneida, Jefferson and Lewis counties. The landscape includes a mix of dense forests, valley farmlands, gorges, large flowing rivers and scenic waterfalls, along with diverse wildlife habitat.
The Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust offers nature hikes, bird watching and paddling trips throughout the four counties in areas that fall within the Tug Hill region. For more information, check out the website: www.tughilltomorrowlandtrust.org
Any interested youth groups, community organizations, schools or senior citizen associations may contact the land trust to set up an outdoor event.
“Most of our programs are free due to community support,” said Gibbs. “Our generous donors allow us to provide this free programming.”
The programs offer people an opportunity to “take a break in the outdoors with friends and share the benefits of fresh air, movement and the natural environment,” added Gibbs.
In Oswego County, nature hikes or bird-watching outings may be held at the following locations:
• Chateauguay State Forest: This forest in Orwell covers more than 4,000 acres on the edge of the Tug Hill Plateau and includes eight miles of marked trails within the forest.
The main recreational opportunities are hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. There are a variety of hiking trails, including those with flat terrain, small hills and several with inclines, with some passing through beautiful pines and others running by nearby Orwell Brook.
The trails are not maintained nor groomed for skiing during the winter months, so skiers would be breaking their own trails or using others put down before them.
• Hall Island State Forest: This 2,079-acre forest located along the south shore of the Salmon River Reservoir has approximately 14 miles of trails that crisscross the property from the eastern to the western end of the reservoir.
The diverse forest includes open and wooded wetlands and has both common and rare plant species. It’s also a popular site to view waterfowl, including the great blue heron.
Popular activities include hiking, birdwatching, nature viewing, fishing, camping and snowmobiling in the winter.
• Klondike State Forest: Located in Amboy, the area includes 875 acres of diverse landscape, and offers recreational opportunities for fishing, hiking and nature observation. A multi-purpose trail can be used for hiking or cross-country skiing.
A portion of the property leads into a naturally occurring bog which provides habitat for many species of rare and common plants and animals, and many waterfowl and insects are often observed in this area.
• Oswego County Nature Park at Camp Zerbe: The park in Williamstown is owned by Oswego County and consists of the former Camp Zerbe facility purchased in 1991 and adjacent county reforestation lands.
The nature park has several well-marked trails, including one leading to Lake Lorraine, the largest of three “kettlehole” lakes in the park (these rarer lakes were created at the end of the ice age by the last retreating glaciers). An interpretive center offers educational displays about the area’s geology, birds, plants and animals.
• Salmon River Falls Unique Area: Located in Orwell on 112 acres of state-owned land, the area has earned the nickname “An Oswego County Hidden Treasure” and is a popular site for hiking and nature photography.
The highlight of the property is a 110-foot waterfall in a large scenic gorge where the Salmon River flows and several trails offer different views of the falls.
• Winona State Forest: The state-owned forest covers more than 9,000 acres in southern Jefferson and Northern Oswego counties on the western edge of the Tug Hill Plateau. Popular activities include hiking, horseback riding and fishing.
Several events, including a cross-country ski race, are organized by volunteers during the winter months, and volunteers also help maintain the trails for cross-country skiing.
The Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust receives support from the Shineman Foundation for outreach and land protection capacity in northern Oswego and Oneida counties. This support has helped to create more opportunities for youth and families to learn about nature and experience the outdoors, said Gibbs.
Additional support from the Shineman Foundation has enabled the land trust to form partnerships with Tug Hill Outfitters in Williamstown, along with local libraries, youth groups and schools, to increase community outreach, she added.
The land trust also receives support from the Stewart’s Holiday Match Fund to provide backpacks to libraries in Oswego County, including Pulaski and Parish. Plans call for the backpack program to expand into additional libraries in the future. Presentations are offered upon request with the backpack distributions.
• The Westdale Paddle is set for 6 p.m. on Aug. 11 at the state DEC boat launch on Cemetery Road off Route 13 east of Williamstown (approximately halfway between Williamstown and Camden).
• The “Biggest White Pine Hunt” is scheduled for 10 a.m., Aug. l2 at Forest Park in Camden.
• The Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust also offers a year-round “Tug Hill 10 Challenge” (with a special version during the winter months). Participants are asked to visit 10 locations in any of the four counties in the Tug Hill region which are listed in the official Tug Hill Recreation Guide, and on the land trust’s website.
The sites listed in Oswego County in this article are included in the “Tug Hill 10 Challenge,” and those who complete the challenge will receive a special patch or decal after sending in a list of places they visited (photos and personal stories are also welcome).
To schedule a nature hike or bird-watching trip at any of the Oswego County areas listed in this article, or in nearby areas of Oneida, Jefferson and Lewis counties that fall within the Tug Hill region, contact Gibbs at email@example.com or at 315-779-8240.