Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area
Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area, totaling some 8,898 acres, is located in eastern Oswego County with its northern boundary transected by U.S. Route 104 and its southern boundary by Oswego County Route 26. These Routes are easily accessible off Exit 34 of Interstate 81 and hence east on Route 104 to Happy Valley. The 7½ minute topographic maps covering the area are Dugway and Williamstown.
Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area has generally flat terrain ranging in elevation mostly between 600 to 700 feet above mean sea level. The soils are generally stony fine field loam or sandy knolls. Due to the area's close proximity to Lake Ontario, snow depths average about 125 inches annually.
Reforestation and former farming activity have changed the original forest in much of the area. Fields in all stages of succession exist along with northern hardwoods such as sugar maple, beech, yellow birch and softwoods such as hemlock, white pine and spruce.
Wildlife associated with uplands and water are common and include: deer, hare, squirrel, beaver, muskrat, raccoon, mink, weasel, fisher and porcupine to name only a few of the mammals. A large variety of songbirds as well as grouse, woodcock, turkey and waterfowl are also on the area.
In the middle 1800's the land that is now called the Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area was cleared and intensively farmed. During the depression in the 1930's the Federal Resettlement Administration bought up farms that were no longer able to support farming activities. These acquisitions became the initial acreage for Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area, as the Federal government developed the area for upland game in a manner similar to that of the old state game refuges.
In the late 1930's the Works Project Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps crews carried out a great deal of the original conifer plantings of the existing plantations and also constructed three deep water impound dam structures on the area (Mosher, Whitney and Long Ponds). In 1946, this Resettlement Area was turned over to the Conservation Department via a 99 year lease program. In 1961, the Federal Government cancelled the lease giving the Conservation Department full responsibility for the area. An intensive program of woodland management was initiated in the 1940's with release and selective cutting operations in the hardwood areas. In the 1950's, emphasis on waterfowl marsh development brought about the construction of seven waterfowl marshes in the area. Several potholes were also built a few years later to provide additional nesting habitat for waterfowl.
Objectives for the WMA
Current objectives for the area are to provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species and to permit wildlife related recreational uses compatible with wildlife. Management techniques to provide the food, cover and shelter requirements for various wildlife species are carried out with monies derived mainly from hunting license fees and federal taxes on sporting arms and ammunition. These techniques involve old field maintenance, mowing, prescribed burning, green strips, tree/shrub release, slash openings, and water level manipulations to name a few. Timber stand improvements and harvest and conifer plantation thinning are carried out to improve the forestry resource and the wildlife values. Happy Valley has been the field laboratory for research studies in the past and currently is the site for a long term grouse habitat improvement study
A good system of town roads and some maintenance roads provide access for big game, small game, and waterfowl hunting and fishing activities during good weather months. These activities are controlled by statewide regulations. Hiking, birding and cross country skiing are favorite activities also. A limited number of permits are issued on a first come first served basis for primitive type camping ( no water, sanitation, or garbage facilities) and can be obtained from the address below.
Rules for Use
Since Happy Valley is a wildlife management area, activities not compatible with the area are prohibited. A few of the prohibited activities include off road vehicular traffic, (i.e. cars, snowmobiles, motorcycles, all terrain vehicles) swimming, and boating with motors
Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area is open to the general public year round under the following conditions:
- Swimming, boating with a motor, overnight mooring or storage of boats is not permitted. Limited camping is allowed by permit only from September 15 through December 15 on a first come first served basis in designated areas.
- Off-road vehicular travel is prohibited and the use of all terrain vehicles, motorcycles, motor scooters, mopeds, trail bikes, snowmobiles, four-wheel drive vehicles, and similar off-road vehicles is also prohibited throughout the area except on town and county roads.
- Hunting, trapping, fishing and other forms of wildlife oriented recreation are permitted in accordance with the state Fish and Wildlife Law and Regulations.
For More Information Contact:
Regional Wildlife Manger,
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
1285 Fisher Avenue
Cortland, NY 13045
607-753-3095 ext. 247