Tag Archives: fahnestock state park

Busy Beavers and Awesome Osprey; a Canoeing Adventure on Canopus Lake

It is a lovely day in the early summertime, 80o and sunny, with a gentle breeze.  Outdoor educators Daniel Marshall and Ursula Svoboda from the Taconic Outdoor Education Center are preparing to guide weekend canoe tours on beautiful Canopus Lake located in sprawling Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park in Putnam County.

“What a gorgeous day to be out on the water!” proclaims a very eager Marshall.

“I hope we see a bald eagle like last time!” replies Svoboda.

No matter the canoe tour guide, a visitor is in for a treat, as all of the educators (guides) from the nearby Taconic Outdoor Education Center.  These guides are friendly, knowledgeable, and bring their own unique perspective on the natural history and ecology of the region.  The hour and a half tour circles the shoreline of the 65-acre lower portion of the man-made lake, weaving in and out of numerous small islands.

The lake, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, is both a recreational and ecological jewel in the park.  In summer, you can find people swimming and sunbathing, paddling in kayaks, and fishing for largemouth bass and yellow perch along the shoreline.  Chain pickerel, brown bullhead catfish, and black crappie also lurk through the aquatic plants below the surface.  A lake such as Canopus, although made by humans, provides a very rich ecosystem.  Other critters that spend most of their time in the water include painted turtles and water snakes such as northern water snake and black rat snake.  There are even predacious water beetles in the lake; beetles are large enough to eat small fish!

Predaceous Diving Beetle_by cotinis
Predaceous Diving Beetle, photo by cotinis

Canopus Lake also attracts animals from the forest ecosystem that may be looking for a drink of water or a place to hunt along the water’s edge.  Beaver activity is evident with toppled trees along the shoreline and a large wood/mud dam near the CCC dam.  Osprey (state special concern species), bald eagles (state threatened) and other birds of prey soar overhead.  Osprey are excellent at fishing, plunging into the water and, more often than not, emerge with a fish in their talons. What makes this canoe trip so exciting is that one really never knows what they might be lucky enough to observe when out on the water!

Osprey
North osprey grabs a yellow perch

Canoe tours cost $5 per person and leave from the park’s boat launch along Route 301 just south of the park office.  Some of the boats can accommodate four people (two paddlers and two passengers.)  Reservations are encouraged by calling (845) 265-3773.  Come experience this fun summertime activity for yourself!

Post by Aaron Donato, State Parks

Aaron Donato and canoeing group
Fun times canoeing on Canopus Lake, photo by Aaron Donato

Working With Beavers to Minimize Negative Impacts

Beavers are native to New York State and play an important role in the natural landscape. They are ecosystem engineers – altering water levels by building strong dams using branches and mud; and creating wetland habitat where many plants and animals thrive. However in the wrong place, their dams can cause flooding and property damage. In 2016 a project was developed to minimize beaver impacts by building and installing Beaver Deceivers/ Flood Control Devices. Beaver deceivers stop the flooding caused by beavers, while continuing to allow beavers to live in State Park wetlands and other water bodies.

What is a beaver deceiver?

There are typically two kinds of beaver deceivers; a Trapezoidal-shaped Exclusion Fence (or Trapezoidal Fence for short) and a Pond Leveling Device. Let’s learn the purpose for each:

3-trapzoid-with-water_lilly-schelling
graphic by Lilly Schelling

The Trapezoidal Fence is intended for situations where the beavers’ dam is clogging a culvert and may cause damage to the culvert itself.  The fence is placed in front of the culvert, extending out at least 12 feet out from shore with a closed floor so the beaver can’t dig under it. Beavers usually then build their dams along the sides of the fence but not the back – allowing water to flow through the fence into the culvert.

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graphic by Lilly Schelling

A Pond Leveling Device is made using an existing beaver dam. The dam is dug out (notched) to drop the water body to a desired water level and a corrugated pipe is placed through the dam and then covered back up with dam materials. Both ends are caged off to ensure water flow. The pond leveling device allows the beavers to continue building their dam around the pipe without raising water levels. Thus it prevents flooding of nearby roads and other use areas.

Installation

Materials for this project included 12″ corrugated pipe sections, 6 gauge epoxy coated fencing, copper hog rings to hold the fence together, and cinder blocks to sink structures and pipe.

Here’s a project where we dug out the beaver dam. It was fascinating to see how fast the water level  dropped. Beavers are extremely efficient! We also saw about 20 trout swim upstream over the dam to the beaver pond, taking advantage of the new access to the habitat. Naturally, the trout would persist below the dam until the dam fell apart after the beavers moved to a new home – which they do periodically. But in this case, we saw how our deceivers are also able to benefit other native animals.

7-rr-16
Occasionally, with very persistent beavers, the two deceiver methods may need to be combined (i.e. a Trapezoidal Fence with a Pond Leveling Device attached). This picture is the installation of the combined devices at the culvert under Route 301 on Canopus Lake in Clarence Fahnestock State Park. A boat was needed to move the dome and pipe around in the deep water.  Photo by Lilly Schelling

Finished Product

A pond leveling device installed at the bridge on the School Rd. Trail. The objective of this device was to decrease water levels so the trail would stop flooding. The line on the tree was the water level prior to installation.

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Trapezoidal Fence after installation on Beaver Pond Trail at Glimmer Glass State Park, photo by Lilly Schelling.

State Parks wildlife staff will monitor these beaver deceivers to ensure they continue to functioning properly and that they are still in place. Freezing and thawing during seasonal change may shift the placement of the device. Overall these devices have proven to be highly successful in solving beaver related flooding issues. It is great to solve human wildlife conflict in such a way that both human and wildlife can remain in the same area and neither is pushed out.

Post by Lilly Schelling, State Park Wildlife staff

Excelsior Conservation Corps: A Modern Vision of an Old Idea

CCC By Unknown or not provided (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Civilian Conservation Corps By Unknown or not provided (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

What started in 1931 as a simple idea to put unemployed New Yorkers to work on state-funded public works projects through the New York Temporary Emergency Relief Administration grew to become the largest peace time utilization of people and equipment in US history – the Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC. Many New York State Parks including Thacher State Park, Fahnestock State Park, Lake Taghkanic State Park, Selkirk Shores State Park, Thacher State Park, Green Lakes State Park, Letchworth State Park, Hamlin Beach State Park, Chenango Valley State Park, Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park and more benefited from the work that was performed by over 200,000 CCC members from 1933-1942.  During these nine years, 61 camps of 200 CCC members built roads, trails, cabins, and stonewalls, planted trees, worked on early invasive species detection and removal and more.  The Allegany and lower Hudson Valley regions were considered the highest environmental priority and had CCC camps each year, while other encampments would last a season or two, moving on to another location when the job was done.

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About 40 different CCC camps were spread across the state each year. The typical CCC member was between 18-25 years old, “unemployed, unmarried, healthy, not in school, from a needy family, and capable of doing work” (Thompson).  Most CCC members were white males; however New York also had CCC camps for Native Americans, African Americans, WWI veterans (separate camps for white and African American veterans), and separate camps for women (known as She-She-She Camps).

State Parks honors the memory of the CCC members with a CCC Statue at Letchworth State Park.

CCC Statue, Letchworth State Park, OPRHP photo
CCC Statue at Letchworth State Park. Photo by OPRHP.

This January, New York State is reviving the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration conservation corps with the inaugural New York State Excelsior Conservation Corps (ECC) and a 10-month residential program modeled after the CCC.  The program is open toNew York State students and residents aged 18-25, with an emphasis on veterans and expanding diversity. The 50 ECC members will be based at SUNY Morrisville where they will receive eight weeks of specialized trainings and certifications lead by the Student Conservation Association – Hudson Valley Corps .  Then, starting in March and running through early November, ECC members will work in State Parks, Department of Environmental Conservation and other state agency lands on projects across the state focused on:

  1. Open Space Management, maintaining and improving hundreds of miles on New York’s hiking trails
  2. Recreation and Access Mapping, monitoring and mapping over 10,000 acres of public land for safe recreational use
  3. Natural Resource Stewardship, invasive species removal and protection of native species and ecosystems
  4. Environmental Education and Outreach, educating New Yorkers on conservation and stewardship of public lands
  5. Infrastructure and Sustainability, helping to cut New York’s energy consumption and energy costs through the construction of renewable energy projects.

During the 10-months, ECC members will get a chance to work on their education plans and develop career skills.  At the end of their service they will be given a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.

Building on their hands-on experiences and training, ECC members will be poised to become New York’s next generation of conservation leaders.  Learn more about the ECC in future blogs.

Post by Susan Carver, OPRHP. Slideshow photos courtesy of OPRHP.

References:

Hopkins, June; The New York State Temporary Emergency Relief Administration: October 1, 1931, The Social Welfare History Project, n.d.; http://www.socialwelfarehistory.com/eras/great-depression/temporary-emergency-relief-administration/

She-She-She Camps, George Washington University, n.d.; http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/she-she-she-camps.cfm

Thompson, Craig; 75 Years Later: The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corp; Conservationist, New York State Department of 85 Environmental Conservation, February 2008; http://www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/42768.html.