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Five Rivers Environmental Education Center

Explore the Path to Outdoor Learning...

Wood Duck Marsh
Wood Duck Marsh

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center is a living museum comprising over 450 acres of fields, forests, and wetlands. Five Rivers offers people of all ages a rich variety of guided and self-guided tours. 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.

Free transportation grants available for Title 1 schools to visit 5 Rivers Environmental Education Center. Visit NYS Parks Transportation Grants (leaves DEC's website) for more information.

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.

The visitor center is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM (closed Sundays and state holidays). The grounds and trails are open every day, year-round, from sunrise to sunset. You can walk (snowshoe) the trails, observe wildlife, and picnic. Dogs and other pets are not permitted.

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Watchable wildlife binoculars icon

Wildlife to Watch for:

  • 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
  • "Best Park for Nature" - Metroland, 2008
blue jay at feeder
Blue Jays at the bird-watching window

Your Invitation

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.

Accessible Features

Universal symbol of accessible site

Facilities:
All amenities of the Visitor Center, picnic area, Woodlot Trail and Nature's Backyard Trail are wheelchair accessible, as are several hard-surfaced interior routes.

Programs:
Sign interpreters available upon request.

Services:
Braille, large print and audio format interpretive guides, wheelchairs and walkers available upon request.

A full list of DEC's accessible recreation destinations is available on the DEC website.

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)

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

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.


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