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Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness Area

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Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness Locator Map

Ha-De-Ron-Dah, like the legendary Phoenix was reborn and rose again. In the early 1900's, this was the site of one of the most destructive forest fires in New York State. Today, this small wilderness is a refreshing place of trees, lands and water, and a monument to those who believe that with a little protection and wise use, you can have a thing of beauty forever. To know that this place shall never be developed, altered or civilized, but shall instead be forever wild, and to know that Middle Settlement shall be the same over the next century as it is today, is certainly sufficient grist for the mill of wilderness stewardship.

Compared to the grandeur of a "high peaks" wilderness experience, Ha-De-Ron-Dah may at first appear to have little to offer. Its proximity to urban areas however, makes the unit of priceless value to those who treasure wilderness and the solitude that it provides and well worth the effort to explore the miles of trails.


There are two lean-tos on the unit, one is located on Middle Branch Lake and the other at Middle Settlement Lake. Privies are located at both lean-to sites. These are prime camping sites. There are no additional designated campsites on the unit, but primitive camping more than 150 feet from a road, trail or the water is allowed. See the web page on State Land Camping and Hiking Rules for more information.


The brown and yellow sign of the Forest Preserve

The unit has approximately 35 miles of foot trails. These trails do not receive a high level of maintenance, especially in the northern part of the Wilderness area. This provides the Forest Preserve user an opportunity to enjoy the area in its natural state. Wilderness areas are not for everyone.

There are several marked trails. More complete descriptions can be found in the Unit Management Plan.

Big Otter Trail is the longest trail at 7.8 miles, Thendara to Big Otter Lake. This former truck trail is now closed to vehicular use by 2 barriers at Thendara. The Big Otter Trail is an officially designated novice ski trail and is also designated as a horse trail. Equestrian use is presently limited to the 7.6 mile section previously used as a truck trail.

In addition to the Big Otter Trail, cross-country skiing opportunities on unit foot trails are as follows:
Scusa Access Trail to Big Otter Trail via Middle Settlement and Middle Branch Lakes. (Intermediate) 5.5 miles
Middle Settlement Lake to Pine Lake via Middle Settlement Lake Trail and Lost Lake Trail. (Expert) 4.8 miles


The area is open for hunting and trapping though not notable for any particular species. Most commonly pursued species are deer and bear. For someone looking to enhance their chances of success scouting is a must. The animals are few and far between so knowing what they are feeding on as the fall progresses and where they may be feeding is very important.


There are 5 lakes and 16 ponds of significant surface acreage in this unit. Of these waters, nine are known to support fish life. The remaining ponds are too shallow, too small, or require additional study. These lakes and ponds are scattered throughout the area. Ten are accessible by an existing trail system, though quite a hike in some cases.

Also occurring in this area is a portion of the Independence River and many small streams, six of which are named, (Indian Brook, Pine Creek, Lost Creek, South Inlet, Middle Branch Creek and Middle Settlement Creek.) At least part of each stream is close to an existing trail and, therefore, limited user access is possible.

Brook trout provide fair to good fishing in Pine, Middle Settlement and Middle Branch Lakes and Cedar, Mud Hole and Grass Ponds. Some of these ponds are stocked. Brown bullheads and yellow perch may provide some limited fishing opportunities in Pine Lake, Little Pine Lake, East Pine Pond, Mud Hole Pond and Rock Pond. Of all the streams, only Indian Brook and the Independence River have been surveyed. Native, naturally reproducing brook trout are found in both of these waters.


The Ha-De-Ron-Dah terrain features hilly, rocky, scenic views, with a variety of streams, swamps, meadows, lakes and ponds. It has tranquil, rolling woodland areas and interesting rock-faced shorelines on ponds and lakes. Big Otter Lake, part of the Independence River Wild Forest lies adjacent to the northwest boundary of the area and it is the largest, most scenic of the many lakes in the vicinity. There are no outstanding topographic features in this Wilderness Area. Unit elevations have a total difference of 800 feet and they rise from l,500 feet in the western portion to the higher hill elevations in the east which do not exceed 2,360 feet. The area appears as gently rounded, rocky hills, interspersed with swamps, beaver meadows, small streams, ponds and lakes.


The Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness contains 26,600 acres and is located in the western foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, west of the hamlet of Old Forge and the Fulton Chain of Lakes. The Wilderness Area is readily accessible by car, lying 45 miles north of Utica and the Thruway, via Routes 12 and 28. There are 21,500 acres located in Herkimer County, Town of Webb and 5,100 acres in Lewis County, Town of Greig. Ha-De-Ron-Dah is located in Townships #1, 2 and 7 of the early land purchase known as John Brown's Tract of Macomb's Purchase. It is roughly bordered on the east by Route 28; on the south by the Copper Lake Road, Copper Lake exception and the Abbey Trail; on the west by Pine Creek and a DEC-maintained trail from Eight Foot Creek to Big Otter Lake; and on the north by private land.


Trailhead Parking Areas are located on the eastern and western edges of the area.
In Herkimer County Off State Route 28 on the southeaster side;

  • At the end of Tower Road, north of the hamlet of Thendara,
  • A DOT parking area on Route 28, 3 miles south of the Thendara railroad station,
  • A DEC parking area North of Okara Lakes, and
  • South of the Cooper Lake Road, accessible from Route 28 near Gull Lake. Take Jones Road north and travel ½ mile to the state boundary and parking lot.

In Lewis County;

  • Past Brantingham on the Steam Mill Road several miles to the Drunkard Creek barrier and trailhead parking lot, and
  • Past Brantingham near the end of the Partridgeville Road, on the south side of Otter Creek.

Most trailhead parking areas provide registration books. Please take the time to sign in and out.


The word Ha-De-Ron-Dah is the Iroquois name for "eater of trees". This name was contemptuously bestowed by the Iroquois upon their rivals, the Algonquins, back in the early history of the Adirondacks. The guttural Iroquois pronunciation of this name sounded, to early white traders, like "Adirondack".

The current history starts with John Brown of Providence, Rhode Island and Revolutionary War fame, who purchased part of the Macomb holdings and built John Brown's Remsen Road. The road followed old Native American trails from what is now Remsen and crossed the Black and Moose Rivers east of the present highway to Old Forge. Little or no evidence of this historic road is presently visible or marked.


DEC manages these lands in accordance with management activities described in the Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan. That unit management plan was most recently updated in January of 1995. This document outlines the Unit's natural and man-made resources and proposes management actions based on the condition of these resources and their ability to sustain use.

Important Phone Numbers

Forest Fire, Search and Rescue: (518) 891-0235 (24 hours a day) or dial 911.
Turn in Poachers and Polluters: 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) - call the TIPPs hotline to report any environmental violations or report it online.