Tag Archives: Grafton Lakes State Park

Want to try snowshoeing? Park experts tell where to go

Don’t let the snow deter you from exploring State Parks – just grab or borrow a pair of snowshoes and head out to the trail.  Go snowshoeing on a trail in a nearby park or try one of State Park staff’s favorite snowshoeing spots.

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A group pauses during a snowshoe trip at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park, photo by State Parks

In western New York, Tina’s favorite snowshoeing spot is at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park located on Lake Ontario in northern Niagara County in Wilson.  This is where you will find the Red interpretive trail nestled along the east branch of Twelve Mile Creek.  As you snowshoe through the changing landscapes, you’ll pass through successional fields, marshland, and finally through a mature forest of old growth beech and hemlock trees.  Keep your ears open for calls of the pileated woodpecker.

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Snowshoe to this historic tower at Allegany State Park, photo by Adele Wellman, State Parks

At Allegany State Park in Salamanca, Adele recommends the Bear Paw Trail located across the road from the Art Roscoe cross-country ski area on the Red House side of the Park.  Bear Paw Trail is the newest trail built for the snowshoeing enthusiast.  The 2.4-mile long, easy to moderate trail has 15 interpretative sights and runs along the ridge above Salamanca to historic Stone Tower. The trail loops through large stands of Black cherry and White ash trees. Look for small secret plants such as wintergreen and princess pines along the trail. Each Monday evening in January and February, the park offers sunset snowshoe hikes. The Environmental Education Department has a few pairs of snowshoes to borrow during programs.

In central New York, Katie’s favorite part about snowshoeing is how the landscape constantly changes during the winter. Even if you snowshoe at your favorite local park, in her case Clark Reservation State Park in Jamesville, everything looks different in the winter.

After the leaves fall off the trees, you can see so much farther into the woods. You will be snowshoeing along at Clark Reservation, and suddenly notice that the ground drops away not far from the edge of the trail into a steep ravine. You might never notice the ravine in the summer because rich greenery hides it from view. Winter’s arrival reveals forests secrets. Soon though, they are covered up again, this time with ever changing blankets of snow. Nature’s snow sculptures change daily, so you really need to hit the trails often so you don’t miss out!

About once a year, the park gets special permission to host a moonlit snowshoe hike it’s amazing how bright the forest is with the light from a full moon reflecting off the snow. You can even see your shadow! Keep your eyes on the calendar to find out when this year’s Moonlight Snowshoe Hike will be, or come out on your own any day to check out this special place.

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Family fun at Wellesley Island State Park, photo by State Parks

At the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center at Wellesley Island State Park, Thousand Islands, Molly notes that there are four trails open to snowshoeing.  Probably the most heavily snowshoed trail is North Field Loop.  Only a half mile long, it meanders through a forest full of white pine trees, passes through a seasonal wetland, and into a forest of towering red oak trees.  School groups explore this trail on snowshoes and the nature center staff lead moonlight snowshoe hikes on the trail throughout the winter months.  There is nothing prettier than snow covered woods on a moonlit night.  The park has both children and adult snowshoes available for rent for $3 a pair.

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Snowshoeing through Grafton Lakes State Park, photo by State Parks

In the Capital Region, Liz at Grafton Lakes State Park suggests the Shaver Pond trail loop. Just under two miles, it offers picturesque views of Shaver Pond, with a trail winding through forest of hemlock and maple trees over easy terrain.  Inquisitive visitors may see mink or fox tracks along the way.  Trail maps are for sale & snowshoe rentals are available at park office on a first-come, first served basis for $5 for four hours.

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Family snowshoe program at Moreau Lake State Park, photo by State Parks

At Moreau Lake State Park, Rebecca mentions that the park has 30 miles of trails and there are new places to explore as the seasons change.  The parks offers snowshoe hikes and classes for all ability levels, including first timers.  The park also has snowshoes available for rent to hikers or people who want to go out and try it on their own for $5 for a half day and $10 for a full day rental.

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Fun times with friends at Thacher State Park, photo by State Parks

At Thacher State Park, the Fred Schroeder Memorial Trail is one of Nancy’s favorite snowshoe walks. This three mile loop in the wilder northern part of the park takes you through beautiful woodlands of mixed hardwoods with stands of spruce and hemlock trees and across a couple of open fields,  without much elevation change.  Midway on the loop, you can take in the scenic snow-covered views from the cliff edge at High Point.  Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center rents snowshoes to the public.

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Heading out on the trail at Fahnestock Winter Park, photo by State Parks

In the Hudson Valley, Kris at Fahnestock Winter Park mentions two unique snowshoeing trails. If you’re looking for more rugged terrain, and challenging descents, “Appalachian Way” treks along a ridge line to a stunning overlook of Canopus Lake. The trail “Ojigwan Path” offers the beginner and intermediate snowshoer a snaking walk through hemlock groves and strands of mountain laurel. Both routes take around 2.5 hours to complete. Snowshoe rentals are located in the newly renovated winter park lodge, where you can also warm up with a cup of delicious chili!

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A beautiful day on snowshoes at Sam’s Point, photo by State Parks

Laura D. recommends a snowshoeing trail that will lead you to expansive cliff top vistas, through the globally rare dwarf pitch pine barrens, and around the glacially carved Lake Maratanza. The Loop Road at the Sam’s Point Area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve is the perfect trail for viewing these breathtaking vistas. While on the three-mile Loop Road, stop at the Sam’s Point Overlook, where on a clear day, you can see four states!  Snowshoe rentals are available at the Sam’s Point Visitor Center for $15 per adult and $14 per junior (17 years and under) for the day or $5 to join a public program.

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Minnewaska Falls, photo by State Parks

A novice snowshoer will find the modest Mossy Glen Footpath loop just right for a snowshoe trip.at Minnewaska State Park Preserve notes Laura C.  This approximately four-mile route follows the Mossy Glen Footpath as it hugs the edge of the scenic Peter’s Kill stream, winding through quiet forests. At the end of this Footpath, take the Blueberry Run Footpath to the Lower Awosting Carriage Road back to your starting point. This loop begins at the Awosting Parking Lot.

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photo by State Parks

These are just a sampling of the many trails you can explore on snowshoes .  We hope to see you out on the snowshoe trail this winter.

Post by State Parks Staff

 

 

Have Some Winter Fun With Your Friends and Family – Go Snowmobiling

You may not see any snow when you look out the window right now, but winter is here and now is the time to think about all of the outdoor activities it brings. One of the best ways to experience New York State’s natural winter beauty is on a snowmobile, exploring the snowmobile trail system that crisscrosses 45 counties through woods, fields, towns and our State Parks.  Snowmobiling is a fun, family-friendly way to enjoy winter scenery and wildlife, especially for those people with disabilities who are unable to do strenuous activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

With over 10,000 miles of public trails, there’s something for everyone to enjoy from local loops to weekend getaways. Many of our parks have trails connecting to the statewide trail system.  And some parks, like Allegany State Park, have not only over 60 miles of groomed trails but also winterized cabins that are open year-round for a warm winter weekend retreat.

The New York State Parks Snowmobile Unit has a few tips to make sure you return from your trips safely and are ready to ride again another day:

-Attend a New York State Snowmobile Safety Course. Adults are not required to take a course but it’s recommended that everyone take one, regardless of experience or age. Requirements and a list of upcoming courses are available here.

-Always ride with a buddy, and always leave a travel plan including a return time with someone at home.

-Never drink and ride. Alcohol effects reaction time and judgement.

-Wear a helmet any time you’re operating a snowmobile, no matter how short the trip.

-Ride as conditions allow and within your ability. Slow down at night and when weather such as falling snow reduces sight distance. Check local conditions before crossing frozen bodies of water to ensure the ice is thick enough to ride. Always obey posted speed limits and local regulations.

-The safest place to ride is on the trail. New York State snowmobile trails are maintained by dedicated club volunteers, and deep or drifting snow off the trail may hide dangerous hazards. In addition, the majority of trails are actually located on private property with the permission of the property owner, and trespassing can close trails permanently for everyone.

If you’re new to the sport, or have never been on a snowmobile before, the New York State Snowmobile Association is teaming up with New York State Parks to offer Take a Friend Snowmobiling events where you can learn more and take a free snowmobile ride, conditions permitting.  An event is scheduled at Grafton Lakes State Park during the annual Winter Fest on  January 28, 2017. Necessary equipment will be provided; participants are urged to dress appropriately for outdoor weather conditions. More Take a Friend Snowmobile events can be found at the Snowmobile Association website.

Post by Bennett Campbell, State Parks

Lakes Have Seasons, Too

As the northeast transitions from fall to winter, watch for changes in Parks lakes and ponds nearest you.  You might notice that the water churns more than it did during the summer, or you might even notice ice beginning to form at the surface.  Such phenomena can mean exciting happenings deeper in the water.  One of the most fascinating changes to observe is lake-turnover, or the mixing of cool and warm waters.

Lakes that turn over twice a year are known as “dimictic”: di=twice, mictic= mixing.  They are one of the most common types of lakes on Earth.  Dimictic lakes freeze in the winter and melt completely by summer.  These lakes mix during the spring and fall, after ice melts and before ice forms.  Examples of dimictic lakes are seen across New York State, including Shaver Pond in Grafton Lakes State Park, Moreau Lake of Moreau Lake State Park, Lake George of the Adirondack region, and Lake Erie.

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Long Pond at Grafton Lakes State Park during spring turnover: ice melting after winter (top), followed by water mixing into the lake (bottom). Fall turnover is the opposite: water mixing followed by ice forming in early winter. Ice photo by OPRHP. Mixing photo cropped from original by L. Schelling, OPRHP.

Without turnover, aquatic life in different areas of a lake may not have enough oxygen or nutrients to thrive.  Calm waters tend to separate into layers – with denser, “heavier” waters sinking below less dense surface waters, creating an invisible boundary through which oxygen and nutrients cannot pass.  Water is most dense 4 degrees Celsius above freezing (4 OC, or 39OF) and becomes less dense as it cools or warms from this point.  In the summer, this means warmer water is at the surface, closer to the air and thus richer in oxygen for fish.  Meanwhile a layer of cooler, 4oC water settles at the bottom – where many nutrients accumulate, but also where decomposition of dead animals and plants can lead to little to no oxygen in the water.

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Dimictic lake temperature throughout the seasons, with the layering (“stratification”) and mixing of warmer (red) and cooler (blue) waters. Spring turnover results from ice melting, and fall turnover results from wind chilling and mixing surface waters. Image adapted from Figure 44.10 in “Ecology and the Biosphere” (Candela Learning).

 

As chilly, windy fall weather kicks in, some of the oxygen-rich surface water can cool, sink into the lower levels of the lake, and push the deeper, nutrient-rich waters up closer to the surface.  The result is a well-mixed habitat for fish.  In dimictic lakes, this turnover happens again in the spring, when the surface ice melts to that heavier, 4oC water and mixes into the deeper waters.

Why are some lakes dimictic and others not?  One reason is lake location — dimictic lakes are more common in temperate regions with warm summers and cold winters, where lakes may freeze over completely.  Another factor is lake size.  Two lakes that are famous for not having complete mixing are Round Pond and Green Lake in Green Lakes State Park.  These are the rare “meromictic” (mero=part) lakes which mix in the upper waters but are too deep to allow surface and bottom waters to mix.  Alternatively, some lakes may be so shallow that they mix frequently (“polymictic”). NY Natural Heritage Program describes 7 different types of lakes in the state.

Seasonal turnover is important for lake recreation as well as for fish and plant life within lakes.  Fishing can improve near the end of mixing periods in lakes that experience turnover, since now oxygen and nutrients will be better distributed throughout the water.  Many fish and aquatic life are sensitive to changes in their habitat – oxygen and nutrient levels, as well as temperature changes. Keeping an eye on the changes in the water is useful to biologists and park enjoyers alike.

Post by Erin Lennon, OPRHP Water Quality Unit.

Sources and Further Reading

NY Natural Heritage Program Conservation Guide on oligotrophic dimictic lakes http://acris.nynhp.org/guide.php?id=9880

New York Natural Heritage Program’s “Ecological Communities of New York State” 2014 edition describes all of the lake and pond types in the state

http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/ecocomm2014.pdf.

“Ecology and the Biosphere” from Candela Learning.  https://courses.candelalearning.com/biologymajors/chapter/chapter-44-ecology-and-the-biosphere/

Green Lake is a rare meromictic type. http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/70328.html

Thermal stratification & the effects of a change in temperature on aquatic organisms.  http://www.lakeaccess.org/russ/temperature.htm

 

The Mysteries of Fall Foliage Revealed

Have you ever wondered what makes the leaves change color in the fall? Or why some years are more vibrant than others? It is quite a fascinating phenomenon, and it all starts with the seasonal temperature and day light hour change. In the fall, the days become shorter and the evenings become cooler. This is what triggers deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the winter) to begin their process of preparation for the winter months to come. This is also why the foliage changes color around the same time every year.

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Photo of abscission layer and leaf detachment. Photo by Lilly Schelling.

It starts with the expansion of the abscission layer between the stem and leaf, which slowly blocks the movement of water and sugar back and forth between the leaf and stem. This causes the leaf to lose the ability or resources to replenish chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green coloration. The chlorophyll rapidly breaks down and we are left with xanthophylls and carotenoids, which are responsible for the yellow and orange pigments you see on trees like aspen and birch. These pigments are usually present in the leaf throughout the growing season but are masked by the green pigment of the chlorophyll.  Anthocyanins are responsible for red and purple coloration and are created by the buildup of sugars trapped in the leaf. As fall progresses into winter all of the other pigments break down, as the chlorophyll did, and the only pigment that remains are the tannins, which are responsible for the brown color of the fallen leaves – though some trees retain their brown leaves throughout the winter, such as oak and beech.

Factors that affect the color and duration of fall foliage are temperature, sunlight and moisture. Ideal conditions for colorful fall foliage are a good growing season followed by dry, warm, sunny days and cool nights. If there was stress in the growing season, such as a drought or flood, the abscission layer may form early and the leaves will fall off before changing color. Additionally, too low of temperatures (freezing) in the beginning of fall will rapidly break down the products responsible for bright colors and the only pigment left will be brown. Other factors that can affect colorful fall foliage are heavy rain and windy storms, as these conditions will cause the leaves to fall.

When you are out admiring the fall colors this year, try to identify which pigment products are responsible for the colors you are seeing on the trees. A great way to view the fall foliage is from a canoe or kayak, but remember to wear your personal floatation device as the water will be chilly! The New York Fall Foliage Report is a great tool for tracking the color changes across the state: http://www.iloveny.com/seasons/fall/foliage-report/#.VgQGwstVhBd.

References:

The United States National Arboretum

Post by Lilly Schelling, OPRHP.

 

On the Front Lines in the Battle Against Invasive Species: Strike Teams!

Invasive Species Strike Teams are an important part of environmental stewardship; they are the protectors and defenders of our native plants and wildlife! Invasive plants are fast spreading and can create ecological changes that crowd out native plants and alter habitats to make them unsuitable for native insects or animals. The goal of the strike teams is to manually remove these plants in areas of significance to protect our native biological diversity. A diverse landscape is healthier and more robust, better able to fend off threats and adapt smoothly to changes, such as climate change.

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Above: Our 2014 Western Strike Team in Letchworth State Park, showing off all their hard work removing Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Japanese barberry is a commonly planted ornamental which escapes into forest understories and increases incidence of Lyme disease.

What is a Strike Team anyway?

The New York State Parks Invasive Species Strike Teams consist of seasonal employees who travel throughout New York State to remove invasive plants from the most valuable areas of our Parks. These teams of four camp near their project areas to accomplish the goals of the Invasive Species Program. All these removals are done with manual hand tools, such as pick mattocks, shovels, machetes and loppers. Our strike teams are always up for the physical challenge and have made incredible headway against some large opponents.

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Above: A strike team member from 2012 who proudly showcases the large autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) he removed with hand tools, determination and brute strength. Machinery is used to remove large shrubs, but our strike team got there first in this case!

What are the goals?

Invasive Species Program staff has had many successes in controlling invasive species  by carefully selecting projects geared toward terrestrial invasives, which can be controlled manually and through adaptive management.

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Above: The 2015 Eastern Strike Team wishing everyone well from Grafton Lakes State Park, outside of Albany. You can see some of our most often used tools in this photo (From L-R: the ax mattock, pick mattock and loppers), as you can see, other essential elements in their toolbox include the hard hat and gloves!

Accomplishments

Starting in 2008, six interns and volunteers assisted with invasive species removals state wide. Since 2010, State Parks has employed 46 seasonal staff to remove invasive species. In the past 5 years over 1100 new observation points were entered into the program iMap Invasives, a national database reflecting new sightings of invasives. On average, strike teams remove 19 different species per year at their project sites. Some of the native species which are protected by the invasive species program include: twinleaf, American Hart’s tongue fern, sky blue aster, cardinal flower, Chittenango ovate amber snail, the Karner blue butterfly, several warbler species, mountain mint, bushy cinquefoil, and slender blazing star.

Above: Two examples of native plants which benefit from strike team controls. On the left, the spring flowering twin leaf (Jeffersonia diphylla). On the right, the stunning late summer red of the cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), a plant loved by pollinators.

One of the best ways to reduce invasive species is avoid introducing them in the first place. Please check what is planted ornamentally in your yard and remove plants or shrubs which are invasive and replace them with natives. Learn more information about New York’s invasive species on the NYS DECs Prohibited and Regulated Invasive Species List

For more information regarding Invasive Species Awareness Week (July 12-18) events, check out the New York Invasive Species Information Blog.

Post by Alyssa Reid, Minnewaska State Park Preserve (OPRHP). Photos courtesy of OPRHP.