Whalen Memorial State Forest
Whalen Memorial State Forest, also known as Chautauqua #11, totals 1,325 acres. It is located in the southwestern area of Chautauqua County in the towns of North Harmony and Sherman, north of the village of Panama. The forest includes habitats for various wildlife species such as deer, rabbit, grouse and turkey. It provides opportunities for many informal outdoor recreational activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and hunting. This area is also a source of raw material for New York's forest products industry, which provides employment and income for many New Yorkers.
In the 1930s, Whalen Memorial State Forest was the site of many work projects carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC. The CCC, established by the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, provided employment opportunities for young men during the Great 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.
Whalen Memorial State Forest is in Wildlife Management Unit 9J. Managing the forest to maintain a diversity of cover types allows a variety of wildlife species to thrive. Hunting and trapping are allowed on the property in accordance with game laws enforced by NYSDEC. Hunting opportunities vary with habitat conditions.
The 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 thinnings. These thinnings provide openings of 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 naturally regenerate. Periodic thinning of the forest through the sale of forest products gives the residual trees more growing space. This helps to keep the forest healthy and provides openings for new seedlings. New trees grow, providing food and cover for wildlife, and a source of future crop trees. Some stands will contain large trees, giving an illusion of old growth. In actuality, these stands have been harvested prior to state ownership.
The Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail traverses the state forest. Two miles of the trail on Whalen Memorial State Forest are maintained by Chautauqua County Department of Public Works, Parks Division. A map for the trail can be obtained from the Chautauqua County Parks Office by following the Trail Map link to the right.
Biking, hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are allowed on the trail. Motor vehicles are prohibited. Horseback riding is also prohibited on the trail, but it is allowed on the property. However, there are no designated trails for this activity.
The local snowmobile club maintains a section of trail which does not coincide with the hiking trail. This trail is adopted and maintained by the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club. This trail consists of about 2.2 miles that connect to other snowmobile trails that travel off state property. This trail also can be used for hiking and mountain biking in the off season. Please be respectful of adjacent landowners.
Organizers of 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 DEC Office at 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.
To reach Whalen Memorial State Forest, from Interstate 86 take Exit 7, turn right onto County Route 33, proceed north for 0.75 miles to County Route 18. Proceed west on County Route 18 for 2.5 miles to Stebbins Road. Proceed south on Stebbins Road for 2.25 miles. The entrance to Whalen Forest Road is at the yellow gate.
State Forest Office (M-F 8-4 p.m.): 716-363-2052
Forest Ranger (Evenings, Weekends and Holidays): 716-771-7180