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Hike the Camillus Forest Unique Area, Syracuse area

  • 15 May 2016
  • Camillus, NY


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The 355-acre Camillus Forest Unique Area, on the east summit and slopes of a large hill due west of the hamlet of Amboy, includes an island of undisturbed forest surrounded by farm fields and woodlots. Under NYSDEC stewardship, the area is an exceptional and diverse open space resource. The "crown jewel" of the property is a 40-acre sylvan sanctuary of old growth hardwoods located in its southwest corner. It is a magnificent old sugar maple and American beech forest that is nearly two centuries old and is one of the finest examples of a mature northern hardwood forest in Central New York. The trees' tall, straight, unbranched boles and deeply fissured bark are ample evidence this is an ancient forest. A few of the maples are well over 200 years old; one was dated by annual growth rings at 285 years old.

The forest is magnificent and most delightful this time of year is the understory. Much of Camillus Forest is thickly carpeted with rich diversity of herbs and fragile woodland ephemerals. Also, the forest is on a high point with spectacular views of distant places, including Onondaga Lake six miles east, and downtown Syracuse eight miles southeast. And hidden in the trees, an ancient spring—no longer active at ground surface—sits at the head of a ravine that steeply descends 300 feet eastward to Nine Mile Creek.

There is a nice 2.6 mile loop through a variety of land cover types with much of the hike in open fields.  

There are surprising views on this hike.  Elevation change of 285 feet. The elevation changes from 410 feet above mean sea level to 700 feet in the southwest corner of the property, with slopes varying from approximately 2% to 10% along the existing 2-mile forest stewardship trail.  There are other "trails" in the forest as well.  

NOTES:  Bring water and snack.  Wear sturdy hiking shoes or other appropriate footwear as it may be wet in spots. Bring hiking poles if desired.  Dress for weather conditions, as in any hike in CNY, take normal precautions for deterring ticks (long sleeves, pants tucked into socks, repellent, etc…)    There are no rest room facilities in the immediate area so please plan accordingly.  Spring wildflower enthusiasts might want to bring a camera!

After the hike, we will make an optional short side trip to view the restored Historic Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct of the old Erie Canal further along off Thompson Rd. 

The aqueduct, which is on the National Registry of Historic Sites, is the only restored navigable Aqueduct in New York State. (An aqueduct is a water-filled bridge that carries canal boats over rivers, streams or valleys. It provided a way for the first enlargement of the Erie Canal to be carried over Nine Mile Creek.)

Directions will be sent when you RSVP.

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