Chautauqua Gorge State Forest
Chautauqua Gorge State Forest totals 538 acres. This state forest is located in the north western area of Chautauqua County in the town of Chautauqua, west of Mayville. This area provides opportunities for many informal outdoor recreational activities such as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and hunting. This forest is also a source of raw material for New York's forest products industry which provides employment and income for many New Yorkers and provides for various habitats for many wildlife species such as deer, rabbit, grouse and turkey.
This state forest also offers a day use area with picnic tables with fire rings, out house facilities, and a public parking area.
In the 1930s, the Chautauqua Gorge State Forest was the site of many work projects carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC established by the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt provided employment opportunities for young men during the depression. CCC projects included the construction of roads and the planting of thousands of pine and spruce trees in the open areas on the property. Most of this state forest was farm fields before the state acquired it and various plantations exist on the property that were planted by the CCC in these areas.
This property is part of the Chautauqua Gorge watershed area, and part of the reason for the property's purchase is for watershed protection. The northern portion of the property borders the Chautauqua Gorge itself. Hannum Forest Road used to be a through road that crossed the gorge. Now it abruptly ends in the creek bed. This old abandoned road bed is popular as an access to the gorge area. The State owns very little of the creek bed and the public should be aware they are trespassing if they use the creek bed beyond this point.
There is one CCC constructed water hole on this property which is located near Hannum Road parking area across from the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail head. It is basically a rock lined depression near the gorge rim filled with water. This hole was used by the CCC to water the trees in the adjacent tree plantations in the area, some of which have been harvested for lumber products. One plantation of Larch and Spruce located at the Hannum day use area remains today that may have been part of the watering operation.
Adjacent to the property of of Lyons road a water powered Saw Mill was located on Chautauqua Creek. Its location is noted in the 1867 Atlas of maps. Such close proximity of the saw mill to the property suggests that this area was heavily timbered in the past. Also old house foundations have been found on the property suggesting the land was also probably farmed before state ownership.
Numerous wildlife species can be found in Chautauqua Gorge State Forest, including white tail deer, ruffed grouse, raccoon, and turkey. There are also occasional fox, mink and bear sightings. The abundance of different habitat types created by forestry management practices make this forest an ideal area for various wildlife sightings. A variety of songbirds are also prevalent in Chautauqua Gorge State Forest, especially near heavily harvested areas where there is thick seedling-sapling cover.
Conifer and hardwood timber management is practiced at Chautauqua Gorge State Forest. The conifer stands of pine and spruce were planted in old farm fields as they need open areas with direct sunlight to thrive. They are usually managed by a series of partial harvest thinning, which have created openings for sunlight to encourage natural regeneration of native hardwoods. The removal of the conifer overstory in the final harvest allows the hardwood seedlings to grow to maturity.
Hardwood trees are not usually planted as they spread vast amounts of seed and regenerate naturally. Periodic thinning of the forest through the sale of forest products gives the residual trees adequate growing space. This practice helps to keep the forest healthy and provides openings for new seedlings, a revolving supply of food and cover for wildlife, and source of future crop trees. Some hardwood stands contain large trees, giving an illusion of old growth. These stands were actually harvested prior to state ownership.
Active Timber Sales
Currently there is one active sale on this unit off of Lyons Road. It is a removal of Norway Spruce trees.
Chautauqua Gorge State Forest offers many recreational opportunities. The forest contains a day-use area with picnic tables, fire rings, and a public parking area. There is also a hiking trail that passes through the property.
Hannum Day Use Area
On Hannum Forest Road there is a day use area for picnicking and use during the day only. There is a ¼ mile loop trail located here that circles around a larch and spruce plantation. The trail is made of crushed stone and is accessible to people with disabilities. This trail can be used for hiking, biking, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. There is one pavilion with a fire ring and one trash bin that meets accessibility standards as well.
There is one port-a-john facility on site in the day use area. Also, camping is not permitted in the Day Use Area and may only be done elsewhere on the unit if you are at least 150 feet from a road, trail or water body/stream. This is a carry-in carry-out facility. Please take all garbage with you when you leave the day use facilities. For more information on this area please call the local DEC Office at 716-363-2052.
Fires are allowed in the designated fire rings only. All fire rings in the day use area are equipped with a hinged cooking grate for grilling. Only dead or downed wood can be used. Please do not transport fire wood in to the area due to the recent outbreak of the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle (EAB) in New York State. New York State is implementing a plan to address the EAB. Obeying the firewood transport regulations will also help prevent the spread of this devastating beetle.
Accessible Features at the Hannum Road Day Use Area
Improvements to picnic facilities and construction of a new trail in 2009 have enhanced recreational opportunities and improved access for people with disabilities at Hannum Road Day Use Area. Improvements include picnic shelters renovated with new metal flashing, new green metal picnic tables, new fire rings, crushed stone around each shelter and better drainage. Also, there is one port-a- john that is accessible in the day use area adjacent to the accessible parking.
The area also features a new picnic shelter complete with a fire ring, picnic table, and trash bin, and two parking spaces - all of which are accessible to people with disabilities.
In addition to picnic facility improvements, DEC constructed an accessible ¼-mile loop trail made of crushed stone. The trail head is located at the picnic area and allows for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Finally, a kiosk was installed to provide information about the area and trail maps.
Full listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations.
There are Eight designated camp sites on Hannum Road adjacent to the day use area. Seven of the sites are primitive tent sites with a rock fire ring, site number 8 is upgraded with a picnic shelter and steel fire ring. This site also has a gravel parking pad large enough for a small self contained camper unit. The sites are designated with a yellow camp disk. All camp sites are fist come, first serve. If you plan on staying more than three days, or have 10 or more people at a site you need to obtain a camping permit from the Forest Ranger by calling 716-771-7180.
See the Camp Map for general site locations.
The Hannum Day Use area also has a trail that is ¼ mile loop trail that traverses around a larch/spruce plantation planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The trail is easy to walk and takes about 10 to 15 minuets. There are two stopping areas to observe scenery along the trail. In the fall when the leaves become sparse a view of the gorge can be seen. The trail head is located at the Kiosk in the picnic area. The kiosk also provides other information about this state forest.
Please see the Chautauqua Gorge Map above for trail locations, also at the trail head on Hannum road there is a map of the trail available at the trail sign in box located just inside the Overland Trail entrance. These are provided by the office of Chautauqua County Parks and Recreation.
Coordinators of organized trail events need to obtain a Temporary Revocable Permit for use of the trails prior to the event. These can be obtained at the Dunkirk Office at 716-363-2052.
Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular recreational activities in Chautauqua Gorge State Forest. These all can be done on the Fred J. Cusimano Westside overland Trail. Access to this trail is only on Summerdale Road, as Hannum Road is not plowed in the winter. However you can park near the snowplow turn around and access the trail by walking down Hannum Road about 1/2 mile to the trail head.
Can be done on the Fred J. Cusimano West Side Overland Trail and all forest access roads.
There are no designated trails on this state forest but a public snowmobile trail does border the south end of the property.
Hunting is allowed on the property; please be sure to abide by all game laws. More information can be obtained from your local DEC office by calling 716-363-2052.
Tips for Using State Forests
State lands belong to all of us. Help care for this area and enhance the enjoyment of it for yourself and those who follow by observing these simple guidelines.
From Mayville, take Route 430 west to Hannum Road (right turn). Proceed all the way to the end of the road (will turn into a dirt road). Continue straight the Chautauqua Gorge State Forest parking and picnic area are at the end.
State Forest Office (M-F 8-4 p.m.): 716-363-2052
Forest Ranger (Evenings, Weekends and Holidays): 716-771-7180