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Downerville State Forest

View Downerville Forest Map || View Same Map in PDF (264 KB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper || Downerville Bike Trails Map Brochure (PDF 168KB)

Downerville State Forest covers 1,443 acres located in the town of Russell in central St. Lawrence County.


Mountain Biking / Hiking Trail System

The St. Lawrence Mountain Biking Association (SLMBA) has partnered with the DEC through an Adopt-A-Natural-Resource Stewardship agreement to create an extensive mountain biking and hiking trail system on this forest. There are currently more than 11 miles of trails available, ranging from gently rolling loops to steep technical trails which descend to the river valley. A detailed map of the trail system along with trail descriptions is available above.

mountain bikes on a trail
Mountain Biking in Downerville


There are two designated camp sites on this property, located along the Downerville Road and the River Public Forest Access Road. Individuals may also set up camp at any location which is at least 150 feet from water bodies, streams, roads or trails. Back Country camping is allowed. Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

Hunting and Trapping

Hunting and Trapping are permitted on the property in accordance with all game regulations, unless otherwise posted. Traps may not be set on public road right of ways. Body gripping traps set on land must be at least 100 feet from public trails. Fishing is pemitted in the nearby Grass River.


Geo-caching is allowed although caches must be marked with the owner's contact information and may not be placed in dangerous or ecologically sensitive locations. See the February 2005 article in Conservationist Magazine for more information on geocaching.

The eastern boundary of this state forest is adjacent to the Grass River Wild Forest, part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. More information about the Grass River Wild Forest can be found by contacting the Potsdam DEC Office.

Field Notes

The topography is variable with upland areas supporting a mixture of northern hardwood, hemlock, and white pine forests. Pine and spruce plantations were established on what were formerly farm fields and pastures. Flatter ground supports open wetlands and shrub swamps, which gradually transition to swamp hardwoods in seasonal flooded areas.

This state forest has extensive frontage along the Grass River (2.9 miles) and the North Branch of the Grass River (1.5 miles). Elevation ranges from 1,009 feet on Palmer Hill, to 640 feet in the bottomlands near the confluence of the rivers.

View from the Grass River from Palmer Hill
View of the Grass River from Palmer Hill

Driving Directions

This forest can be accessed from the Downerville and Backus Roads, and the River Public Forest Access Road in the town of Russell.

The ford across the North Branch of the Grass River is closed to motor vehicle traffic due to dangerous high water levels and swift currents. The roads to the south of the ford near Palmer Hill were also extensively damaged by heavy rains in 2005. Users can cross the river on foot when water levels are low.

There are 2 parking areas available along the River Public Forest Access Road. One is located at the old gravel bed on the left hand side of the road, and the other is at the kiosk and campsite on the right just before reaching the North Branch of the Grass River.

Important Phone Numbers

Potsdam DEC Office (M-F 8 am-4:30 pm) (315) 256-3090

DEC Forest Ranger Dispatch: (518) 408-5850

Emergencies: 911

Tips for Using State Forests

Anyone enjoying this property must observe rules which protect both them and the forest environment.


This forest consists of 6 separate parcels which were acquired between 1950 and 1986 for the purposes of reforestation, wildlife management, timber production, recreation, and watershed protection.

Downerville was a small settlement located 2 miles east of Russell. Twenty two families lived in this community around 1900. All that remains today is the Downerville Cemetery which contains burials dating from the 1860s to the 1930s, including members of the original Downer family. A 31 acre parcel purchased from Arthur Downer in 1951 became part of Downerville State Forest.

The Malone Tract, located south of the main parcel on the Backus Road, was a gift from Beatrice Malone to the People of the State of New York in memory of her son Stephen W. Malone (1949-1976), to be used for the purposes of silvicultural research, experimentation in the science of forestry, wildlife management, and other similar uses.