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South Valley State Forest

View South Valley Map (Area 2) || View South Valley Map (Area 2) in PDF (324 KB) || View South Valley Map (Area 3) || View South Valley Map (Area 3) in PDF (197 KB) || View Horse Trails Map || View Horse Trail Map PDF (1.65 MB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper

South Valley State Forest locator map

South Valley State Forest, also known as Cattaraugus Reforestation Area (RA) # 2 and #3, totals 4,227 acres. This state forest is located in Cattaraugus County in the towns of South Valley and Randolph. The most common recreational uses of this area are hunting , hiking, horseback riding, and snowmobiling. The south boundary of Cattaraugus # 3 is the Pennsylvania State Line.

South Valley State Forest is managed for multiple uses. Forests provide raw materials for New York's forest products industry and employment for many New Yorkers. They are managed for wildlife so that species such as deer, rabbit, grouse and turkey may thrive in various habitats. They are also managed to provide recreational opportunities and to protect watersheds.


In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, carried out various projects at South Valley State Forest. The CCC, established by the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, provided employment opportunities for young men during the Great Depression. Projects included road construction and the planting of thousands of pine, larch and spruce trees in the open areas on the property.

Part of the raceway from a water powered sawmill.
Part of the raceway from a water powered sawmill

Cattaraugus #2 was one of the first properties obtained by the state for the creation of State Forests in Cattaraugus County. This property was home to many people in the past. There are a number of water powered saw mill sites on Cattaraugus #2 and the saw mill bases, raceways, dams and spillways are still visible on this property. These mills were water powered and used the old style saws that went up and down. Later, with the advent of steam power and round saw blades, these mills became obsolete.

Water power from these mills was also used to grind flour and to provide power for other types of mills, such as shingle mills like the one formerly located on Phillips Brook. A series of saw mills once sat on South Branch Sawmill Run creek, and two have been found on state land on North Branch Sawmill Run creek. Another mill operated at what used to be the southern end of Phillips Brook Road. This area has been taken over by beavers and is now a wetland, as is the former mill pond off Little Bone Run.

A gravestone in the South Valley Catholic Cemetery, dated 1883
A gravestone in the South Valley Catholic
Cemetery, dated 1883

The remains of an Irish community, including the old South Valley Catholic Cemetery that dates back to the mid-to-late 1800s, can be found along what is now Gurnsey Road. The cemetery is not state owned, but the surrounding land is. Please be respectful of grave stones and be aware you are on private property.

Rocks have been piled up in some areas off Sawmill Run Road that resemble small castles. The castles may represent a creative reuse of the stones that were removed to make way for farm fields. These fields are now forested.

For more history on this unit, visit the Painted Hills Genealogy Society web page for South Valley. It includes cemetery records and more local history.

Field Notes


This area has been managed to provide a variety of habitat. At this time there is only a small amount of young forest habitat. The majority of the unit contains mostly stands of larger trees, but some stands have two levels of canopy, indicating trees of different ages. Management for a variety of habitats will continue.

South Valley State Forest is adjacent to a Wildlife Management Area on Bone Run Road. This area provides some open habitat with mowed fields. This state forest provides a small amount of wetland habitat and a good amount of upland forest habitat. Cattaraugus RA #2 has some large natural white pine and oak stands. They will be maintained and managed when possible. More young stands will be created as mature stands regenerate.

Timber Management

Conifer - The stands of pine, larch and spruce were planted in old farm fields that offered open areas with direct sunlight necessary for these trees to thrive. These stands have been or will be converted to hardwoods by removing the conifer overstory and allowing the hardwood seedlings that usually exist in these stands to grow to maturity. Areas that contain or have a good potential to grow white pine will be managed for large white pine in a mix of hardwoods with some hemlock. In Cattaraugus County white pine stands are not common except in plantations. White pine weevil has reduced this species from a valuable timber tree to a tree that is retained only for its wildlife habitat potential.

Hardwood - Hardwood trees are not usually planted because they spread vast amounts of seed and naturally regenerate. Thinning of the forest through the sale of forest products gives the residual trees more growing space. This helps to keep the forest healthy and provides openings for new seedlings, a revolving supply of food and cover for wildlife, and future crop trees.

Some stands will contain large trees that appear to be old growth. In almost all cases, they are not. These stands have been harvested prior to state ownership, or managed during state ownership to favor large trees. Many other stands are mature and ready to regenerate into new stands. Thinning stands and removing the overstory promotes regeneration of new seedlings.

Forests on this property are called "Allegheny Hardwood" types, which are made up of mainly oak, maple, yellow poplar, basswood, and black cherry. These tree species require sunlight on the forest floor so new tree seedlings can sprout and grow into large timber sized trees. However, sometimes unwanted tree species like American beech tend to take over forest stands because of its ability to quickly propagate itself by root sprouts. This tree species crowds out more desirable species like black cherry and oak by forming dense thickets that shade out competing seedlings. Eventually, American beech will decrease tree species diversity in the forest. It can also affect other forest vegetation like wildflowers such as trilliums and dutchman's britches.

When beech becomes a problem, the land manager must make a decision on how to best treat the beech stems to get them under control. The land manager uses tools like herbicide applied directly to the beech stem after cutting it. The stem then "sucks" the herbicide into its root system and kills it and any root sprouts that are attached to the stem. This spot treatment method of herbicide application keeps other sensitive native forest vegetation like trilliums and desirable tree seedlings intact and unharmed. It also virtually eliminates any runoff that may occur. All herbicides must go through an extensive approval process are only applied by licensed applicators. When beech stems die off, the desirable tree species can access the light and growing space they need to survive.

Forest stands that contain oak species may require fire or other disturbance to maintain this forest type. Oak stands may not be as valuable for timber as other species, but they should be maintained none the less. Oak stands provide diversity on the landscape and provide mast (nuts, seeds, acorns, etc. produced by woody plants) for wildlife. Most oak stands in Cattaraugus County are "Transition Oak" stands that are dominated by red oak and red maple. Maples will eventually replace the oaks over time if no effort is made to reverse this process. Oak stands provide important wildlife habitat and therefore the continuation of oak stands in this forest is necessary. Oak regeneration requires a heavy acorn crop, bare mineral soil, plenty of sunshine and little competition from other species. Oak has been maintained for centuries by native people by burning. Lack of fire has allowed other species like maple to take over areas that were once oak and chestnut. Chestnut sprouts may still be found clinging to life on this property, but the species has been reduced to shrub height by Chestnut Blight.



There are no designated hiking trails on the property, but all horse trails can be used.

Horseback Riding

Trail Closures: the new horse trail off Bone Run Road that travels over the hill to Sawmill Run Parking area is currently closed due to construction. Please check back for updates.

Horseback riders enjoy a trail on the South Valley State Forest property.
Horseback riders enjoy a trail on the South
Valley State Forest property.

A new trail head parking area is located on Little Bone Run Road to accommodate horse trailers for day use only. This trail head parking area gives access to the Rocky Top Trail. Also there will be a parking lot available on Sawmill Run Road and additional trail will be developed in this area over the next few years. These parking areas were made possible by a trail grant funding obtained by the NYS Horse Council.

If you are planning to trail ride in this area, please note that Phillips Brook Road on the map is not a good road for horse trailers. It is very narrow, and the turn around area is very small at the dead end. The best access for horse trailers is the parking area on Pine Hill State Forest at Pineapple Junction or now at the new parking area on Little Bone Run Road.

Maps of the trials can be found by using the map link at the top of the page. For a more details please contact the Cattaraugus-Chautauqua NYS horse council by using the offsite links on the right hand side of the page.

The New York State Horse Council Trail System is located on this unit. The Council's long term goal is to create a multiple use trail that provides opportunities for hiking and horseback riding. This is a work in progress. The New York State Horse Council has been working to expand the trail system to cover more of this State Forest Management Unit. Trails are planned to minimize impacts to the forest environment and to not conflict with other management objectives.

Organized trail events require a Temporary Revocable Permit for use of the trails prior to the event. These can be obtained online or at the Dunkirk DEC Office, (716) 363-2052.

Hunting and Trapping

Hunting and trapping are allowed on South Valley State Forest in accordance with all game regulations, unless otherwise posted. Terrain can be rugged in some areas, so walking up and down hills is part of the hunting experience. Traps may not be set on public road right of ways. Body gripping traps set on land must be at least 100 feet from public trails. South Valley State Forest is adjacent to a DEC Wildlife Management Area on Bone Run Road which offers Pheasant hunting during Pheasant season. See more information on the Pheasant Release Program and release dates. Please call the Allegany Wildlife office for more information at 716-372-0645.


There are three streams that are annually stocked in the spring on this unit: Bone Run -Bone Run Road, Gurnsey Run - Gurnsey Hollow Road, and the North Branch of Sawmill Run -Sawmill Run Road. For more information on stocking dates please visit our Fish Stocking page. Also be sure to abide by all NY State fishing regulations.

Skiing and Snowshoeing

The horse trails on the north part of this unit are suitable for cross country skiing. Trails to the south have steeper slopes.

Mountain Biking

There are no bike trails on this property.


There are three (3) formal camping sites on this property, two are located on Phillips Brook Forest Road, and one on Sawmill Run Road. All are designated with a yellow camp disk. Also, individuals may set up camp at any location which is at least 150 feet from water bodies, streams, roads or trails. Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger (phone number below).


Geo-caching is allowed, although caches must be marked with the owner's contact information and may not be placed in dangerous or ecologically sensitive locations. See the February 2005 article in Conservationist Magazine for more information on geo-caching.

Access for People with Disabilities

There are no special access trails on this property. View accessible recreation destinations on other DEC land.

Tips for Using State Forests

Anyone enjoying this property must observe rules which protect both people and the forest environment.


From Frewsburg, take either Frew Run Road which becomes Sawmill Run Road when it enters Cattaraugus County, or Bone Run Road which intersects Route 62 just north of Frewsburg. From Steamburg, take Perimeter or Onoville Road south to Bone Run, Sawmill Run or Brown Run.

Important Numbers

Dunkirk Sub-office: (716) 363-2052

For emergencies, search and rescue, wildfire, or state land rules and regulation enforcement, call a Forest Ranger:

(716) 771-7191
(716) 771-7199
(716) 771-7156

Or you can reach the Forest Ranger general dispatch number at: (877) 457-5680

General Emergencies: 911