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O'Hara State Forest

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O'Hara State Forest locator map

Recreational Activities

  • Accessible Trail
  • Primitive Camping
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Hunting, Wildlife Management Unit 6K
  • Nature Photography/Observation
  • Snowmobiling
  • Trapping

Background Information

O'Hara State Forest encompasses approximately 2,398 acres of land in the towns of Williamstown and Orwell in Oswego County. Activities enjoyed here include hunting,hiking, trapping and nature observation. Snowmobiling may be enjoyed during winter months on a road that runs through the forest.

A snowmobile corridor trail crosses the property on the seasonally maintained O'Hara Road. There is a trail designated for ATV use for those holding permits issued for individuals with mobility impairments. The trail is about 3/4 mile in length going southerly off O'Hara Road. The trail is gated and parking can be found along the town road. This trial doubles as a hiking trail in good weather.


The land that now comprises O' Hara State Forest was originally used for farm land and timber products by European settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans. Unfortunately, poor soils and extremely cold weather did not provide for ideal farming conditions. Shale and sandstone rocks provided a rocky terrain and soils were highly acidic. Excessive erosion and prolonged freezing and wet periods frustrated many farming attempts. As a result, frequently crops and fields were abandoned as farmers moved to the Midwest in pursuit of better land.

The State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931 set forth new legislation that authorized the Conservation Department to acquire land, by gift or purchase, for reforestation areas. These State Forests, consisting of no less than 500 acres of contiguous land were to be "forever devoted to reforestation and the establishment and maintenance thereon of forests for watershed protection, the production of timber and other forest products, recreation and kindred purposes" (Article 9, Title 5, Environmental Conservation Law).

O'Hara State Forest was purchased under this program by New York State during the 1930s. During this period, lands all over the state that had once been cleared for pasture and farm land were restored to forests. Reforestation reduced the problem of soil erosion, protected water quality and provided forest products and recreational opportunities. Today, O'Hara State Forest provides many different ecological, economic and recreational services for the people and wildlife in New York State.

Field Notes

River running through O'Hara State Forest

O'Hara State Forest is comprised of mature natural hardwood and northern hardwood-hemlock cover types. Red maple, black cherry, white ash, sugar maple and hemlock are the major hardwood species of the forest. Conifer plantations scattered throughout the forest, consisting of mainly white pine and red pine testify to the great work of the Civilian Conservation Corps which planted these species during the 1930's. It is because of this heavily wooded landscape that O'Hara State Forest is an ideal location to enjoy both hunting and trapping.

A large wetland complex occupies between over 100 acres of land, providing swamp- like habitat for a diverse range of plant and animal life. This wetland area further adds to the value of the forest, and makes O'Hara State Forest an incredible asset for the people of New York State.

The responsibility of managing State Forests to enhance and maintain a diverse and healthy forest ecosystem for society and wildlife lies with the Department of Environmental Conservation foresters. As a direct result, forest management is strategically employed to develop a well balanced mix of young, middle-aged, and old (late successional) forest types that will continue to enhance the environment, as well as provide society with compatible recreational opportunities.

O'Hara State Forest is part of the Upper Salmon River Unit 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. Management actions will be guided by the UMP once completed.


To get to O'Hara State Forest- Oswego 9, take NY Route 13 to O'Hara Road which runs through the property. To get to O'Hara State Forest- Oswego 10, continue on O'Hara Road to County Route 17, then turn onto County Route 2 which hugs the lake and connects with Dam Road from which parking and boat access are located. Alternatively, to go straight to Oswego 10 take Exit 36 off of I-81(Pulaski) and follow County Route 2 to Dam Road. Parking is available at each of the sections of the forest, however, it is limited to the shoulder of the road.

State Forest Regulations:

Anyone enjoying the use of this State Forest must observe the following rules which protect them and the forest environment:

  1. Do not litter. Carry out what you carry in. Burying of refuse is prohibited.
  2. If you build a fire, do so with care and use wood from dead and downed trees only. Never leave a fire unattended. Three foot radius must be cleared around fire.
  3. All motorized vehicles are restricted to access roads posted as motor vehicle trails. Off road use of motorized vehicles, such as, trail bikes and four-wheel drives is not allowed, except where specifically permitted by signs, posted notice or by DEC Permit.
  4. Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger. Camping is prohibited within 150 feet of water, roads or trail.
  5. Permanent structures, including tree stands or blinds, are not allowed.

Important Numbers:

State Forest Office (M-F 8 am-4 pm): 315-298-7467

Forest Ranger (Law Enforcement/Emergencies): 315-625-7261

DEC Forest Ranger Dispatch: 518-408-5850

Emergencies: 911