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Upper and Lower Lakes

Special opportunity to visit restricted portion of this Wildlife Management Area. Open to the public from Aug. 16 to 29, 2014. See Press Release Announcement.

Main open water marsh at Upper and Lower Lakes WMA

Wildlife Management Area Overview

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Upper and Lower Lakes WMA is a large developed wetland complex lying between the Grasse River and the Oswegatchie River. This 8757 acre area is located 3 miles west of the village of Canton and 12 miles east of the city of Ogdensburg. The village of Rensselear 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.

Parking and trail at Upper and Lower Lakes UMA

The area consists of one major impoundment with a total of 4341 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.

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.

Wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting blind

Accessible Features

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Upper and Lower Lakes WMA features include accessible parking along the county road, a 600 foot long trail suitable for use with mobility devices and an accessible blind for waterfowl viewing and hunting opportunities. The covered blind is painted to blend in with the edge of the cattail marsh, 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 Rensselear 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 Ccounty Route 15 for approximately 5 miles. Accessible parking is on the right hand side of the road.

Full listing of DECs Accessible Recreation Destinations.

What to do at Upper and Lower Lakes WMA

Upper and Lower Lakes 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 special regulations. Rules and regulations 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. The creek that bisects the area provides canoeing opportunities. There are three canoe launches on the area. There is a boat launch to access the Grasse River off Route 68. Smallmouth bass, walleye, and muskellunge are present in that section of the river.

Boardwalk at Indian Creek Nature CenterAt 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 containing trails, boardwalks, and observation areas.

Restricted Activities

General restrictions on WMA's can be found in the Title 6, NYCRR, Part 51, Section 51.1 through 51.6 (link leaves DEC website.) Additional restrictions are also enforced on portions of the Upper and Lower Lakes WMA. For a complete list of prohibited actions please see Title 6, NYCRR, Part 54 (link leaves DEC website.). Camping is allowed by permit only from the Wildlife Manager.

For more information, contact:
Bureau of Wildlife
6739 US Highway 11
Potsdam, NY 13676

Facilities and Attractions at Upper and Lower Lakes WMA
Available Not Available
Upland Scenic Vistas
Wetland Picnic Areas
Hiking Trails* Restrooms
Nature Trails* Camping
Accessible features for people with disabilities
Boat Access
Parking Lot
Viewing Tower
X-Country Skiing
Endangered Species
Unusual Plants

* A nature trail can be used as a hiking trail. In addition to allowing hiking, a nature trail usually has printed information along the trail and often has a printed brochure available.