Little John Wildlife Management Area
The Little John Wildlife Management Area (WMA) (PDF) (282kB) totals some 7,918 acres and is located in Oswego and Jefferson Counties approximately 45 miles north of Syracuse and 25 miles south of Watertown. The easiest access to Little John is from Exit 38 off Interstate 81 via County Route 15 east to County Route 17. Town roads and state truck trails provide access from Route 17. However, the eight miles of state truck trail provide only limited access within the area. The 7 1/2 minute topographic maps covering the area are Boylston Center and Worth Center.
Topography and Climate
Little John lies on the northwest slope of the Tug Hill Plateau. Most of the area lies between 1400 and 1500 feet above sea level. The result is a gently rolling topography never quite flat and transected by many long, narrow serpentine swampy areas and numerous small depressions. The soils are generally acid in nature being derived from shale and sandstone. Precipitation ranges between 45 and 55 inches per year with an average annual snowfall above 170 inches. Drifts as deep as 15 feet are common occurrences, and snow lies five to six feet deep in the woods during an average winter.
Historically native stands of hemlock and spruce covered most of the drier areas. Logging and farming activities have changed the vegetation to species such as: sugar maple, beech, black cherry, red maple, yellow birch, and hemlock in descending order of occurrence. About 60 percent of the management area is in mature forest with less than two hundred acres in openings such as open water or grassy or brushy fields.
This generally unbroken forest canopy provides habitat for a variety of wildlife species. Examples of bird species are: ruffed grouse, wood duck, goshawk, pileated woodpecker, barred owl, great crested flycatcher, black-capped chickadee, red-eyed vireo, and chestnut sided warbler. Mammal species include: beaver, porcupine, raccoons, varying hare, weasels, coyote, and white tailed deer. Brook trout occur in many of the area streams.
The Little John area was settled in the early 1800's, and by 1850 general farming with heavy emphasis on dairying had been established. Agricultural activities peaked around 1910 after which they declined. In 1928, some 4250 acres belonging to the Cleveland Estate became the Little John Game Refugee and Demonstration Forest. Acquisition of abandoned land adjacent to the Area by the Federal Resettlement Administrator became part of Little John when it was later transferred to the State.
Truck trails were constructed; winter shelter (conifer plantations) and fall feeding grounds (conifers and shrubs) were established for grouse; and slashings (clearcuts) were carried out primarily through public work projects such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). From World War II through the mid-sixties, maintenance of roads, boundaries, bridge repair, etc. were the basic activities.
Since the mid-sixties, increasing emphasis has been placed on providing habitat for a variety of wildlife species found in a forested/wet area situation. Management practices to provide for wildlife requirements are carried out with funds from hunting license fees and federal taxes on sporting arms and ammunition channeled through the Conservation Fund.
Management of the WMA
Management techniques at Little John include mowing and development of mowable areas, pothole development, slash openings or clearcuts, water level control through beaver management, access control, and area identification to name a few. Additional creation, improvement, and maintenance of wildlife habitat and timber stand improvement is carried out through wood product sales for firewood, pulp, logs, etc. Thus, both wildlife values and the forestry resource are enhanced.
The system of town and state roads and hiking trails provides for a variety of activities compatible with the area. Small game, big game, and waterfowl hunting and fishing and trapping activities are permitted and regulated by Statewide Fish and Wildlife Law and do not require special permits. Permits are issued for primitive camping (no water, sanitation, or garbage facilities), but camping can be uncomfortable during the summer months because of insects. Permits are available from the address below.
Since Little John 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, ATVs, etc.) swimming, and unsafe activities.
For Further Information Contact:
Regional Wildlife Manager
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
1285 Fisher Avenue
Cortland, NY 13045
607-753-3095, ext. 247