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Tooley Pond Conservation Easement Tract

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In 1999 the State of New York purchased 29,000 acres in fee and an additional 110,000 acres of conservation easements from Champion International Corporation. This acquisition consists of three noncontiguous blocks, known as the Santa Clara, Tooley Pond and Croghan tracts, covering portions of ten towns in Franklin, St. Lawrence, Herkimer and Lewis Counties. The fee lands were purchased for their outstanding natural resource values, significant stretches of high quality recreational water, and other recreational opportunities. The acquisition of a conservation easement on the remaining lands will keep those lands as working forests while providing public recreation opportunities. This web page deals exclusively with the Tooley Pond Tract portion of these lands. These tracts are currently owned by Heartwood Forestland Fund III, LP and Jackson Timberlands Opportunities.

Location and Access

The Tooley Pond tract is located in the northwestern portion of the Adirondack Park in south central St. Lawrence County, within the towns of Clare and Clifton.

From the south or east: Turn north on Tooley Pond Road from NY Route 3, about a mile west of the hamlet of Cranberry Lake. You will enter the parcel approximately four miles north of Route 3.

From the north and west: Tooley Pond Road is located three-quarters of a mile east of the hamlet of Degrasse, along St. Lawrence County Route 27.

Accessible Features

The Tooley Pond Campsite and Waterway Access provides access a remote waterway in the southeastern Town of Clare that is popular with local campers and canoers. The waterway access, picnic and camping site, renovated in 2011, features an accessible path to the water's edge and designated accessible parking, along with an accessible tent camping site across the road. The campsite features a new accessible privy, a large area with a hardened surface, and an accessible picnic table with a great view of the pond.

Directions: Tooley Pond is located on the Tooley Pond Road, approximately six miles northwest of State Route 3 in Cranberry Lake and approximately 12 miles southeast of County Route 27 in the Town of Russell.

Full listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations.

Enjoying the Tooley Pond Tract

The river from the east boundary to New Bridge (where Tooley Pond Rd. crosses the S. Branch of the Grass) is relatively inaccessible except where Spruce Mountain Road crosses. The falls and rapids are relatively well dispersed on this section from the east boundary to just above Rainbow Falls. That makes this upper section of the river very suitable for canoeing. It can be accessed by taking the Spruce Mtn. Road off Tooley Pond Rd., driving north about a mile to a parking/water access site just before the bridge over the river. Upriver, there is a carry around Deerlick Rapids and then it is flatwater to the boundary of the easement, with a couple of designated campsites along the way. Down river, there is a campsite about ¼ mile below the Spruce Mtn. Rd. Bridge, carries around Long and Brumagin Rapids, as well as at the very scenic Copper Rock Falls. There is a campsite and takeout just above Rainbow Falls at First Brook. The section below Rainbow Falls has numerous waterfalls and rapids spaced fairly close together and is easily accessible from Tooley Pond Rd. This makes it more suitable for expert kayakers, and for shoreline users, such as anglers and hikers, interested in exploring the falls and the fishing holes.

Public Recreation

The following apply to the Tooley Pond Tract:

  1. All public access and recreation on this property is subject to the pending Recreation Management Plan.
  2. Public motor vehicle access to these lands is restricted to signed, designated access roads or public highways. Access roads may be closed seasonally.
  3. Snowmobile use is permitted on designated roads and trails.
  4. Public hunting, fishing and trapping are permitted on both conservation easement and forest preserve lands subject to standard NYS regulations.
  5. Please adhere to signage noting closures due to forest management activities. Also, please respect camp leases on the property.
  6. Please do not trespass on adjacent private lands. The perimeter of Easement lands are generally marked with yellow paint blazes and signed with Easement signage, or with Forest Preserve signage if the easement land is adjacent to Forest Preserve.

Land and Waters

The major feature of the area is the South Branch of the Grass River, but Tooley Pond Mountain and Tooley Pond are also significant. These three features are on forest preserve lands, approximately 6,000 of the 30,000 acres within the Tooley Pond Tract. The predominant naturally occurring vegetative types include northern hardwood, mixed woods and spruce/fir. Elevations range from 1780' at Tooley Pond Mountain to 840' near Degrasse.

Waters in the area comprise portions of the Grass River and Oswegatchie River watersheds, both part of the greater St. Lawrence River Drainage Basin. The South Branch of the Grass River is by far the dominant water body of the unit. A meandering 16-mile stretch of this river bisects the tract. Nine other named streams, all tributary to the Grass River, are also located within the area. In addition to the flowing water bodies, the area contains five named lakes and ponds, covering approximately 100 acres.

The area contains numerous scenic resources. The predominant ones include Tooley Pond Mountain and Tooley Pond, and on the South Branch of the Grass, Deerlick Rapids, Long Rapids, Brumagin Rapids, Copper Rock Rapids, Rainbow Falls, Flat Rock Falls, Twin Falls, Sinclair Falls and Basford Falls. Visits to these locations are the primary public use of the property.

image of Champion Land


Like most of the northwestern Adirondacks, the Tooley Pond area remained largely unexplored until the second half of the nineteenth century. After iron was discovered in the area in the 1860's, a blast furnace and mine were established just to the west, in Clifton. The community of Clarksboro was founded in 1866 on the shore of the South Branch of the Grass River near Twin Falls. Clarksboro contained an iron furnace and a water-powered sawmill. Iron mining continued in the region until the 1950's. For much of its history, timber production was the primary use of most of the property. In 1906, the community of Newbridge, also along the South Branch of the Grass River, was founded for employees of the Robert W. Higbie Lumber Company. A railroad which connected Newbridge to Newton Falls operated until 1919. It later was extended to an inholding on the property to mine iron, from WWII to about 1952.

Fish and Wildlife

The area's ponds and rivers appear to support brook trout, brown trout, pumpkinseed, white sucker and/or brown bullhead, along with non indigenous fish species, such as golden shiner and yellow perch. At present, fish are not being stocked in the unit.

Wildlife are also plentiful throughout the Tooley Pond Tract. A visitor to this area may likely see or hear white-tailed deer, black bear, coyote, fisher, snowshoe hare, and an occasional moose. Along the river corridors, muskrat, mink, raccoon and otter abound. Osprey and bald eagle can occasionally be seen soaring high above or perched on a tree limb along the edge of a pond or stream. Loon have been known to nest in the area. Raven, gray jay and eagle frequent the area as well. In the more boreal forests, one can find songbirds, warbler, flycatcher, three-toed woodpecker and the rare spruce grouse.

River Hazards

Natural hazards, such as over-hanging trees, log jams, waterfalls, rocks, rapids and boulders are present. At different water levels a given section of river may be easier or more difficult to pass through. Visitors are advised to assess each situation based on their own abilities to navigate portions of the river. It is recommended that guidebooks be obtained and read carefully before canoeing, kayaking, rafting or boating any part of the river.

Information Requests, Camping Permits, and Suggestions

If you would like additional information on the Tooley Pond Tract or on any other lands administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation please consult the DEC Supervising Forester at the office below. Normal office hours are Monday - Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.

In case of an emergency (24 hours/day): Forest Fire, Search and Rescue - (518) 891-0235

The Department of Environmental Conservation welcomes suggestions on how to improve the management of this area. Please send your suggestions to:

Supervising Forester
190 Outer Main Street, Suite 103
Potsdam, NY 13676
(315) 265-3090

If you require additional information regarding the fishing and hunting regulations and licenses and other DEC programs, consult the office listed below. Normal office hours are Monday - Friday 8:30 am to 4:45 pm.

DEC Region 6 Headquarters
State Office Building
Watertown, NY 13601
(315) 785-2263

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