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Salmon River State Forest

View Salmon River State Forest Map || View Same Map in PDF (182 kB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper || Salmon River Reservoir Camping Sites Map (PDF) (242 kB)

Salmon River State Forest locator map

Recreational Activities

  • Primitive Camping
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Hunting, Wildlife Management Unit 6K
  • Nature Photography/Observation
  • Snowmobiling
  • Trapping

Salmon River State Forest encompasses 2,033 acres of land in the town of Redfield in northern Oswego County. Activities such as hiking, hunting, trapping, fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and cross country skiing, are best suited for this state forest. Salmon River State Forest had three miles of cross country ski trails that were part of the now closed Salmon Hills Cross Country Ski Resort. These trail are reverting back to the control of mother nature but provide primitive opportunities for hiking, snow showing, and cross country skiing on what are now old logging trails. Harpers Ferry, a Public Forest Access Road, provides an additional 0.8 miles of recreational access into the forest. There is also a 3.5 mile groomed snowmobile trail which provides access form Rte 17 in Redfield to the Kay road.

The forest borders the northern part of the Salmon River Reservoir, which provides additional opportunities for nature observation. It is not unusual to see wild turkeys, bald eagles, and grouse, as well as a wide variety of song birds and raptors, within the forest. Deer, weasel, fox, coyote, muskrat and rabbit have also found suitable habitat here. This abundance of wildlife makes both hunting and trapping a particularly enjoyable activity. In fact, this area is often referred to as "Little America" because it so closely preserves the raw natural beauty that once covered the terrain before intense settlement recreated the landscape.

Many different amphibians and reptiles flourish in this area, including the mountain dusky salamander, redback salamander, wood turtle, common snapping turtle, and northern water snake

Primitive camping is a favorite pastime in this area as well, and there is also a fishing access site from this location.


Originally the land now known as Salmon River State Forest was used exclusively by the Iroquois for hunting and fishing. However, as is the case with many of the lands that have since become managed by the state, the land was later cleared for farm land and timber by Revolutionary War Veterans and early settlers. However, the upland soils of the Tug Hill Plateau are characteristically rocky, highly acidic, and steep. Combined with the long and intense winters common to the region, it is easy to understand why many of these farmers were forced to abandon their properties and seek their fortune elsewhere.

The State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931 provided legislation which authorized the Department of Conservation 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, and kindred purposes" (Article 9, Title 5, Environmental Conservation Law).

Salmon River State Forest was purchased by New York State during the 1930s for these purposes. It was during this period that lands cleared for agricultural practices were restored to forests. Reforestation reduced the problem of soil erosion, protected water quality, and provided forest products and recreational opportunities. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) planted thousands of conifer seedlings on the newly acquired lands. Evidence of their tremendous efforts can be seen today through the fully grown red pine, white pine, white spruce, Norway spruce, and European and Japanese larch, which cover the landscape.

Field Notes

Salmon River at Salmon River State Forest

Salmon River State Forest also consists of an attractive mix of mature natural hardwood and northern hardwood-hemlock cover types. This community boasts such species as red maple, black cherry, white ash, sugar maple, American beech, yellow birch, red oak and hemlock. The conifer plantations planted by the CCC during the 1930s and 1950s further add to the diversity of trees in the forest.

Salmon River 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 on this forest will be guided by the UMP once completed.


Salmon River State Forest may be accessed by taking NY I-81 to exit 36, then taking County Route 2 toward Orwell/ Redfield. County Route 2 runs diagonally through the forest, with parking areas and access roads available directly off of it, before intersecting with County Route 17, which runs north and south through the east end of the forest.

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