Downerville State Forest
- Open for recreation: Property is open year-round.
- Contact Information:
- State Forest Office in Potsdam (M-F 8 AM - 4:30 PM): (315) 265-3090; email: Region 6 mailbox
- Backcountry Emergency (Search, Rescue & Forest Fire): (518) 891-0235 (24 hours a day) or dial 911
- State Land Law Enforcement: 518-897-1300
- Fishing, Hunting & Trapping Law Enforcement: (315) 785-2231
- Location: Town of Russell in central St. Lawrence County
- Wildlife Management Unit: 6C
- Map: 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. 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 down to 640 feet in the bottomlands near the confluence of the two rivers.
Mountain Biking / Hiking Trail System
General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
The St. Lawrence County Mountain Biking Association (Leaves DEC website) 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.
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.
Mountain Biking in Downerville
General information on primitive camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations. There are two designated camp sites on this property, located along the Downerville Road and the River Public Forest Access Road. Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.
Hunting, Trapping, Fishing
General information on Hunting, General information on Trapping, General information on Fishing. All 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 permitted in the nearby Grass River.
View of the Grass River from Palmer Hill
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 (PFAR). 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.
- River PFAR Parking Area & Kiosk: (N44.425735, W75.107444) Google Maps (Leaves DEC website)
- Gravel Pit Parking Area: (N44.430682, W75.102489) Google Maps (Leaves DEC website)
Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety
Practice Leave No Trace (Leaves DEC website) principles when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts.
Don't Move Firewood. The insects it carries could kill the forests you love.
How We Manage Downerville State Forest
DEC is developing a management plan which will describe the management activities for these lands. Downerville is one of 13 State Forests and one Conservation Easement combined into the area called the St. Lawrence Foothills Management Unit. In addition to forestry management objectives, the UMP will contain detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural & human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.
DEC is planning for input for development of this UMP and public meeting in early 2015. Any individual or group who would like to provide comments on the future management of this unit can contact Forester Aaron Graves at NYSDEC, 6739 US Highway 11, Potsdam, NY, 13676 or e-mail : Region 6 UMP mail box.
Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities and Other Information
Lodging, dining, gas, and food and other supplies may be found in the nearby communities of Gouverneur and Canton.
St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce (Leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.
Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.
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.
Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (Leaves DEC Website) for information on outdoor guides.