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Rapid Waters Unit Management Plan


The Rapid Waters Management Unit is located about eight miles southeast of the city of Ithaca, 20 miles southwest of Cortland, and about 25 miles northwest of the Triple Cities of Endicott, Binghamton, and Johnson City. New York State Route 79 bisects the Unit and provides excellent access to local roads that serve the State Forests in the Unit.

The Unit includes two State Forests, Danby and Shindagin, encompassing 12,603 acres. The unit is primarily located in Tompkins County, with parts of both forests crossing over into Tioga County. The Danby State Forest lands were acquired from 1933 to 1997, with the most significant acquisition taking place in January of 1956 when about 6,200 acres were acquired from the federal government. Approximately 3,850 acres (73%) of Shindagin State Forest were initially acquired by the federal government under the sub-marginal land purchase program.

Soil Types

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil type map identifies five major soil types on the Unit. Many of the soils have a fragipan that restricts plant root growth, water movement, and overall site productivity. About 11,895 acres (94%) of the Rapid Waters Unit lie within the Upper Susquehanna watershed which is a part of the greater Susquehanna River basin. Of this, nearly 10,795 acres (85%) of water flowing from the land drain into Catatonk Creek, and 1,100 acres (9%) of the Unit drain into Owego Creek. Today, about 36 miles of consistent (flow most of the year) streams are within the Unit, and there is one NYS DEC Class 1 (high quality) wetland on the unit, covering about 228 acres.


The State Forests of the Rapid Waters Unit and the surrounding landscape are home to a wide range of wildlife. Common mammals found on the unit include: white tailed deer, wild turkey, ruffed grouse and woodcock, black bear, eastern cottontail rabbits and rabbits. The Unit and its surrounding landscape also provide significant habitats for many species of breeding birds.

Recreational opportunities

Seven different volunteer groups in the two forests assist the DEC in maintaining, enhancing and constructing recreational assets. These cooperative forest management partners have signed agreements with the DEC and are important stewards of the land. Today, the Rapid Waters Unit has nearly 22 miles of hiking trails, built and maintained entirely by volunteers. Additionally, Finger Lakes Trail Conference and Cayuga Trails Club volunteers maintain three lean-tos and the Thatcher's Pinnacle Scenic Vista.

Shindagin Hollow State Forest receives significant recreational use by bicyclists. The 16-mile mountain bike trail system is very popular with local mountain bike enthusiasts, and is frequented by local residents, Cornell University and Ithaca College students as well as visitors from outside the immediate area. Built and maintained mostly by volunteers, the trail system is a cooperative effort between Cycle-CNY, a club affiliated with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), and the DEC. Snowmobiling also continues to be a popular activity on the Unit.

Goals for the unit

Goals for the Unit are: provide a healthy, sustainable, and biologically diverse forest; provide forest-based recreational opportunities; provide economic benefits to local communities and to the State of New York; and provide sound stewardship of the State Forest.

Public comment process

Written and verbal comments concerning the development of this plan and the Unit's resources were requested and gathered from the public through: 1) direct contact with DEC AANR volunteers, 2) press releases, 3) newspaper articles in the Ithaca Journal, 4) a field tour, 5) a direct mailing to about 975 landowners that own 36,771 acres (57 square miles) around the Unit, and 6) two public information meetings held in Candor (October 2007) and Brooktondale (December 2007). On April 14, 2011, a public meeting was held at the Candor High School to introduce and collect public feedback on the draft UMP. A summary of comments received during the complete public participation process is included in the final UMP. The Final version of the plan was approved in December 2012.

Rapid Waters Unit Management Plan- Final

Rapid Waters Unit Management Plan (PDF) (1.5 mB, 168 pages) - Plan Document

Rapid Waters Unit Management Plan (PDF) (5.0 mB, 6 pages) - Maps

Rapid Waters Unit Management Plan (PDF) (4.4 mB, 8 pages) - Maps

Rapid Waters Unit Management Plan (PDF) (3.7 mB, 10 pages) - Maps

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