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Camillus Unique Area

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Camillus Unique Area locator map

Recreational Activities

  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Bow Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Nature Photography/Observation

Background Information

The Camillus Forest Unique Area encompasses 350 acres and is located in the town of Camillus in central Onondaga County. It is approximately eight miles west of the city of Syracuse with elevations ranging between 400 and 710 feet. Camillus Unique Area is a popular area for a variety of recreational activities such as: hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, bow hunting and fishing. There are a series of looping trails throughout the unique area that make for excellent hiking. At present there are six different designated trails with a combined distance totaling almost 4 miles of foot trails.

The southeastern portion of the parcel provides fishing and canoe access to Nine Mile Creek, one of the most popular trout streams in Onondaga County. The forest's grasslands were once practically all managed for crop product. Now the grassland habitat is being managed to remain in grassland for the many species that depend upon that cover type. One might even see the less common Bobolink or Savannah sparrow

As a designated unique area, this site has restrictions not found on state forests. Camping, shot gun and rifle hunting and trapping are prohibited.


The land now known as Camillus Forest Unique Area was originally settled in 1796 by John and Sarah Vacher. The property was transferred to the Hopkins family in 1810 and continued to be used for farming purposes until the late 1880's. Agricultural statistics from 1855 describe the property as crop land, meadow, and pasture. Crops that were grown included potatoes, winter wheat, barley, oats and corn. The dominant livestock were swine, dairy cows and sheep; sheep significantly outnumbering all other livestock. Once the Erie Canal was opened in 1825, the transportation of grains and wool from this area contributed significantly to the growing economy. Land ownership records dating back to 1852 also reveal that there were two sawmills located within a mile of the property, one at the base of the parcel along Nine Mile Creek.

Although the forest is old, it is not considered undisturbed pre-settlement "old-growth" forest. Recently data collected by DEC foresters and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) confirms that the stand was harvested in the distant past. It is thought to have been managed as a sugar bush for maple sap production.

The Camillus Forest parcel has been under state ownership since 1926. It was managed by the Syracuse Developmental Center until 1997 when a transfer of jurisdiction brought it under the auspices of the New York State DEC. The intent of the transfer was to protect and preserve the land for public enjoyment and education, ensuring that present and future generations would be able to enjoy the great natural beauty the area offers. Today, the forest is comprised of old forest, mature forest, riparian areas, former crop land, and pasture. It provides diverse ecological and recreational services to many New York residents and visitors alike.

Field Notes

Camillus State Forest

The property's unique composition of 145 acres of open fields, 135 acres of early successional trees and shrubs, 38 acres of old forest, and 18 acres of mature sugar maple, American beech and bitternut hickory make it one of the most beautiful and diverse areas in the Syracuse region.

Within the 38-acres of old forest area several very large sugar maple ( New York State's official tree) and American beech trees can be found that have 36 inch diameters at breast height (d.b.h.). The estimated age of the largest dominant trees in the forest is between 120 and 200 years, with one 42-inch d.b.h sugar maple being the largest.

Factors such as tree age, size, height, and diversity, as well as excellent soils, no immediate past history of timber cutting, and various ecosystems all contribute to this forest's ability to provide a variety of different habitats for all the wildlife and plants native to the area. It also enables many people to enjoy the richness of this resource and partake in a variety of recreational activities.

The Camillus Forest Unique Area has been designed to offer many family based recreational opportunities as are sustainable on the land. Camillus Unique Area is managed by the Camillus Forest Unique Management Plan. A Unit Management Plan (UMP) guides the DEC's land management activities on several geographically related forests for a ten-year period, although a number of goals and objectives in the plan focus on a much longer time period. Each UMP addresses specific objectives and actions for public use and forest management. ***Stay Safe- Bring A Friend When Out In The Forest***


Camillus Forest Unique Area may be accessed by taking NY Route 173 (Warners Road) off from Rte 5 and heading north west. Turn left on to Thompson Road, a parking area is location on the right.

Posted Restrictions for Camillus Unique Area

For your safety and protection of the resource the following apply:

  • The Unique Area closes one half hour after sunset and reopens after sunrise.
  • Camping is prohibited
  • Fires are prohibited
  • Horseback riding is prohibited
  • Bicycle and mountain bike riding is prohibited
  • Dog training is prohibited. Dogs must be kept on a leash.
  • Snowmobiling is prohibited
  • ATV use is prohibited.
  • Motorized vehicle use outside of the parking area is prohibited.
  • Use and possession of firearms is prohibited. Bow hunting is allowed during appropriate seasons commensurate with state fish and wildlife law.
  • Littering is prohibited. Carry out what you carry in. Burying of refuse is prohibited.
  • The construction and use of permanent tree stands or blinds is prohibited.
  • Cutting , defacing or removing trees or vegetation is prohibited.
  • Permanent structures, including tree stands or blinds, are not allowed.

Important Numbers

State Forest Office (M-F 8 am-4 pm): 607-753-3095 ext. 217

Forest Ranger (Law Enforcement/Emergencies): 315-886-1669

DEC Forest Ranger Dispatch: 518-408-5850

Emergencies: 911