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Independence River State Forest

Independence River State Forest locator map

hikingprimitive campingfishinghuntingtrappingsnowmobilinghorseback ridingaccess for people with disabilitiespicnic arearestroomsparkingicon key

The 673-acre Independence River State Forest is named for the swift moving trout stream that cascades through the northern sector of the property.

The most outstanding recreational pursuit on this state forest and adjoining forest preserve lands is the Otter Creek Horse Trail System which was inaugurated in the 1980s and has been continually improved and expanded since that time. The trail system's Assembly Area includes roofed tie stalls, parking areas, a picnic pavilion, grills, roofed stud stalls, potable water system for the horses, port-a-johns and a bathroom with sink and toilets.

Featured Activities



General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

There are approximately 8 miles of horseback riding trails and unpaved forest roads on the property that may be used for hiking.


primitive camping

General information on primitive camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

There are 2 primitive campsites located in the western portion of the state forest. Independence River State Forest also has a unique camping opportunity oriented towards equestrian campers. Camping at this location occurs in one of four large gravel lots. Tents and trailers are set up around the edge of the lots and horses are tethered immediately adjacent in open shelters. Built primarily for equestrian users, the facility is available for use by all visitors.

At-large primitive camping is also allowed. Campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water. Camping for more than three nights or in groups of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.



General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules and regulations.

The Independence River provides excellent fishing for wild brook trout and brown trout. It runs through the western portion of the property. The Donnatsburg Bridge offers fishing access to the river.

North Central NY Fishing provides information on fishing in the area and links to top fishing waters, stocking lists, public fishing access and waters open to ice fishing listed by county.

Hunting & Trapping


Wildlife Management Unit: 6J

General Information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules and regulations.



General information on snowmobiling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

There are 2.7 miles of trails that allow snowmobiling and connect to the NYS Snowmobile Trail network. Hiawatha Trail (1.3 mi.) on Independence State Forest is maintained by Brantingham Snowmobile Club Inc. (leaves DEC website).

Horseback Riding

horseback riding

General information on horseback riding includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Proof of current negative Coggins certificate is required for all horses and out-of-state horse owners are required to produce a 30-day health certificate.

Stalls at Independence River Parking Area
Tie stalls near the parking area

The Otter Creek Trail System is the single largest developed recreational opportunity in this unit. The trail system includes approximately 65 miles of interlocking trails and roads, which are located on Independence River Wild Forest, of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, Independence River State Forest and Otter Creek State Forest. The trail system uses a series of old, sandy roads and woods trails to traverse a beautiful, diverse area. The trails wind their way along spirea flats and wooded areas, accessing picturesque Adirondack ponds and following or crossing Otter, Little Otter, Beaver Meadow, Chase, Burnt and Crooked Creeks and the Independence River.

Facilities included at the Assembly Area: 100 roofed tie stalls, 4 parking areas (2 with trailer access), a picnic pavilion, grills, two roofed stud stalls, potable water system for the horses, port-a-johns and a bathroom with sink and toilets, but no showers. Please note the water is shut off the day after Columbus Day (USA) weekend in October. There are also 3 accessible platforms, providing easy mounting and dismounting of horses, located near the different staging areas within the Assembly Area.

Friends of Otter Creek (leaves DEC website) help maintain the Otter Creek Horse Trails by providing brushing, blow down removal, signing and minor tread work through a volunteer stewardship agreement.


General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

Accessible Features

access for people with disabilities

General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

There are no currently maintained routes for this purpose; however, 3 accessible platforms are located near all of the staging areas allowing for easy mounting and dismounting of horses.


Independence River State Forest directions

From Lowville, take County Route 36 (Number Four Road) 3.5 miles to County Route 39 (Pine Grove Road) turn left and go 5 miles south to Chases Lake Road. Turn left and proceed 3.25 miles.

  • Overflow parking area for Otter Rd. lot (30 vehicle capacity, trailers accessible), (43.74343079°N, 75.31476038°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Otter Creek Horse Trail parking area (15 vehicle capacity), (43.74655959°N, 75.31115608°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Otter Creek Horse Trail parking lot #2 (15 vehicle capacity), (43.74784965°N, 75.31195329°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Otter Creek Horse Trail parking lot #3 (15 vehicle capacity, trailer accessible), (43.74924138°N, 75.3120024°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.

All users of Independence River State Forest must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Specific Rules

This property has site-specific rules for the Otter Creek Assembly Area (leaves DEC website). Please review them before your visit.

Mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling are allowed on the property; however, there are no trails on this property currently maintained for these activities.

Planning and Management

DEC has developed the Westward Waters Unit Management Plan which describes the proposed management activities for this lands. In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

If you have questions and/or comments about this UMP, please email us

Timber Management

Much of the forest rests on deep, sandy soils and is comprised of quality hardwoods such as hard maple and black cherry. It also has impressive native white pine, interspersed with planted red, white and scotch pines. DEC's professional foresters conduct carefully controlled timber improvement harvests on regular intervals to help maintain the health and vigor of the forest.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Where to Find Nearby Amenities

  • Gas, food, dining, and lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Beaver River Station, Brantingham, Croghan, Glenfield, Lowville, Lyons Falls, Port Leyden, Stillwater and Turin.

Adirondacks Tug Hill (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guidebooks 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.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.