Shindagin Hollow State Forest
Shindagin Hollow State Forest (Tompkins #3) covers 5,266 acres of land in the towns of Caroline in southern Tompkins County and Candor in northern Tioga County. It is one of two forests covered by the Rapid Waters Unit Management Plan. Its large size and good access from public roads make this a great forest to enjoy activities such as mountain biking, hunting, hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, bird watching, nature viewing, picnicking and camping.
The Shindagin Hollow State Forest is located on the Allegheny Plateau, which is made of sedimentary bedrock that formed some 350 million years ago when the region was covered by an ancient saltwater sea. Geologists believe that the plateau was created during a collision of the North American and African continents some 250 to 330 million years ago. The collision lifted the bedrock, which has since been shaped by continual weathering and the advance and retreat of continental ice sheets (glaciers). The glaciers created the 'U' shaped valleys of the region and the Finger Lakes. The last glacier left New York State about 10,000 years ago.
Human settlement followed the retreat of the glacier. Tompkins County was originally home to members of the Iroquois Confederation or Haudenosaunee, specifically the Cayuga Nation. The Haudenosaunee was established in circa 1570 under the influence of Hiawatha. It was a bond between five nations: the Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, and the Onondaga. In 1715, the Tuscarora nation was added making it a league of six nations. The Cayuga's, who were the main inhabitants of the Tompkins County area, did not use the land heavily. They had semi-permanent dwellings placed near freshwater sources which enabled them to locate and transport game, as well as irrigate their crops without causing great stress to the land.
Early settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans referred to the area as "Dark Forest" because the forest was so dense that only small traces of light penetrated through the canopy. However, the new settlers had many superstitions involving forests, and they had little or no experience in producing forest goods. They therefore decided to clear the area almost entirely for use as farmland. The timber that was not used for carpentry was burned, becoming a valuable by-product known as potash. This process continued until almost the entire land was converted from dense forest to open fields, leaving the landscape seemly forever changed.
Soils on area hilltops, however, have major limitations for intensive crop production, including a seasonally high water table, low fertility, moderate to high acidity and steep slopes. Early farmers quickly learned that the combination of long, harsh winters and thin, fine textured upland soils would not support intensive agriculture. As such, many of the farmlands were sold or abandoned as farmers sought more fertile lands in the Midwest.
During the Great Depression of the 1930's, the landscape would be transformed again. In order to reduce soil erosion, protect water quality, provide forest products and recreational opportunities, the State of New York began acquiring property for reforestation during the 1930's under the auspices of the State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931. These laws allowed the Conservation Department to acquire land, by gift or purchase, for reforestation. Properties had to be a minimum of 500 acres of contiguous land.
Although the Hewitt Amendment was a major acquisition catalyst throughout New York State, about 73% of Shindagin Hollow State Forest was acquired from the federal government in January of 1956. From 1933 to 1937, as part of Roosevelt Administration's New Deal, the federal government purchased about 8 million acres in the Appalachians through what was called the sub-marginal land purchase program. The program purchased land with limited crop production capacity and in some cases promoted the resettlement of farm families whose land had been bought by the federal government. Van Etten Civilian Conservation Corp. Camp S-81, Caroline Center Youth Camp and New York State Conservation Department crews planted more than 2,231,700 tree seedlings on 2,105 acres from 1935 to 1952. Most of the seedlings were softwood species such as red pine, white pine, Norway spruce and Scotch pine. Today, forest covers about 67% of the surrounding landscape, while crop land and pasture cover about 27%.
The Shindagin Hollow State Forest has many different wildlife habitats. DEC forest managers conserve, protect and enhance forest ecosystems by developing a mix of young (early successional), middle-aged and old (late successional) forest types. Deliberate management over the last eight decades has created different types and ages of forest habitat. State Forests are managed to conserve water quality, provide diverse wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and a sustainable supply of locally grown forest products such as firewood and sawtimber. As such, the forest is a great place to view ecosystem management and habitat management in action. Future management actions will be guided by the Rapid Waters Unit Management Plan once completed.
There are several recreational trails that offer explorers a one-of-a-kind experience when visiting this forest. Shindagin Hollow State Forest is a well known place for mountain bicycling. Sixteen miles of mountain bike trails are maintained through a DEC Adopt a Natural Resource (AANR) agreement with Cycle-CNY, an International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) affiliated club.
The Finger Lakes Hiking Trail (FLT) crosses the forest providing a well marked hiking trail in a forest setting. About 5.7 miles of the FLT is on Shindagin Hollow State Forest and is maintained through an AANR agreement with the Cayuga Trails Club and the Finger Lakes Trails Conference. The Shindagin Hollow lean-to, built and maintained by trail volunteers, provides a great resting spot under the shade of towering eastern white pines. The lean-to is located along the trail at geographic coordinates 42.32761 N and -76.32905 W.
Four miles of snowmobile trail cross the forest and are maintained by the Candor Valley Rider Snowmobile Club through an AANR. There is 2.5 miles of trails for ATV use by individuals with mobility impairments that possess a Department permit for such use.
***Stay Safe- Bring A Friend When Out On The Trails***
Take NY RT 79 into the hamlet of West Slaterville and turn south on Boiceville Road for about 0.6 of a mile. Travel straight (south) onto Central Chapel Road for about 2.6 miles, then turn right on Brearley Hill Road and travel south for about ½ mile to the mountain bike trail head parking lot (geographic coordinates 42.34508 N, -76.34987 W). Additional parking for the Finger Lakes Hiking Trail is available about 1 mile to the south of the mountain bike trail head parking lot (geographic coordinates 42.32991 N, -76.35076 W). Brearley Hill Rd. is plowed. In addition, Shindagin Hollow Road provides seasonal access to the western and central portions of the forest. From RT 79 one can also go south on Buffalo Road to South Road to reach the eastern half 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:
- Do not litter. Carry out what you carry in. Burying of refuse is prohibited.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Permanent structures, including tree stands or blinds, are not allowed.
State Forest Office (M-F 8 am-4 pm): 607-753-3095 ext. 217
Forest Ranger (Law Enforcement/Emergencies): 607-798-1797
DEC Forest Ranger Dispatch: 518-408-5850