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Watson's East Triangle Complex

Including Watson's East Triangle Wild Forest, Croghan Tract Conservation Easement and Oswegatchie Conservation Easement

Watson's East Triangle locator map

hikingprimitive campingpaddlingbikingfishinghuntingtrappingsnowmobilingcross-country skiingsnowshoeinghorseback ridingaccessibleparkinglean-tohand launchicon key

The Watson's East Triangle Complex includes approximately 43,000 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve and Conservation Easement Lands that are almost entirely within the Adirondack Park. The complex is comprised of:

  • Watson's East Triangle Wild Forest
  • Croghan Tract Conservation Easement
  • Oswegatchie Conservation Easement

The Watson's East Triangle Wild Forest (WETWF) contains over 13,000 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve lands split between two parcels. The terrain generally consists of rolling hills. Long Pond Road bisects the smaller parcel, located in Lewis County. Bear Pond Road and Tunnel Road (accessed from Oswegatchie Conservation Easement) lead into the Herkimer County portion of the unit. Several spur roads provide access to ponds and campsites. Bear Pond Road also provides access to the neighboring Five Ponds and Pepperbox Wildernesses.

The Bear Pond Primitive Corridor is open to public motor vehicle use for 1 mile beyond the Watson's East Triangle WF boundary (to the Upper South Pond Trailhead). Beyond this point, motor vehicle access is limited to private in-holder access.

The Tied Lake Primitive Corridor leads into the Pepperbox Wilderness, 0.1 miles beyond the Watson's East Triangle WF boundary. The corridor leads south and public motor vehicles may drive to Tied Lake. Beyond Tied Lake, motor vehicle access is limited to private in-holder access.

Conservation easement lands are private property with an easement held by the DEC on behalf of the people of New York State. Conservation easements allow the properties to remain working forests while also providing public recreation opportunities. Public use is limited, however. Every conservation easement is different - please know what recreation is permitted on the property you will be recreating on before you visit! Please respect posted signs. Timber operations occur on easement lands. Expect to see logging trucks, skidders and other logging activity. Some access roads may be closed when logging operations are active.

The terrain of the 12,816-acre Croghan Tract Conservation Easement (CE) is generally rolling, with hardwood forests covering much of the area. Several major streams are located on the tract including Fish Creek and Roaring Brook. There are a number of private lease camps on the tract. The public is prohibited from entering the camps and the one acre area posted around each camp. Easement lands are private property; please respect the rights of the landowner and its lessees.

The 16,929-acre Oswegatchie CE is open for a variety of recreational opportunities. Numerous streams and rivers are located on the tract, including the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River.

Featured Activities

Hiking

hiking

General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Watson's East Triangle WF sees very little use for hiking that isn't associated with other recreational activities, such as hunting, because of the lack of mountain peaks, scenic vistas or other hiking destinations. The Keck Trail (4.8 miles) in the southern part of the WETWF follows the north shore of the West Branch of the Oswegatchie River to Deep Cuts Road.

Accessed from the Croghan Tract CE, hikers can enjoy the Sand Pond Accessible Trail located in the neighboring Pepperbox Wilderness.

There are no designated hiking trails on the Oswegatchie CE but it features many forest management roads which are open to hiking and other non-motorized recreation.

Camping

primitive camping

General information on primitive camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

There are 15 designated primitive campsites and a lean-to in Watson's East Triangle WF. There are also 2 additional campsites on neighboring state lands. These sites are heavily used during the big game hunting season. At-large backcountry camping is also allowed throughout the WETWF. There is also one campsite at Tied Lake on the neighboring Pepperbox Wilderness.

Primitive campsites
No. of Sites Location Access
1 Bear Pond Road By motor vehicle
1

Creek Road

By motor vehicle
1 Mullins Flow Road South Lean-to By motor vehicle
1 Wolf Pond By motor vehicle
1 Wolf Creek Road East (off Number 1 Road) By motor vehicle
1 Wolf Creek Road West (off Number 1 Road) By motor vehicle
1 Massawepie Pond Not accessible by motor vehicle
1 Buck Pond (universally accessible with accessible privy) By motor vehicle only by users with a permit through the Motorized Access Program for People With Disabilities
3 Along Keck Trail By motor vehicle
1 Deep Cuts Road (off Bear Pond Road) By motor vehicle
2 Along West Branch of Oswegatchie River By canoe or by short trails from two parking areas along Long Pond Road
2 Mud Pond Canoe access only
1 Tied Lake (on Pepperbox Wilderness) By motor vehicle

On the Croghan Tract CE, there are 8 designated primitive campsites. Five drive-up campsites are located along the Main Haul Road (aka Fish Creek Road). There is one designated campsite along each of the following: Jakes Pond Road, Prentice Road and an unnamed tributary of the Soft Maple Reservoir. Camping is only allowed at the designated campsites.

The Oswegatchie CE has no designated campsites but at-large backcountry camping is allowed. Please note that no camping by the public is allowed along the right-of-way across the private lands leading into the easement property.

Where at-large backcountry camping is allowed, campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water. Camping for more than three nights or in groups of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

Paddling

paddling

General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Portions of the Middle Branch and West Branch of the Oswegatchie River that run through the WETWF have been designated as Scenic and Recreational Rivers for their outstanding scenic, ecological, recreational, historic, and scientific value.

The Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River provides some of the most challenging white water canoeing and kayaking in the Adirondacks. Although limited to times of high water, a trip down the Middle Branch will challenge the most experienced paddler with Class IV and V rapids.

The West Branch of the Oswegatchie River offers some nice flat water paddling as well as access to several ponds, including Mud Pond in the small western parcel of the unit and Rock and Trout Ponds that are just outside this parcel.

Car-top boats may easily be launched on Tied Lake from the Tied Lake Primitive Corridor and near the Lewis County portion of Watson's East Triangle WF on Clear Pond, Long Pond and Rock Pond, as well as north of Mud Pond on the West Branch of the Oswegatchie River.

Paddling is a popular activity on Soft Maple Reservoir adjacent to the Croghan Tract CE. The Soft Maple Reservoir Waterway Access Site features a hand launch with a steep decent to the water.

Paddlers can also carry their canoes and kayaks 1/10 mile on the accessible trail from the Sand Pond Trailhead to Sand Pond, a picturesque small waterbody in the neighboring Pepperbox Wilderness.

On the Oswegatchie CE, paddling is allowed on all bodies of water on the property. Several ponds on the property are large enough to paddle, and the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River may be used by expert paddlers. There are no designated boat launches or access routes to these bodies of water.

Biking

biking

General information on biking includes how-to and safety tips with links to rules and regulations.

All roads and trails (except snowmobile trails) within the WETWF are open for biking. No bikes are allowed on the Primitive Corridors.

The gentle terrain, woodlands and a good road and trail system on the Croghan Tract CE provide a great biking opportunity. Bikers can use Main Haul Road and the snowmobile trails for a 10-mile loop that gently ascends and descends less than 500 feet. Bikes are allowed on all roads and trails on the easement but are prohibited from entering Pepperbox Wilderness.

On the Oswegatchie CE, biking is allowed on all roads.

Fishing

fishing

General information on fishing includes fishing tips with links to seasons, rules and regulations.

Mud, Buck and Wolf Ponds are popular brook trout ponds that are stocked annually. Mud Pond, an impoundment of the West Branch of the Oswegatchie River that's located on the small western parcel of the unit, is likely the most popular of the three due to its roadside location and ease of access. It is also readily accessible via Bear Pond Road. Brown bullheads are found in Mud Pond and both French Ponds nearby, and Mud Pond also contains pumpkinseed. Very low density wild brook trout populations have been identified in Desert, Lost and Little Mudhole Ponds in the middle of the main parcel.

Most of the area's named streams are either known to or believed to support naturally spawning populations of brook trout and/or associated fish species such as black nosed dace, creek chub, white sucker, and brown bullhead. Palmer Creek and its tributary streams, which cross the upper part of the small western parcel of the unit, support wild brook trout populations which are considered a heritage Adirondack genetic strain. A 2002 survey of remote sections of Wolf Creek, which forms part of the eastern boundary of the main part of the unit, found wild brook trout throughout its 3.2-mile length as well. The area's larger flowing water bodies, the Middle and West Branches of the Oswegatchie River, also support wild populations of brook trout and other associated fish species. These populations appear to be small, however.

All lakes and ponds in the complex are affected by acid precipitation and some can't support fish populations. The area's rivers and streams are also known to be impacted, but not to the degree of the lakes and ponds.

There are several bodies of water on the Croghan Tract CE that provide fishing opportunities. Brook trout can be found in Fish Creek and Roaring Brook, and smallmouth bass can be found in the Soft Maple Reservoir. Sand Pond on the neighboring Pepperbox Wilderness contains brook trout, brown bullhead and pumpkinseed.

All bodies of water on the Oswegatchie CE are open to fishing. Cold Spring Creek, Palmer Creek, Silver Dawn Lake, and the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River are all brook trout fisheries.

Help Protect Native Adirondack Fish; populations of brook trout, round whitefish and other native Adirondack fish species have severely declined due to introduced fish.

Hunting & Trapping

huntingtrapping

Wildlife Management Unit: 6J

General information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules and regulations.

White-tailed deer and black bear are commonly found here. Fur-bearers include beaver, coyote, fisher, otter, red fox and bobcat. Pine marten have also recently become established in the general area.

Hunting is permitted on WETWF and the Croghan Tract CE. Public hunting is not permitted on the Oswegatchie CE from September 1 to December 31 (year-round hunting will be allowed starting in 2020).

Hunters and trappers on the Croghan Tract CE can park in one of the four designated parking areas or in one of the numerous pull-off spots along Main Haul Road. All of the snowmobile trails, roads, roadways and lands can be traveled on foot by hunters and trappers. Trespassing on the 1-acre posted areas around leased cabins is prohibited.

Trapping is allowed during appropriate seasons on the Oswegatchie CE. Hunting is only allowed between January 1 and August 31. Hunting rights between September and December are reserved by the Molphus Woodlands Group, LLC, until December 31, 2019.

Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River in winter

Snowmobiling

snowmobiling

General information on snowmobiling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

The trail system on the WETWF provides a connecting link between the Croghan-Belfort and Number Four Road-Brantingham areas of Lewis County and the Star Lake area of St. Lawrence County. Main corridor trails cross the Croghan Tract and Oswegatchie conservation easements and a portion of the Forest Preserve lands.

The Tunnel Road/Number 1 Road provide winter access to the northern portion of WETWF.

The Steam Sleigh Trail and the Bald to Buckhorn Trail provide connections between the trail system on the Croghan Tract and Oswegatchie easements. The Steam Sleigh Trail has been designated as part of Corridor C8 under the state snowmobile trail system. The Bald to Buckhorn Trail provides a connection to the trail system near Belfort and Croghan.

Snowmobile Trails:

  • Steam Sleigh Trail (1.0 miles) - Long Pond Road south to Prentice Road; C8
  • Doc Woods Trail (0.6 miles) - Long Pond Road south to Prentice Road
  • Bald to Buckthorn Trail (1.5 miles) - Buckhorn Road to Bald Mountain Road; S50

Roads on unit open to snowmobiles:

  • Bear Pond Road (8.4 miles)
  • Wolf Pond Road (0.4 miles)
  • Deep Cuts Road (1.1 miles)
  • Buck Pond Road (0.3 miles)
  • Tunnel Road (0.6 miles)
  • Number 1 Road (2.4 miles)

On the Croghan Tract CE, three snowmobile routes - C8, S87, and S85 - pass through the property and connect with the area's snowmobile trail network. Routes may vary from year to year due to active timber harvests.

On the Oswegatchie CE, snowmobiling is allowed only on designated snowmobile corridors and trails. Routes C5, C8, S50, S82, and S84 cross the property.

Snowmobile maps are available from local snowmobile associations.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

cross-country skiingsnowshoeing

General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails.

Cross country skiers and snowshoers can enjoy miles of roads and trails in the Croghan Tract CE. The gentle terrain provides great skiing opportunities for people of all skill levels.

The Oswegatchie CE is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. There are no designated or maintained trails but roads can be used.

Horseback Riding

horseback riding

General information on horseback riding includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Horseback riding is allowed on the WETWF but there are no specific facilities for such recreation.

Horseback riders can enjoy miles of roads and trails in the Croghan Tract CE. The gentle terrain and woodlands provide a great riding opportunity. Several locations along Main Haul Road are suitable to park a horse trailer. Horses are not permitted on the Sand Pond Trail however.

The Oswegatchie CE is open to horseback riding but there are no designated horse trails. The roads on the property can be used.

Wildlife

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

Mammals that can be found here include white‐tailed deer, black bear, moose, beaver, coyote, fisher, otter, bobcat, pine marten, coyote, red fox, gray fox, and a variety of bats, birds and smaller mammals. Reptiles and amphibians that can be found here include snapping turtles and a variety of salamanders, frogs, toads and snakes.

This unit supports a relatively high diversity of birds, including common loon, wood duck, American black duck, great blue heron, hooded merganser, common merganser, Cooper's hawk, broad-winged hawk, ruffed grouse, killdeer, northern flicker, and a variety of song birds and marsh birds, plus the NYS-threatened Northern Harrier.

Accessible Features

accessible

General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

Currently there are several universally accessible improvements in the WETWF:

There are two accessible features on the Croghan Tract CE:

  • Soft Maple Reservoir Waterway Access Site provides an accessible parking space on a hardened lot along Fish Creek.
  • Sand Pond Accessible Trail: An 800-foot trail suitable for use with mobility devices leads from Main Haul Road to Sand Pond in the neighboring Pepperbox Wilderness. It passes through a woodland setting, crossing two small wetland areas over an elevated wooden boardwalk as it winds along toward the lake shore. There is a lake view available at the end of the trail.

Directions

The properties in this complex are easily reached from the west by State Route 812 which runs through the village of Croghan.

The Croghan Tract CE has four parking areas to use for accessing the area as well as numerous pull-off spots along Main Haul Road.

NOTE: Access to the lands and waters of this complex is via seasonal access roads which are used by snowmobiles in the winter and closed during the spring mud season.

Oswegatchie CE has no designated parking areas at this time, but there are plenty of old landings and places to pull off. Several roads on the easement are open to motor vehicles and provide access to portions of other state lands. Public motor vehicle access to the Oswegatchie Easement may be gained by Bald Mountain or Bear Pond Road off Long Pond Road. Access by foot from the adjacent Frank E. Jadwin Memorial State Forest, east of Jerden Falls Road and Blanchard Creek Truck Trail is also possible. Restricted motor vehicle access for recreational canoeing on the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River is allowed along Mullins Flow Road, an extension of Bryant's Bridge Road. Mullins Flow Road will be open throughout the recreational canoeing season. The easement property begins at 1.5 miles inside the Mullins Flow Road gate and parking is not permitted until you enter the easement lands.

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Parking Areas and Trailheads

  • Long Pond Road Parking Area and Trailhead for the Keck Trail on the WETWF and James Pond Trail on the neighboring Pepperbox Wilderness (43.994581°N, 75.179267°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Bear Pond Road Parking Area leading to accessible features at Buck Pond (43.99560°N, 75.06192°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Sand Pond Accessible Trail Parking Area is located on the Main Haul Road (43.949751°N, 75.165331°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • South Sand Pond Parking Area is located at the end of Sand Pond Road on the neighboring Pepperbox Wilderness (43.943008°N, 75.159407°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • North Sand Pond Parking Area is located at the end of Jakes Pond Road on the neighboring Pepperbox Wilderness (43.960623°N, 75.153227°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Mud Pond Parking Area, 4 car capacity (43.980123°N, 75.216143°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Long Pond Road Parking Area, 2 car capacity (43.977119°N, 75.232152°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Mullins Flow Road Parking Area, 2 car capacity (1 accessible) (44.070268°N, 75.154197°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Bald Mountain Road Entrance to the Oswegatchie CE provides access to the middle of the easement. There is no designated parking. (44.046436°N, 75.210181°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Bear Pond Road Entrance to the Oswegatchie CE provides access to the southern part of the easement. There is no designated parking. (44.001396°N, 75.168419°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).

Hand Launches

  • Clear Pond Hand Launch is located on Clear Pond Road off of Long Pond Road (43.98244°N, 75.22547°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Rock Pond Hand Launch on Bald Mountain Road (43.99398°N, 75.20076°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Long Pond Hand Launch on the south side of the pond off of Prentice Road (43.97569°N, 75.19619°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • West Branch Oswegatchie River Hand Launch off Long Pond Road, on north end of Mud Pond - 5 car capacity (43.980413°N, 75.215940°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Soft Maple Reservoir Waterway Access Site and Parking Area is located on the Main Haul Road and has a hand launch and an accessible parking space on a hardened lot (43.921221°N, 75.207037°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating in the Adirondacks to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts other backcountry users.

All users of the Watson's East Triangle Complex must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Specific Rules for the Croghan Tract Conservation Easement

  • All public access and recreation on this property is subject to the pending Recreation Management Plan.
  • Public motor vehicle access to these lands is restricted to access roads signed as open to motor vehicles, or public highways. Access roads may be closed seasonally.
  • Snowmobile use is permitted on designated and signed roads and trails.
  • Public hunting, fishing and trapping are permitted on both conservation easement and forest preserve lands subject to standard NYS regulations.
  • Private lease camps exist on the property. Please respect posted signs. Trespassing is prohibited on the 1 acre of land around each cabin. Easement lands are private property; please respect the rights of the landowner and its lessees.
  • Public recreation may not be allowed during timber harvest operations and access roads may be closed seasonally.
  • Please do not trespass on adjacent private lands. The boundaries of conservation easement lands are generally marked with yellow paint blazes and signed with conservation easement signage.

Specific Rules for the Oswegatchie Conservation Easement

  • Public access across the properties by foot, snowshoes, skis and horses is allowed.
  • Vehicular use on the easement is allowed only over presently established roads that are marked open to public motor vehicles. These roads are not open to public ATV use, though you may encounter ATVs operated by camp lessees. No off road use by vehicles is permitted.
  • Travel on any navigable stream crossing the properties is allowed by canoe and other means of non-motorized travel and access. Canoeing/kayaking (including the right to portage around obstacles when necessary) is also allowed on the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River between the western edge of the easement and Bryant's Bridge, though this section of river and shore owned by Molpus Woodlands Group, LLC is otherwise closed to public use.
  • Primitive camping is allowed at least 150 feet from any road, trail, spring, stream, pond or any body of water. Camping at one location four or more nights or in a group of 10 or more requires a permit from the local Forest Ranger. Please note that no camping by the public is allowed along the right-of-way across the private lands leading into the easement property.
  • Fishing and trapping are allowed on the property in accordance with NYS regulations.
  • Firewood may be gathered only from dead and downed trees, and only for on-site use, for cooking and warmth.
  • Littering is prohibited.
  • Molpus Woodlands Group, LLC retains the right to harvest timber on lands subject to conservation easements. Areas undergoing active timber harvesting or road construction may be posted as closed by Molpus, in the interest of public safety.
  • Hunting
    • Public Hunting on this property is allowed only between January 1 and August 31. Hunting rights between September and December are reserved by Molpus Woodlands Group, LLC until December 31, 2019.
    • All hunting, fishing and trapping must be in accordance with DEC regulations.

How We Manage Watson's East Triangle Complex

DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Watson's East Triangle Wild Forest Unit Management Plan. DEC has developed a draft Oswegatchie Conservation Easement Recreation Management Plan which describes the proposed management activities for those lands. In addition to management objectives, the plans contain detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more. DEC has begun drafting a Recreation Management Plan for the Croghan Tract CE.

If you have questions and/or comments about these management plans, please email us at r6.ump@dec.ny.gov.

History

The entire management unit has a long history of lumbering. At the site of the Old Number 1 Camp are the remains of a sawmill and associated buildings. There is also an old steam boiler which was used to power the sawmill. The boiler, which weighed nearly 16 tons, was brought to the area by T.B. Basselin, a prominent early lumberman. As the timber supply within one area became depleted the boiler was relocated and another mill constructed. A wooden dam exists on the West Branch of the Oswegatchie River creating Mud Pond. This dam was used for Sweet's Sawmill during the 1800s. Historical recreational uses of the area have revolved mostly around hunting and fishing. The road system on these areas provided access for hunting in remote areas and access to many lakes and ponds.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Gas can be found in the nearby communities of Carthage, Croghan, Harrisville, Lowville and Star Lake.
Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Carthage, Croghan, Harrisville, Lowville and Star Lake.
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Carthage, Croghan, Eagle Bay, Harrisville, Lowville and Star Lake.
Lodging can be found in the nearby communities of Carthage, Eagle Bay, Lowville and Star Lake.

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (leaves DEC website), Lewis County Tourism Council (leaves DEC website) and Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.


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