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Five Rivers Environmental Education Center

Explore the Path to Outdoor Learning...

Free transportation grants available for schools in districts with Title 1 schools and certain afterschool programs to visit Five Rivers Environmental Education Center. Visit NYS Parks Transportation Grants (leaves DEC's website) for more information.

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  • Open for Recreation:
    • Visitor Center: Monday through Saturday, 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM; closed Sunday and on state holidays
    • Grounds: Open daily from sunrise to sunset
  • Fee: free
  • Contact Information:
    • Visitor Center: 518-475-0291 (Phone) or 518-439-8044 (Fax) or 5rivers@dec.ny.gov
    • Enforcement Matters: 518-408-5850 (24/7) or 911
  • Location: 56 Game Farm Road, Delmar, Albany County
  • Map: Five Rivers Trail Map (PDF, 2.02 MB) ll Google Earth ll State Lands Interactive Mapper

5 rivers aerial

Five Rivers New Building June 2017

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center is a living museum comprising over 450 acres of fields, forests, and wetlands. Located in the Capital District, the center provides a variety of easily accessible programs and services for individuals, families and organized groups. In recognition of outstanding interpretive programming, the National Park Service has designated Five Rivers a National Environmental Study Area.

There is a brand new visitor center with interactive displays and exhibits, built in June 2017. See Governor Cuomo's press release (leaves DEC website) for more information about the eco-friendly features of the building. Before you head out on the trails, stop in our new visitor center to learn about the habitats and wildlife of Five Rivers, our history, and the green features of the new building.

Watch a clip showing an aerial view of the New Five Rivers Building and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

Services that we offer include:

  • Public programs, guided walks and demonstrations on a variety of environmental and natural history topics
  • Teacher workshops, school site consultations and professional advice
  • Workshops providing in-depth coverage of environmental topics and outdoor skills
  • Guided lessons for schools and youth groups
  • Self-guided opportunities
  • Teacher Resources Loan Library offering posters, books, videos, curriculum guides and biological specimens
  • Access to programs and facilities for people with disabilities
  • Naturalist Intern Program - a training internship available to those seeking professional experience in environmental education

The interpretive programs and guided school lessons promote awareness, knowledge and appreciation of New York State's environment year-round. With over 10 miles of trails for exploration, Five Rivers fosters discovery, spiritual refreshment and physical fitness through wholesome outdoor recreation. Enjoy hiking or snowshoeing the trails, observing wildlife, and picnicking. Dogs and other pets are not permitted.

The Friends of Five Rivers (leaves DEC website) is a volunteer organization that supports environmental programs at the center.

Featured Activities

Visitor Center

girllooking at exhibits with dad

Enjoy stimulating exhibits, including a live owl and an observation bee hive; scan the busy bird-feeding area from the viewing lounge; and chat with our friendly staff. A classroom, restroom facilities and a modest book shop are also available.

An accessible bathroom facility is also located next door to the Visitor Center in the comfort station for the Guided School Program building and is open every day from sunrise to sunset.

Education Programs

education

Five Rivers offers a wide variety of regularly scheduled public programs and events. Upcoming programs can be found at Five Rivers Public Programs and Event Schedule.

Programs are free of charge unless otherwise noted. Dress for the weather! Organized groups (e.g. youth/civic groups) wishing to participate in any of these programs must call well in advance to make special arrangements.

We also offer Guided Lessons and Special Programs throughout the year. A fee is charged for these lessons to cover the cost of running the program.

We welcome people with disabilities to all of our programs. If you call ahead to let us know your specific needs, we will be happy to learn how we can best serve you.

Hiking

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General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations

Five Rivers has over 10 miles of trails for your enjoyment. See Exploring Five Rivers Nature Trails for more information about the trails, including distances and terrain.

Brochures for interpretive trails are available at the Visitor Center and at trailhead kiosks. Braille, large print and audio format brochures are available upon request at the Visitor Center.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

skiingsnowshoeing

General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are allowed on all hiking trails. five rivers offers snowshoes for rent during the winter, but they're only available when there is at least 6 inches of snow on the ground. There is a small fee for snowshoe rental, but rentals are free for members of the Friends of Five Rivers (leaves DEC website).

Watchable Wildlife

watchable

General Information on watchable wildlife includes tips for viewing wildlife and links to other watchable wildlife locations.

bluebird

Come, leave the parking lot behind and enter a different world. Listen for the plaintive notes of the Eastern bluebird, sneak a glimpse of deer browsing in the fields and let the gentle rustle of the wind inform you. Share in the spirit of the "long green line" of conservationists at Five Rivers who still carefully study the natural world and devote their lives to its stewardship to this day.

Wildlife to Watch:

  • Great place for birdwatching: 225 species, no waiting!
  • Excellent chance for watching deer and squirrels, even in winter!
  • Spring and fall migrations are definitely worth a gander!
  • In summer, expect to encounter turtles, geese, frogs and grassland bird species

Naturalist Intern Program

The Naturalist Intern Program is a training internship available to those seeking professional experience in environmental education. Each intern will receive training in the mission and role of the DEC environmental education bureau, a wide variety of center programs, the operations and activities of a center, principles of environmental interpretation, and natural history of New York.

Accessible Features

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General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

Five Rivers offers several accessible facilities and services. All amenities of the Visitor Center, Comfort Station, picnic area, Woodlot Trail and Nature's Backyard Trail are wheelchair accessible, as are several hard-surfaced interior routes. Sign interpreters are available upon request for our education programs. Braille, large print and audio format interpretive guides are available upon request, as well as wheelchairs, walkers and a scooter.

Directions

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center is located in Delmar, NY, at 56 Game Farm Road. See Google Maps and enter your address for step by step directions to Five Rivers. (Shift-click this off-site link to open it in a new window). The property is located at 42.608676°N, 73.889757°W.

Watch a clip about Earth Day at Five Rivers and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.

All users of Five Rivers Environmental Education Center must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Special Regulations

Visitors to DEC's environmental education centers should become familiar with the regulations governing the use of the centers as found in the New York State Register and Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (NYCRR). Go to the Use of Environmental Education Centers page (leaves DEC website) to see the regulations concerning the education centers.

Please remember that the following are prohibited:

  • Bikes, skateboards, and motorized vehicles
  • Collecting, releasing, disturbing or destroying plants or animals
  • Collecting, disturbing or destroying cultural material
  • Hunting, trapping, and fishing
  • Pets and horses
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Glass containers
  • Camping and campfires

Please stay on designated trails to protect the environmental for all visitors.

How We Manage Five Rivers Environmental Education Center

DEC has developed a Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) which describes the proposed management activities for these lands. In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

History of Five Rivers

Over a century ago, much of the vicinity around what is now the Five Rivers was covered by extensive orchards. As the Great Depression took hold, many hard-scrabble farms could no longer make ends meet. In 1933, the New York State Conservation Department purchased two of these farms to develop the Delmar Experimental Game Farm. At the time, populations of upland game birds and waterfowl were in serious decline. The primary mission of the facility was to learn more about the propagation and management of these species.

image of Tarzan Baker releasing Canada Geese
Tarzan Baker releasing Canada Geese

From 1933-36, the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp S-72 put up buildings, fences and developed access roads throughout the property to prepare the site for game farming. CCC crews also created ponds by damming the Vlomankill, using limestone blocks salvaged from the abandoned Watervliet Lock of the old Erie Canal. In succeeding years, CCC crews created several additional duck-rearing ponds and erected several additional buildings for brooding, hatching and rearing upwards of 100,000 grouse and pheasant chicks per year. Each fall, the upland game birds and waterfowl were released on state lands throughout New York. The Canada geese that nest at Five Rivers today are thought to be descended from birds originally raised here.

In 1941, the Department established a Wildlife Research Center on site to expand on-going pathology studies, as well as to field test innovative theories in wildlife management. Techniques developed on site such as aging deer via dentition, perfecting the cannon-net and modeling wildlife populations via biometrics revolutionized the wildlife management profession nation-wide.

So as to re-direct increasing public interest away from the sensitive conservation research activities on site, in 1948 staff began developing a modest exhibition of caged wildlife in the area adjacent to the main parking lot. The menagerie came to be known far and wide as the Delmar Zoo, and firmly established the site as a vibrant educational institution. Tens of thousands of families and school group visited this remarkable collection annually. In 1970 there was a major reorganization of the Conservation Department, from which the current Department of Environmental Conservation emerged. As a result of this reorganization, priorities of the Department were reoriented and the Game Farm and Zoo were closed.

Because the site had become such an important community asset, a group of concerned citizens organized and successfully convinced the state to transform the abandoned site into an environmental education center. Thereupon, the Department developed a rustic amphitheater, a series of nature trails and refurbished a former sign shop as a Visitor Center. The new facility was opened to the public in June of 1972. It was renamed the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, a name suggested by SUNY Albany meteorologist Dr. Vincent Schaefer, to denote the five rivers which comprise the watershed within the Center's service area, namely the Hudson, Mohawk, Hoosic and Sacandaga rivers and the Schoharie Creek.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Gas, food and other supplies, dining opportunities and lodging can be found in the nearby communities of Albany and Delmar.

Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau (leaves DEC website) can provide information about the other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chamber of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.


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