McDonough State Forest
McDonough State Forest (Chenango Reforestation Areas # 1 and 11) is located ten miles West of Norwich, in the gently rolling hills of the Allegheny Plateau. From the fire tower atop Berry Hill, the forested landscape unfolds like a richly textured tapestry of lush sylvan growth. Plantations of spruce and pine define the boundaries of long abandoned farm fields and natural woods form an ocean of foliage that would remind the town's namesake, Commodore McDonough, of some distant sea. On closer inspection one will discover that the forest offers a diversity of habitats and histories ranging from the graveyards and stone fences of Roger's Street to ancient hemlocks and ice age formations along the Finger Lake's Trail.
Beginning in 1804 settlers began to arrive from New England and were quick to exploit the region's wealth of natural resources. Timber, stone and water were cut, mined and harnessed and within fifty years most of the pre-settlement forest had been transformed into agricultural land. By the late 19th century, however, declining productivity of upland farms, the lure of the city and its industrial jobs, and the availability of what were advertised as more fertile lands in the American frontier, "go west young man", resulted in increasing rates of abandonment. Concern was growing over the local economic impact of migration and agricultural abandonment and as early as 1920 the Norwich Chamber of Commerce and Chenango County Fish, Game and Gun Club were advocating public land acquisition for conservation purposes. Following passage of the Hewett Amendment and the State Reforestation Act in 1929, Chenango County became an early focus of state land acquisition efforts.
Chimney at the site of former CCC camp
McDonough State Forest has the distinction of being the first reforestation area in Chenango County, and soon after acquisition, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) were dispatched to plant millions of trees, construct bridges, roads and ponds and conduct other forest improvement activities. The first Chenango County CCC camp was a tent barracks located near Steers Pond that provided temporary accommodation for 180 African American enrollees. A more permanent camp was established in McDonough in June 1933 and could accommodate 200 men. Camp # 3 was active through 1941 and during its eight year history 1,500 men passed through its gates. A stone chimney located southeast of Bliven Pond along State Route 220 marks the site where Camp # 3 once stood.
A number of recreational opportunities are available on McDonough State Forest. Both the Finger Lakes Trail and the New York State Corridor Snowmobile Trail pass through the forest, and many of the unpaved town roads are ideal for mountain biking and horseback riding. Whaley's Pond, Bowman Creek, Mill Brook and some of their smaller tributaries offer good fishing opportunities, and the upland woods support diverse wildlife populations. For good food, drink and local news, make a stop in the hamlets of McDonough and East McDonough. Bowman Creek State Park is centrally located within the McDonough State Forest and provides camping, swimming and other developed recreational facilities.
Today, McDonough and all State Forests in New York are managed for multiple benefits to serve the needs of the people of New York. Sustainable forestry practices will ensure a perpetual supply of timber, a diversity of wildlife habitats, compatible recreational opportunities and clean water. The underlying State Forest management philosophy is to consider today's natural resource demands while not compromising opportunities for future generations.
CCC Historic Site
Interpretive Sign at CCC Site
This picnic area is located within the historic remains of a Civilian Conservation Corps encampment in McDonough State Forest. The site includes an accessible picnic table and a large interpretive sign with a map of the state forest that shows the way to Kopac Pond accessible trail.
Located on Bliven-Sherman Road, this site features a smooth, hard-packed 1/5-mile accessible trail that loops through the hemlock forest. The trail is very shaded and cool on a hot summer day. The trail maintains interest as it crosses level but rolling ground that is broken by very small, rounded hillocks, originally lifted by tree roots. At the end of the trail, there is an accessible observation deck that overlooks the pond.
Officially the pond is unnamed; it lies immediately south of Whaley Pond and there is a stream that connects the two.
Full listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations.
McDonough State Forest and CCC Historic Site
To gain access to this historic State Forest, from Oxford, take State Highway 220 heading West. The entrance to the Forest will be located to the North. Look for the historic chimney and the State Forest sign.
In East McDonough, turn right on Bowman Road, proceed north 1 mile, turn left on Bliven-Sherman Road, the site will be on your right. Or stop at CCC Historic Site for interpretive map and directions
State Forest Regulations
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.
State Forest Office (M-F am-4 pm): 607-674-4017
Forest Ranger (Law Enforcement/Emergencies): 607-648-6247
DEC Forest Ranger Dispatch: 518-408-5850