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Keeney Swamp State Forest

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Introduction

Keeney Swamp State Forest locator map

Keeney Swamp State Forest (Allegany Reforestation Area #5) is located in the Towns of Birdsall and Grove in Allegany County. The forest is named after the natural wetland complex that lies in the headwaters of Black Creek. Keeney Swamp is the only place in Allegany County (and one of only a handful of places in western New York State) where balsam fir occurs naturally.

History

The swamp is named after an early resident, Fred Keeney, who operated a sawmill and owned extensive property in the area. Much of the swamp was drained and cultivated for a time, but eventually the farmland was abandoned and became flooded once again thanks in large part to the resurgent local beaver population.

In the 1930s, Keeney Swamp 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 constructing roads and planting thousands of pine and spruce trees in the abandoned fields on the upland areas of the property.

The Birdsall CCC camp, S-117, was located on this state forest along what is now County Route 16.

Remains of stone fireplace at Birdsall CCC Camp, S-117
Remains of stone fireplace at Birdsall CCC Camp, S-117

The former Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern Railroad passed through the eastern portion of Keeney Swamp State Forest and the adjacent wildlife management area. This railroad ran from St. Mary's, PA to Perkinsville, NY. Abandoned in 1947, the elevated railroad embankment running through the swamp has provided a handy starting point for numerous beaver dams.

Field Notes

Keeney Swamp State Forest covers a total of 2,408 acres and also borders the 708-acre Keeney Swamp Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Together these two areas of State land comprise the 3,116-acre Keeney Swamp Bird Conservation Area. The New York Bird Conservation Area (BCA) Program was established in 1997 to safeguard and enhance bird populations and their habitats on state lands and waters. The BCA Program integrates bird conservation interests into agency planning, management and research projects.

With the large variety of cover types and wetland areas, Keeney Swamp State Forest hosts an unusually wide variety of bird species. For several years the forest was home to a nesting colony of great blue herons, somewhat unique in that the Rookery was located in a red pine plantation.

Forestry Management

The forest cover types on Keeney Swamp State Forest are a mixture of native hardwoods, native conifers and planted conifers. The upland slopes are primarily hardwood species such as sugar maple, white ash, red maple and beech. Considerable amounts of native hemlock and balsam fir grow along the edges of the wetland areas. The old fields were planted with a variety of conifer species, including red pine, Scotch pine, white pine, larch and spruce.

Wetlands at Keeney Swamp State Forest
Wetlands at Keeney Swamp State Forest

The hardwood stands are managed through a series of thinnings which remove the lower quality trees and give more growing space to the best quality trees. The hardwood tops are generally left in place to rot and recycle their nutrients back into the soil. The decaying tops also provide bedding and nesting cover for wildlife such as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys.

Periodic thinnings in the red pine plantations have allowed the native hardwoods to seed into the sunlit openings. Many of the pine stands have reached maturity and the remaining overstory is now being removed to allow the hardwoods to grow to maturity. These "early-successional" hardwood stands provide an important habitat component for a variety of songbird species, as well as ruffed grouse and woodcock.

Recreation

The area receives a great deal of public use for hunting small game, big game and waterfowl, as well as trapping for beaver and other furbearers.

Canoeing

Is popular along Black Creek and on the beaver ponds that are on the property.

Fishing and Hunting

Is popular along Black Creek and in many of the beaver ponds on the property. Be sure to abide by all fishing and hunting regulations.

Camping

If you are planning to camp for more than three nights or have a group of ten or more, you will need to obtain a permit from a forest ranger. Camping is not allowed within 150 feet of water, roads or trails. If you Build a fire do so with dead and downed wood only.

Please note that camping is allowed on Keeney Swamp State Forest, but not on Keeney Swamp WMA.

Snowmobiling

New York State Snowmobile Corridor Trail 3D passes through Keeney Swamp State Forest.

Tips for using State Forests

State lands belong to all of us. Please help care for this area and enhance the enjoyment of it for all people by observing these simple guidelines.

Directions

Keeney Swamp State Forest lies directly north of the Hamlet of Birdsall and is accessible from County Routes 15A, 15B and 16. Fitch Hill Road runs between County Routes 15B and 16 and connects to several state forest roads.

Important Numbers

State Forest Office (M-F 8-4 p.m.): 585-466-3241
Forest Rangers: 585-403-9574 or 585-415-1521
Emergencies: 911