Tug Hill State Forest
State Reforestation Areas Jefferson #3, #4, #5 and Lew-Jeff #2
This 12,242-acre state forest, actually a combination of four neighboring forests, is so named because it is located entirely on the Tug Hill Plateau, an area that is renowned for its harsh winters and heavy snowfalls. Much of the forest is formerly abandoned agricultural land which was purchased by the state in the 1930's for around $4 per acre. Immediately after the property was acquired, state tree planting crews reforested the depleted farm fields to white spruce, white pine, red pine, and, to a lesser degree, other conifer species. Today, these early tree planting efforts are evidenced by the many softwood plantations that exist on the forest. Under the care and custody of the State's foresters, these early plantings, along with natural hardwood and softwood stands, have matured and are now producing a wide variety of forest products.
In July 1995, a severe windstorm or "microburst" swept through the area, devastating hundreds of acres of timber and leaving in its wake dramatic scars to the landscape that will continue to be evident to future generations. The more valuable downed timber was purchased and salvaged by numerous local loggers under contract with the state. Many roads and recreational trails were temporarily blocked by trees that had been downed by the storm. In addition to the commercial logging operations, NYSDEC's Operations personnel and local volunteers joined forces and pitched in to reopen these routes in very short order.
Because of the heavy snow cover that this area endures for nearly half of the year, it is no surprise that winter sports such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing, dogsledding, and cross-country skiing dominate the local recreational scene. Other popular outdoor activities include white-tailed deer and snowshoe hare hunting, woodland hiking and biking, and brook trout fishing. Access to the area is provided by over 16 miles of graveled forest roads and is highlighted by the well known 13.2 mile Barnes Corners Cross-country Ski Trail System.
From Watertown, take US Interstate 81 south to exit 42. Make a left onto State Route #177 east and proceed 10 miles.