New Michigan State Forest
New Michigan State Forest is located in the towns of Plymouth and Pharsalia in Chenango County. Access is made easy by the nine mile Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Truck Trail that passes atop a forested plateau and offers visitors many perspectives for understanding the landscape's natural and cultural history. Dark stands of planted spruce are interrupted by wide open vistas created after a tornado touched down on the forest in 1998. The roadside fire ponds with laid up stone and neatly channeled waterways recall the fastidious work of the CCC. A woodland cemetery pays tribute to Revolutionary War heros, and the miles and miles of stone walls are monuments to the brute labor necessary for transforming forest into farmland. The cows and plows are gone but the walls remain as a reminder of both a faded agriculture and nature's power to reclaim the fields with lush sylvan growth.
Following the 1788 treaty signed at Fort Schuyler between Governor Clinton and the Oneidas, what had previously been referred to as terra incognita- "unknown land"- was suddenly the twenty towns of Chenango County. In 1797 John Randall and seven other families arrived from Connecticut and began to carve a claim deep within the New York wilderness. A tell tale sign of the area's shallow soils and marginal farming conditions is revealed in Randall's choice of Stonington as the towns's original name. He may have been persuaded by land speculators to select a name more attractive to the wave of immigrants arriving from the east, because by 1808 the town was changed to Pharsalia. Despite the name change, poor soils resulted in high rates of farm abandonment such that by 1923 the population of Pharsalia had dropped to one half its 1850 level. With high rates of abandonment, Pharsalia became an early focus of state land acquisition programs and today nearly one half of the town is in public ownership.
Approximately 40% of New Michigan State Forest is in conifer plantations established by the CCC with the remaining area in mature stands of northern hardwoods. The Pharsalia Woods, within which New Michigan is located, support a number of interior nesting bird species and has been designated by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Recreational use of New Michigan State Forest has increased substantially in the last ten years. Hunting, nordic skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, hiking and wildlife observation are some of the more important uses of the forest. With six miles of the Finger Lakes Trail and eleven miles of the NYS Snowmobile Corridor Trail, the forest attracts visitors from throughout the region.
Perhaps the most striking feature on New Michigan is the large swath of open land that resulted following the May 1998 tornado. Approximately 900 acres of land were impacted by the tornado, and all trees within this area were either uprooted, shattered or broken at some point along the main stem. Timber salvage operations with varying intensities of utilization were conducted on 700 acres with the remaining 200 acres left untreated due to sensitive soils, low timber value and for the purpose of retaining controls for comparative studies. Reforestation within the tornado zone has focused on promoting conditions favorable for natural regeneration of native species, restoring vegetation along riparian zones and reestablishing a conifer component on select plantation sites. To date, 30,000 conifer and hardwood seedlings have been planted in the tornado zone.
New Michigan State Forest is part of the Pharsalia Wods Unit Management Plan. A Unit Management Plan (UMP) guides the DEC's land management activities on several geographically related forests for a ten-year period, although a number of goals and objectives in the plan focus on a much longer time period. Each UMP addresses specific objectives and actions for public use and forest management.
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.
- All motorized vehicles are restricted to access roads posted as motor vehicle trails. Off road use of motorized vehicles, such as ATVs, 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.
- No permanent structures should be established, including tree stands or blinds.
From Norwich, take State Highway 23 to the North Road. Travel South on the North Road through two intersections. The second intersection is the State Forest Access Road. Turn left to enter the heart of the forest.
State Forest Office (M-F 8am-4pm): 607-674-4017
Forest Ranger (Evenings, Weekends and Holidays): 607-316-3291
DEC Forest Ranger Dispatch: 518-408-5850