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Former Finch Lands - Interim Access Plans

Public Access for the First Time in 100 years

Map depicting the location of the Former Finch Lands with public access

In June 2013 Governor Cuomo announced the opening of public access to the 7,200 acres of land, the Hudson River between Newcomb and Indian Lake, the lower reaches of the Cedar River and the lands and ponds south of the Cedar River, providing public access to these lands and waters for the first time in 100 years

In October 2013 Governor Cuomo announced approximately 11,600 acres of additional lands and waters on the Essex Chain Lakes Tract open to the public for outdoor recreation as well - including the Essex Chain Lakes themselves.

Public access opportunities are also available on the Former Finch Lands that are now part of the Upper Hudson Woodlands Conservation Easement. Additional public access on the conservation easement lands will available in the future.

More information on the acquisition of the former Finch Lands can be found on the Acquisition of Former Finch Lands web page.

Interim Access Plans

The lands and waters are open to public access under the two Interim Access Plans described here.

Essex Chain Lakes (Forest Preserve) and Essex Chain Lakes Easement - Fall 2013

The purpose of this plan is to establish interim public access to the Essex Chain Lakes Tract of the Forest Preserve and the Essex Chain Lakes Conservation Easement, while protecting the area's natural resources. Associated infrastructure will be developed for the primary purpose of facilitating recreational use of the Essex Chain Lakes prior to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) land classification recommendation and development of unit management plans (UMPs) for the area. The overall goal is to allow public access to specified areas in the fall, but not to preclude classification with the proposed access provisions. This plan does not affect or suggest what access and uses will be allowed after classification.

Interim Access Plan for Essex Chain Lakes and Essex Chain Lakes Easement (PDF) (2.53 MB)

Hudson River, Cedar River,and OK Slip Falls - Spring/Summer 2013

The purpose of this plan is to establish interim public access to the Hudson and Cedar River areas within the Essex Chain Lakes and Indian River Tracts. Associated infrastructure will be developed for the primary purpose of facilitating recreational use of the Hudson and Cedar Rivers prior to Adirondack Park Agency (APA) land classification and development of unit management plans (UMPs) for the area. The overall goal is to allow public access to specified areas in the spring and summer, but not to preclude classification with the proposed access provisions.

Interim Access Plan for Hudson River, Cedar River, and OK Slip Falls (PDF) (2.38 MB)

Summary of Interim Public Access

Map depicting access infrastructure to Essex Chain and Indian Lake Tracts

A map of the Essex Chain Tract, Indian River Tract, OK Slip Falls Tract and surrounding area is available. The map depicts the lands that are currently open to the public; the location of parking areas, public motor vehicle access and hiking routes and waterway access sites.

Essex Chain Lakes and Surrounding Lands

Outdoor recreational activities available to the public on these newly-opened lands include hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and horse trail riding on the many miles of former woods roads; hunting, trapping and bushwhacking on the surrounding lands; and fishing and paddling on the Essex Chain Lakes and other waters on the tract. When combined with the more than 10,000 acres along the Hudson and Cedar Rivers opened to the public this past spring, the area provides a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities.

Winter Access: Gates to the Essex Chain Lakes Tract roadways will be closed and locked through the winter and mud season beginning Monday, December 16. The Town of Newcomb will plow the Goodnow Road and some parking areas along that road for the public to use. The public can ski, snowshoe or otherwise trek (non-motorized) into the parcel from plowed areas along the Goodnow Flow Road. Members of the Gooley and Polaris Clubs will be able to use snowmobiles on the roadways to get to and from those camps.

Third Lake of the Essex Chain Lakes
Third Lake of the Essex Chain Lakes

Motor vehicle access is open on the Cornell Road on the adjacent conservation easement lands and on the Boots to Cornell Road on the forest preserve lands. Cars and trucks are allowed to drive on Cornell Road from the end of the Woods Road to a gate on the Boots to Cornell Road. A parking area at the location allows access to Deer Pond.

Paddlers are able to portage their canoes and kayaks about a quarter mile from the parking lot to Deer Pond. They can then paddle across Deer Pond to the landing for a half-mile portage to a put-in site on Third Lake. Paddlers can travel by water to explore First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Lakes of the Essex Chain.

Currently the public may only access the lands for day-use activities; overnight camping is prohibited at this time. Also Public motorized watercraft and floatplanes will not be permitted on any waterbody during the interim period.

Signs direct the public to the open roads and parking areas, and gates have been installed on side roads to direct public motor vehicles to the Essex Chain Lakes tract and prevent trespass onto adjacent easement land. In addition, kiosks provide maps, area regulations and information about the leaseholders' privileges.

Please Respect Leaseholder Rights

While the leaseholders on these lands no longer have exclusive use on the newly opened lands, they will retain leased rights that permit motorized access that is not available to the public. In addition, they will still have one-acre exclusive-use envelopes around their camp buildings. Leaseholders also continue to have motorized access to and from the leased camps, including snowmobiles in the winter, ATVs during mud season, and cars and trucks for the remainder of the year. ATV use by leaseholders will also be allowed on designated access roads during hunting season.

Furthermore, leaseholders will be allowed to use boat motors of 10 horsepower or less on the Essex Chain Lakes 2nd through 6th, Jackson Pond and the Blackwell Stillwater section of the Hudson River from ice-out through June 30 and from October 1 through the end of big game rifle season. They will also be allowed to use electric motors on those waters between June 30 and October 1.

Upper Hudson River

Parking areas, public motor vehicle access and waterway access sites for non-motorized watercraft are designated and available for public use on these newly acquired public lands in the Towns of Newcomb and Minerva in Essex County.

Signs and kiosks located at the Town of Newcomb Boat Launch on Harris Lake, the parking area for the Iron Bridge access site and the parking area for the Indian River Confluence access site provide information about the lands and the premier paddling and fishing opportunities now open to the public along the Hudson and Cedar Rivers.

Paddlers on a flat water section of the Hudson River
Paddlers on the Upper Hudson River

Paddlers can travel nearly 12 miles on the Hudson River from Harris Lake to a landing just above the confluence with the Indian River. There are several stretches of flat but moving waters that people of all skill levels can enjoy, especially in the upper portion.

The river also contains numerous rapids and shallow rocky areas. Depending on water levels, the rapids are mostly rated Class 1, 2 or 2+. Under the certain water levels a few of the rapids may rate Class 3, such as Long Rapids and Ord Falls. During low water conditions (water levels below 4.0 at the North Creek gage) a considerable amount of portaging, dragging and lining of kayaks and canoes will be required especially in the lower portion of the river.

Less adventurous paddlers can take advantage of a long stretch of flat water above and below 28N, and the Blackwell Stillwater section above and below the Iron Bridge Landing, which also provides access to the lower Goodnow River.

Trips shorter than the entire 12 miles can be taken by paddling from Harris Lake to the Iron Bridge Landing or from the Iron Bridge Landing to the Indian River Landing. Inexperienced paddlers should make use of the flatwater sections, carry around all rapids or hire a licensed guide to lead their trip.

The flatwater sections also provide for good fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, northern pike and panfish. In the stretch just south of Route 28N anglers may find walleye and an occasional largemouth bass. The Hudson River between the Cedar River and the Indian River also contains brown and rainbow trout.

The Town of Newcomb Boat Launch on the Harris Lake (Beach) Road is the best location to launch canoes, kayaks and rafts. Parking is available at this location and in the nearby parking lot at the Town of Newcomb Beach. Information about the available access, including maps, is provided on a kiosk at the boat launch.

The public can drive to a parking area located approximately 0.9 mile from the Iron Bridge Landing. Paddlers need to carry their canoes and kayaks between the parking area and the landing on the river. Information about the available access, including maps, is provided on a kiosk at the parking area.

The Iron Bridge parking area can be reached by taking the Goodnow Road, off Route 28N in Newcomb, approximately 5.5 miles south to the southeast corner of Goodnow Flow. Turn left on to the access road and the parking area is two miles away at the end of the access road. DEC recommends that only high clearance pickups and SUVs use the roadway at this time.

Another parking area is located at the end of the Chain Lakes Road, approximately three miles north of Route 28 in Indian Lake. The public can walk the 0.8 mile on the roadway between the gate at the parking areas and the landing above the confluence of the Hudson and Indian Rivers. Information about the available access, including maps, is provided on a kiosk at the parking area.

Cedar River

Cedar River
Cedar River

Parking areas, a hiking route to the Cedar River and waterway access sites for non-motorized watercraft are designated and available for public use on the recently acquired public lands in the Town of Indian Lake in Hamilton County.

The Cedar River, Pine Lake, Mud Pond, Clear Pond, Corner Pond and the surrounding lands can all be accessed from the same parking area at the end of the Chain Lakes Road. It is a 3.5-mile walk from the parking area along a roadway to the landing on the Cedar River.

Paddlers can enjoy the flatwater section of the Cedar River above and below the landing. The rapids above and below the flatwater section and the lack of carries prevents paddlers from accessing the upper reaches of the Cedar River and the Hudson River from the landing. Paddlers can also enjoy the four ponds on the forest preserve lands south of the Cedar River.

Anglers can fish the Cedar River for brook and brown trout. Anglers can also fish for native lake trout and stocked rainbow trout on Clear Pond or stocked brook trout and panfish on Pine Lake.

OK Slip Falls

While The OK Slip Falls Tract in the Town of Indian Lake in Hamilton County is now part of the Forest Preserve DEC is not encouraging public access until public access infrastructure has been developed. Currently no parking areas exist, no trails have been established and boundaries lines with adjacent private lands have not been marked. DEC will provide updated information here as the infrastructure for public access is developed.

The Essex Chain Lakes Tract, the Indian River Tract and the OK Slip Falls Tract are part of the former Finch, Pruyn & Co. lands purchased by New York State from The Nature Conservancy (TNC).