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Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area

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Upper and Lower Lakes WMA locator map

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Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area (WMA) The primary purposes of the Upper and Lower Lakes WMA are wildlife management, wildlife habitat management, and wildlife-dependent recreation. This WMA is a large developed wetland complex lying between the Grass River and the Oswegatchie River. It is 8,757 acres and is located 3 miles west of the village of Canton and 12 miles east of the city of Ogdensburg. The village of Rensselaer Falls is on the western edge of the WMA, adjacent to the refuge and Indian Creek Nature Center. It is bounded on four sides by public roads: State Route 68, Irish Settlement Road, County Road 14, and County Road 15.

Featured Activities

Hunting and Trapping

Main open water marsh at Upper and Lower Lakes WMA

Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area is located in Wildlife Management Unit 6A. This WMA is divided into three zones: refuge, restricted use, and public hunting. There is no public access allowed in the refuge area, however there is an observation tower at the west end of refuge that is open year-round. The restricted use area is closed to the public June 1st through August 15th with access on foot only April 15th through May 31st. Trapping is by permit only in this area. The public hunting area is open to the public year-round with use governed by general regulations. Rules and regulations for the restricted access portion of the area are posted at the headquarters. Although the area is most notable for waterfowl hunting, small game hunting, big game hunting, trapping, birdwatching, and canoeing opportunities are also available. Ring-necked pheasants are stocked in the fall to enhance the upland bird hunting. (View hunting seasons and trapping seasons)


Upper and Lower Lakes WMA is open to fishing, please visit DEC's website for more information about fishing.

Boat Launch

Wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting blind

There is a boat launch to access the Grasse River off Route 68, along with three car-top boat launches accessing the marsh. Motors are not allowed in the restricted access portion of the WMA. Smallmouth bass, walleye, and muskellunge are present in the Grasse River.

Wildlife Viewing

A demonstration area featuring various types of habitat manipulation is located off from the Irish Settlement Road. A short accessible trail, benches and information panels overlook the area. Management is underway on approximately 140 acres of the WMA to improve habitat for golden-winged warblers, a species in decline. Other early successional species, including gamebirds such as ruffed grouse, wild turkey and woodcock also benefit from these activities.

At the east end of the refuge area is a privately operated, publicly owned nature center with an observation tower and walkway that overlooks the refuge. The Indian Creek Nature Center is open year round and contains trails, boardwalks, and observation areas. Many songbirds, waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, and birds of prey utilize this area, including gamebird species such as grouse, turkey, pheasant, and woodcock. Some of the rare bird species to be found include the northern harrier, common loon, black tern, sedge wren, and osprey. Common mammals found on the area include white-tailed deer, snowshoe hare, cottontail rabbit, raccoon, and furbearers such as fisher, beaver, muskrat, mink, and otter. Use the Wildlife Management Area Mammal Checklist (PDF, 453 KB) and the Wildlife Management Area Bird Checklist (PDF, 240 KB) as a wildlife viewing guides.

Boardwalk at Indian Creek Nature Center


access for people with disabilities

A half-mile loop trail and path to an elevated viewing platform exists within the nature trail described above. The trail goes through several habitat areas, providing views of wooded wetlands, upland forest and the large marshy pond. The majority of the trail has a hardened stone dust surface and includes a boardwalk, several foot bridges and occasional passing spaces, making it suitable for some level of accessibility. Some portions of the trail are suitable for use with mobility devices. There is an accessible privy located at the main parking area.

Upper and Lower Lakes WMA features include two accessible trails on the upland portion of the area. The trails lead to pads suitable for use with portable hunting blinds and are located off from County Route 14 on the Middle Access Road. On County Route 15, an accessible trail leads to a waterfowl blind. The blind is open year round for wildlife viewing and/or waterfowl hunting. The covered blind is painted to blend in with the edge of the cattail marsh, accessible, large enough for 2 people and a dog and has a dog door and ramp which a dog can use to retrieve game.

The accessible hunting blind is close to the Village of Rensselaer Falls. One can get there from US HWY 11, one mile north of Dekalb Junction, turn north west onto County Route 15, and continue on County Route 15 for approximately 5 miles. Accessible parking is on the right hand side of the road.

Full listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations.

Parking and trail at Upper and Lower Lakes UMA


Located 3 miles west of the village of Canton and 12 miles east of the city of Ogdensburg.

All Google links leave DEC's website.

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Activity Rules & Regulations

The following activities are not permitted in Upper and Lower Lakes WMA:

  • Using motorized vehicles, including:
    • all-terrain vehicles
    • snowmobiles
    • motorboats
  • Landing of boats or hunting on the barrier beach
  • Swimming or bathing
  • Picnicking
  • Camping *allowed in designated area by permit only.
  • Using metal detectors, searching for or removing historic or cultural artifacts without a permit
  • Damaging or removing gates, fences, signs or other property
  • Overnight storage of boats
  • Cutting, removing or damaging living vegetation
  • Construction of permanent blinds or other structures such as tree stands
  • Littering
  • Storage of personal property

Outdoor Safety Tips

NOTE: Ticks are active whenever temperatures are above freezing but especially so in the late spring and early fall. Deer ticks can transmit Lyme and several other diseases. More information on deer ticks and Lyme disease can be obtained from the NYS Department of Health (Leaves DEC Website). Also, 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.

How We Manage

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Like most of the state's Wildlife Management Areas, Upper and Lower Lakes WMA is managed by DEC's Division of Fish and Wildlife for wildlife conservation and wildlife-associated recreation (hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing/photography). Funding to maintain and manage this site is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration or "Pittman-Robertson" Act, which is acquired through excise taxes on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment.

The WMA consists of one major impoundment with a total of 4,341 acres of wetland. This wetland consists of both shallow and deep water emergent marsh which includes flooded shrub swamp, cattail, and other emergent plants. Water level control structures stabilize the water levels which contributes to its value as a nesting area for water-dependent birds, a migratory bird concentration area, and valuable wetland furbearer habitat. The remaining habitat is forested upland interspersed with brush land and open meadow. The wooded uplands contain both softwood and hardwood species which are managed through commercial cutting. There are approximately 600 acres of maintained open meadow/grasslands to provide habitat for ground nesting birds. The objective is maintain a habitat that benefits a variety of game and non-game wildlife species. View the Habitat Management Plan for Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area (PDF, 2.3 MB), approved in August 2016, which identifies the WMA-specific target species and habitat goals for the WMA.

Tourism Information for Nearby Attractions, Amenities & Activities

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.

Web links below can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.