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Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement

Madwaska Flow/Quebec Brook Primitive Area
Deer River Primitive Area

NOTE: A downloadable map of the Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement Lands is under development, a link to the map will be found here when the map is completed.

Additional Mapping Resources

Map showing location of Santa Clara Tract in the Adirondack Park

Public Access to Santa Clara Tract and Madawaska Flow

Since July 2012, the road that provides access to the Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement Lands and the Madwaska Flow/Quebec Brook Primitive Area has been closed to public access. The gate was closed by the owner of the lands lying between State Route 458 and the conservation easement lands over which the road crosses. DEC is actively seeking a solution to this issue and plans to reestablish public access in the near future.

Increased Public Recreation Opportunities

Beginning in this Fall 2012, for the first time since this conservation easement was purchased the public will be able to access and enjoy a broad range of recreational activities all year long on the Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement Lands. The public can now hunt, fish, hike, camp and participate in other recreational activities all year long and on all the lands except those immediately surrounding the hunting camp. Previously these lands were closed to hunting from September 1 to December 31 and closed to the public during the big game hunting season.

See note above regarding public access on the Madawaska Road. While the surrounding conservation easement lands are open to public access, motorized access is extremely limited at this time. The Pinnacle Mountain Parcel, Deer River Parcel and the other parcels north of Route 458 and west of the Blue Mountain Road (aka Azure Mountain Road) do have public access.

Private Leased Camps

Under the conservation easement agreement, now that the lands are open year-round to public recreation the private leased camps can post and enforce against trespass on one acre areas around the camp buildings. Also, in addition to roads open to public motor vehicle access, members of the leased camps have the right to use motor vehicles to access their camps and other areas not open to public motor vehicle access. Respect the rights of the private camps and the camp members.

Conservation Easement Agreement Modification

In March 2012, New York State and Heartwood Forestland Fund III, LP, have amended a conservation easement agreement to allow the landowner to continue leasing recreational camps on the former Champion lands in Franklin, Herkimer, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties. These conservation easement lands include the Santa Clara Tract, the Croghan Tract, and the Tooley Pond Tract. In exchange, Heartwood Forestland will transfer 2,797 acres of valuable wildlife habitat in the Deer River corridor to the state.

More information can be found in the press release and a Frequently Asked Questions web page.

Like all land acquisition projects, a transition period is required to prepare the lands in question for public access. DEC is currently working with Heartwood Forestlands through the regional offices to make sure all necessary measures are in place in preparation for greater public access in the future, including which roads can be opened, lifting of restrictions on public hunting and other related matters.

The lands that were transferred to the state as part of this transaction also need to be classified in accordance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

This web page will be updated as information and plans are finalized.

Santa Clara Tract

The 72,000-acre Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement Lands are comprised of several large contiguous parcels located in the northwestern Adirondack Park. The majority of the tract is located in the Towns of Waverly, Santa Clara and Duane, in Franklin County, a portion of the tract is located in the Town of Hopkinton in St. Lawrence County. The area has a boreal character with a mix of gently rolling hills and low mountains.

There are some restrictions for public access on the conservation easement lands which are described in the Rules and Regulation section below.

Be aware that the Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement Lands are privately owned, actively timbered and leased camps are present. Public access and recreation is allowed with restrictions. Public users of these lands must:

  • Travel on roads and corridors designated open to the public
  • Not travel beyond any closed gates with motorized vehicles (whether locked or not)
  • Park in designated parking areas only - don't block gates or roadways
  • Expect to see logging trucks, skidders and other logging activity
  • Be aware that much of these lands are leased to private sports groups that have access rights that the public does not have - please respect the rights of the lessees.

Lands along the major river corridors in and around the Santa Clara Tract are part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and include the 6,200-acre Madwaska Flow/Quebec Brook Primitive Area, the 1830-acre Deer River Primitive Area and western portions of the Debar Mountain Wild Forest. The forest preserve lands and conservation easement lands are integrally related in regards to both ecology and recreation, and both are included on this web page.

Forest Preserve Lands vs Conservation Easement Lands

There are different requirements for recreating on the conservation easement lands and the adjacent (or nearby) forest preserve lands. Users must be aware of which lands they are recreating on and the rules and regulations that apply. The maps depict the type of land and their boundaries. The boundaries of forest preserve lands are signed. Do not trespass on private lands that are not part of the conservation easement.

Recreation

Most of the public recreational opportunities are found on the forest preserve lands in this area. Hiking, camping, paddling, small game hunting, big game hunting, fishing, biking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are all popular recreational activities on these lands.

All recreational activity on the conservation easement lands must comply with the special rules and regulations for this conservation easement and with state land use regulation. Recreation on forest preserve lands must comply with state land use regulation.

Visitors to the Santa Clara Tract and surrounding forest preserve lands should be properly prepared and equipped for a remote, wildlands experience. Visitors should expect to assume a high degree of responsibility for their own welfare and for environmentally sound use of the area. Know safe hiking practices, camping & hiking rules, how to avoid getting lost (191 kb PDF), state land use regulation and current trail conditions.

Use the links in the right column to obtain important information for recreating on these lands.

Report back country emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Emergency Dispatch at 518-891-0235.

Accessible Opportunities

Accessible logo

Motorized Access Permit for People With Disabilities (MAPPWD) - A 7.7 mile route for 4-wheel drive trucks starts near the end of the Brown Tract Road. Most of the route is on a parcel in St. Lawrence County. It consists of a loop and a spur that provide access to fishing opportunities for people with disabilities between June 1 and August 31. You must be a MAPPWD permit holder (PDF)(446 KB) to use the road.

Accessible fishing site by bridge
One of two accessible fishing sites

Accessible Features - Two accessible fishing sites have been developed on the spur of the MAPPWD route. The two sites are located at stream crossings, which provide shoreline fishing access. The area adjacent to the stream crossings has been upgraded to a smooth stable surface with edge protection, suitable for use with a mobility device. Each resurfaced area is large enough to provide space for 1 vehicle. The sites are found at the Stony Brook crossing and the Weller Pond Outlet crossing along the spur.

See map for the location of the MAPPWD route and the two fishing access sites. DEC welcomes all visitors to explore outdoor recreation on state lands and we are committed to providing an ever-increasing range of accessible opportunities.

Full Listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations

Hiking

There is only one hiking trail on the Santa Clara Tract. It is a moderate 1.5 mile round trip trail up The Pinnacle near the hamlet of Santa Clara. An open ledge near the top provides views of the Santa Clara Flow.

The Azure Mountain Trail, on forest preserve lands, is a moderate 2 mile round trip hike with great views and a refurbished fire tower on the summit.

The Everton Falls Trail is located on Nature Conservancy Lands along the Red Tavern Road. The parking lot for both trails is a short distance east of the eastern intersection of the Everton Road.

The Debar Mountain Trail, the Debar Game Management Area Trail and the Hayes Brook Truck Trail system are nearby.

Be prepared before going into the woods and know what to do if you get lost in the woods.

Camping

Currently no campsites have been designate on the conservation easement lands. Camping is allowed on the conservation easement lands in compliance with state land camping rules. Camping is not allowed on the posted one acre areas around the leased camps.

Camping on forest preserve lands is allowed on designated sites or otherwise in compliance with state land camping rules. Twelve (12) campsites have been designated on the forest preserve lands associated with the Santa Clara Tract all are primarily accessible from the water. Seven (7) campsites are located on the Middle Branch of the St. Regis River - three (3) between Indian Rock and the Iron Bridge and four (4) between the Four Mile Access Road and the Santa Clara Bridge. Five (5) campsites are located on the East Branch of the St. Regis River between the Vanderwalker Road Canoe Access Site and the juncture of the East Branch with the Middle Branch of the St. Regis River.

Camping is also available at the nearby DEC Meacham Lake Campground, the Town of Waverly Campground in St. Regis Falls and a private campground on the Red Tavern Road.

While nuisance black bears are not a big problem in this unit, overnight campers are encouraged to store all food, toiletries and garbage in bear-resistant canisters.

Observe all campfire safety practices. Use only dead and down wood. Don't leave garbage in the fire pit.

Better yet, carry a portable stove. Stoves heat more quickly, are easier to clean and do not leave blackened rocks and partially burned firewood. They are useful in wet rainy weather.

Firewood Alert - Don't Move Firewood!

A new regulation is now in effect that prohibits the import of firewood into New York unless it has been treated to kill pests. The new regulation also limits the transportation of untreated firewood to less than 50 miles from its source.

Bringing your firewood with you? Most people don't realize they move bugs along with their firewood. You could be spreading diseases or insects that can quickly kill large numbers of trees. Our forests are at risk from the transport of firewood infested with tree killers.

Here's how you can help STOP THE SPREAD of these pests:

  • Leave firewood at home-do not transport it to campgrounds or parks.
  • Only purchase firewood that has been harvested in New York State or treated for pests.
  • Burn all firewood brought to the campsite.

See Frequently Asked Questions for more information on firewood regulation.

Paddling

Paddling opportunities are varied and abundant. Quiet flatwater paddles are available on Madawaska Flow, Deer River Flow, Santa Clara Flow and portions of Quebec Brook, the St. Regis River and the East Branch St. Regis River.

Whitewater sections with varying levels of difficulty can also be found on the Deer River and sections of the St. Regis River and the East Branch St. Regis River.

A 6.2 mile section of the Deer River is classified as a Scenic under Environmental Conservation Law. Scenic rivers are free of diversions or impoundments with limited road access. The river corridors are largely primitive and largely undeveloped. Human activities do not interfere with public use and enjoyment of the rivers and their shores. This is a difficult paddle as it's primitive character means trees and other obstacles are not removed, there is also a number of steep drops.

Natural hazards, such as over-hanging trees, logjams, rocks and boulders, exist on all the rivers. Beaver dams require special care in crossing. Portages (carries) have been constructed around many, but not all, rapids and waterfalls.

Be aware that different water levels can result in different degrees of risk and difficulty in passage. A particular section of river can range from a high-water torrent to a virtual rock garden depending on spring snow melt and the amount of subsequent rainfall.

Check guides and other sources of information to determine what sections of water to paddle based on their own abilities to navigate these portions of the rivers. In some cases, it might be wise to carry, wade, or line around rough sections.

Boating

A waterway access site on Santa Clara Flow located off Dexter Road in the hamlet of Santa Clara provides access for car top and small trailered boats. Due to the configuration of the launch site, and the size and depth of the water, DEC recommends using motors with 10 horsepower or less.

Information on boating regulations and safety can be found on the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation web site using the link in the right column.

Prevent the Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

  • INSPECT your fishing and boating equipment and remove all mud, plants and other organisms that might be clinging to it.
  • DRY your fishing and boating equipment before using it on another body of water.
  • CLEAN your fishing and boating equipment if it cannot be dried before its use in another body of water.

More information on how you can avoid spreading aquatic invasive species.

Fishing

Many of the tributaries of the Deer River, St. Regis River, East Branch St. Regis River and Quebec Brook contain wild populations of small brook trout. Some brook trout also inhabit the main rivers near the mouths of tributaries and in spring holes.

Northern pike are common in the deeper pools of the St. Regis and in Santa Clara Flow. Smallmouth bass occupy rockier sections of the East Branch St. Regis River. Panfish, yellow perch and brown bullhead can be found in Madawaska Flow and Santa Clara Flow.

Just outside the Santa Clara Tract, the St. Regis River is stocked with brown trout and rainbow trout downstream of the community of St. Regis Falls. In addition, the Deer River is stocked with brown trout from Dickinson Center to the Reynoldston Road. Public fishing opportunities are available along these stretches of river.

Anglers should check the current fresh water fishing regulations for and know the statewide regulation and the regulations pertaining to specific waters.

Hunting & Trapping

Big game hunting, small game hunting and trapping are allowed on the conservation easement lands in accordance with state law and regulation. Hunting and trapping are not allowed on the posted one acre areas around the leased camps.

Follow all hunting safety guidelines, be prepared before going into the woods and know what to do if you get lost in the woods.

Hunters and trappers must comply with all applicable State laws and regulation.

Biking

Biking is allowed on any roads open to public use.

Skiing & Snowshoeing

Until 2014, cross country skiing and snowshoeing are allowed on any roads open to public use starting January 1 of each year.

Be prepared before going into the woods and know what to do if you get lost in the woods.

Snowmobiling

The C8 snowmobile corridor connecting Santa Clara and Meacham Lake passes through the Santa Clara Tract. Snowmobiling is permitted on designated corridors and trails only. Snowmobile routes may change annually to avoid timber harvesting operations.

Recreational Facilities

Parking areas for accessing the conservation easement and forest preserve lands are as follows:

  • Madawaska Flow Parking Area: near the the end of the 4.5-mile Madawaska Road which intersects State Route 458 from the south, 1.2 miles west of the Route 458 and State Route 30 intersection.
  • Pinnacle Parking Area: at the end of the 1.5 mile dirt road which intersects State Route 458 from north side a half mile east of the bridge in the hamlet of Santa Clara.
  • Quebec Brook Park Area: On the east side of Blue Mountain Road at the Quebec Brook crossing 11.2 miles northwest of State Route 30 and 10.5 miles south of State Route 458.
  • Vanderwalker Road Parking Area:
  • 4-Mile Road Parking Area:

Trails include the Pinnacle Trailhead is located at the Pinnacle Trailhead.

One boat launch site is located on the Santa Clara Flow on the Middle Branch of the St. Regis River. The parking lot is off the Dexter Road in the hamlet of Santa Clara, a quarter mile south of State Route 458.

Twelve (12) designated campsites are located on the forest preserve lands. Seven (7) campsites are located along the Middle Branch of the St. Regis River and five (5) campsites are located along the East Branch of the St. Regis River. There are no designated campsites on the conservation easement lands.

Neighboring DEC Lands & Facilities

Debar Mountain Wild Forest

Deer River State Forest

Meacham Lake Campground

Field Notes

The Santa Clara Tract is a mix of gently rolling hills and low mountains dominated by glacial formations, terraces and eskers. There are three major river drainages, the St. Regis, the Deer and the East Branch of the St. Regis. There are numerous other streams, ponds, bogs and wetland areas, giving the area a wild, boreal character. The river corridors range from meandering broad streams to narrow rock-filled channels with dangerous rapids and falls.

The vegetation on the Santa Clara Tract varies with the terrain. The river corridors contain a mixture of alders, holly, willow, red maple and various softwoods, such as balsam, white cedar and red spruce. While the upland areas are primarily northern hardwoods, such as yellow birch and sugar maple, with some areas of softwoods, such as white pine.

The area contains unique wetland communities including:

Marginal Sphagnum Bogs or Floating Bogs: These bogs develop along shorelines as a result of the interaction and interdependency of numerous biological processes. Leatherleaf and sedges intertwine to develop a peat mat which extends outward from the original shoreline. As succession progresses, a variety of vegetation, from plants as simple as sphagnum moss to those as complex as trees, begins to colonize the peat mat. This example of wetland is most commonly found adjacent to slow moving streams and in the protected bays of ponds and lakes. An examples of this wetland type is the section of Quebec Brook south of Madawaska Pond.

Large Open Shrub-Sphagnum Bogs: These bogs are found throughout the Adirondack Park, these open wetlands are typified by their close proximity to conifer swamps. Basins in these types of wetlands support sedges and low evergreen shrubs, while the relatively higher ground in the wetland complex is colonized by spruce, tamarack, balsam fir and occasionally white pine. The most significant example of this wetland type is the 3,000 acre Madawaska Wetland Complex.

Open River Corridors/Floodplains: This wetland is located along river corridors where water is channeled by stream action. Stream action in the form of channel migration, flooding, ice action and beaver activity, keeps the corridor open and generally receptive to a variety of moisture tolerant and moderately tolerant to very shade tolerant vegetation. Examples of this wetland type include the Deer River Corridor, East Branch St. Regis River Corridor, and Quebec Brook.

Wildlife

Wildlife is also plentiful throughout the Santa Clara Tract. A visitor to this area may likely see or hear white-tailed deer, black bear, red fox, coyote, fisher, red squirrel, 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.

Loons have been known to nest and are frequently seen on Madawaska Flow. In the more boreal forests, one can find songbirds, warbler, flycatcher, three-toed woodpeckers and the rare spruce grouse.

The Madwaska Flow/Quebec Brook Primitive Area contains the northeastern portion of the largest contiguous patch of high quality Spruce Grouse habitat in the Adirondacks. The state endangered Spruce Grouse prefers lowland boreal forests, where it selects immature or uneven-aged spruce-fir habitats. The Department of Environmental Conservation is currently surveying the distribution of spruce grouse. You can help this effort by reporting any spruce grouse sightings to the DEC Regional Office in Ray Brook at (518) 897-1200.

Rules and Regulations

The public must abide by all state land use regulations when recreating on the forest preserve or conservation easement lands open to the public, including these common state land use rules.

Through 2014, public access to the Santa Clara Tract conservation easement lands is restricted from September 1 through December 31. Hunting is prohibited from September 1 to December 31. All public access is prohibited during the big hunting game season except for the use of primary access corridors for hunters to reach forest preserve lands through the conservation easement lands. The big game hunting season for 2011 is tentatively scheduled to start on Saturday, October 22, and end on Sunday, December 4. Contact the DEC Lands & Forests Office in Ray Brook (518-897-1291) for information on primary access corridors.

Importing firewood into New York State that has been treated to kill pests is prohibited. Also the transportation of untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source is prohibited.

Snowmobile use is permitted only on access corridors designated for such use. Obey all trail signs.

Motorboats are not permitted on the waters in the forest preserve lands and are not permitted unless otherwise posted on the conservation easement lands. Motorboat engines are limited to 10 horsepower or less on waters on the Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement Lands.

Please do not trespass on leased camps or adjacent private land. The boundaries of the Forest Preserve lands are signed.

DEC Forest Rangers are primarily responsible for search and rescue, wild land fire suppression and enforcing state land use laws and regulations. DEC Environmental Conservation Officers are primarily responsible for enforcing hunting, fishing, trapping and pollution laws and regulation. Both are state law enforcement officers and, as such, can and do enforce all state laws.

Driving Directions

From the west: Potsdam, NY - follow Route 11B east to Nicholville. Turn right onto Route 458. Follow Route 458 to St. Regis Falls. To reach Everton Falls access point, or the Deer River Corridor, follow Red Tavern Road (County Route 14) east. For all other access points, stay on Route 458.

From the north: Massena/Malone - from Massena, take Route 37 south to Malone. In Malone, pick up Route 30 and continue south. For the Deer River Corridor and to access the East Branch of the St. Regis River from the Everton Falls Preserve, turn right when you come to Red Tavern Road (County Route 14). For all other access points, continue south on Route 30 and turn right when you reach Route 458.

From the south: Saranac Lake - follow Route 86 north to its intersection with Route 30 at Paul Smiths. Turn left onto Route 458 for southern access points or continue to Red Tavern Road (County Route 14) for northern access points.

From the south: Tupper Lake - follow Routes 3 & 30 east until they split at Wawbeek. Continue on Route 30 north passing through Lake Clear and Paul Smiths. Turn left onto Route 458 for southern access points or onto Red Tavern Road (County Route 14) for northern access points.

From the east: Plattsburgh, NY - follow Route 3 west until you pass Merrills Corners near Loon Lake. Turn right onto the Gabriels-Onchiota Road (County Route 30) passing through Onchiota and Rainbow Lake. Turn right onto the Jones Pond Road (County Route 31) and follow it to Route 86. Turn right onto Route 86. When you reach Route 30 at Paul Smiths, turn right once again. Turn left on Route 458 for southern access points or the Red Tavern Road (County Route 14) for northern access points.

Other Sources of Information

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council and Franklin County Tourism can both provide information about recreating in this area and other amenities. Use the links provided near the bottom of the right column to access their websites.

Numerous guide books are available with information on the lands and waters in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

The DEC State Land Interactive Mapper can be used to print maps showing state lands, trails and facilities for this area or any location within New York State. There are also excellent printed maps and computer map programs from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Geographic and other sources. These are sold in outdoor retail shops, bookstores and on the internet. Use the USGS Maps link in the right column to order their maps online.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

History

The Santa Clara Tract is one of the more remote areas of the Adirondacks. Since European settlement of the region, the area has been owned by a series of large and small timber companies and utilized primarily for timber production from the 1870's onward. The limited road network through the property stems primarily from these activities and from the abandoned rights-of-way of timber related railways that passed through the area. There were several early hotels, one as early as 1876. The nearby communities of Santa Clara and Saint Regis Falls grew up primarily in support of the timber industry.

The Madawaska Flow/Quebec Brook Primitive Area and the Deer River Primitive Area comprise fee acquisitions made in 1999 when the State purchased properties in the towns of Duane, Waverly and Santa Clara owned by Champion International Corporation. These purchases include portions of the St. Regis and Deer River corridors, along with a large parcel which consolidated land locked Forest Preserve lands located adjacent to Madawaska Flow, Quebec Brook and the Blue Mountain Road (Towns of Santa Clara and Waverly).

The tracts were recommended for such classification as "Primitive Areas" by the Adirondack Park Agency following an extensive public hearing process and consultation with DEC staff. Governor George E. Pataki approved the recommendations for classification of the two primitive areas on April 26, 2006.

Adirondack Park Agency staff comments in the classification recommendation denote that the Madawaska Flow/Quebec Brook Primitive Area is considered to be a permanent Primitive Area and will not be considered for future classification as Wilderness due to existing private rights-of-way and public motorized access.

Management

DEC is currently developing a recreational management plan for Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement Lands and unit management plans for the Madwaska Flow/Quebec Brook Primitive Area, the Deer River Primitive Area and the Debar Mountain Wild Forest. These plans will be made available once they are completed.

If you are interested in participating in the public input process for any of these plans, e-mail DEC using the link at the bottom of the right column.

Recreation Management Plans are intended to assess the recreational resources present within a Conservation Easement, identify opportunities for recreational use and consider the ability of the resources and ecosystems to accommodate public use. Recreation Management Plans are developed by DEC in accordance with the terms of the conservation easement agreement and in cooperation with the landowner.

Unit Management Plans assess the natural and physical resources present within a land unit. The plans identify opportunities for public use which are consistent with the guidelines of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. They also consider the ability of the resources and ecosystems to accommodate such use.

Important Phone Numbers

Forest Fire, Search and Rescue: (518) 891-0235 (24 hours a day) or dial 911

State Land Regulation/Backcountry Law Enforcement: (518) 897-1300

Environmental Law Enforcement: (518) 897-1326

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.


More about Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement: