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Nelson Swamp Unique Area

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Nelson Swamp Unique Area locator map

Nelson Swamp Unique Area is located approximately 20 miles southeast of Syracuse. For your safety and protection of the natural resources, please adhere to the special regulations listed below.

In recent decades, Nelson Swamp has been of interest to botanists and other students of natural history who have been attracted to the area's rich diversity of plant and animal life. The most recent survey cataloged 400 species of vascular plants including the endangered striped coral root and threatened spreading globe flower. Striped coral root, showy lady slipper and small purple-fringed orchid are just three of the many species of orchids known to occur within the swamp. The area also supports a diverse population of breeding birds with 105 species recorded during a 1990 survey.

From State Route 20, which passes through the swamp, a traveler's gaze is often drawn to a low lying landscape of wet meadows, deciduous woods and dark groves of cedar and pine. From the State Route's hilltop perspective, one can follow the Chittenango Creek as it meanders on its circuitous journey north to Lake Ontario. The Chittenango, which is the dominant water course within the swamp, was commonly referred to as Chittening by settlers but was derived from the Oneida word "Chu-de-naany" meaning "where the sun shines out".

Featured Activities



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

The path at Nelson Swamp

A segment of the North County Scenic Trail (leaves DEC website) also known as the Link Trail (leaves DEC website) passes through Nelson Swamp on the abandoned grade of the West Shore Railroad. The elevated grade offers the best opportunity for accessing interior sections of the swamp without impacting sensitive wetland soils. A trailhead kiosk and parking area are located adjacent to Stone Quarry Road.



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

Fishing information for Central NY is available.

Hunting & Trapping


Wildlife Management Unit: 7M & 7J

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 two short segments of snowmobile trails that run through Nelson Swamp (see map). Snowmobiling on other areas of the property is prohibited.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

cross country skiing

General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails.

Flowers at Nelson Swamp State Forest


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

accessible trail

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

The 0.7-mile Nelson Swamp Interpretive Trail provides opportunities for people with disabilities to access a northern white cedar swamp and learn about its natural and cultural history.


To reach the trail head, take State Route 20 east from the village of Cazenovia to Stone Quarry Road. Proceed south on Stone Quarry Road for 2.2 miles and the trail head is on the left.

  • Stone Quarry Road Parking (42.89129,-75.826251) 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 Nelson Swamp Unique Area 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.

For your safety and protection of the Unique Area, please adhere to the following rules:

  1. As with all DEC lands, do not litter. Carry out what you carry in. Burying of refuse is prohibited.
  2. All motorized vehicles are restricted to access roads posted as motor vehicle trails. Off road use of motorized vehicles, such as ATVs, trail bikes and four-wheel drives are not allowed.
  3. No permanent structures may be established, including tree stands or blinds.
  4. Camping is prohibited at Nelson Unique Area.
  5. Fires are prohibited at Nelson Swamp.
  6. Snowmobile use is prohibited except where designated and posted snowmobile trails exist.
  7. Removing protected plants is prohibited.

Planning and Management

DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Tioughnioga Unit Management Plan. 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


Historically, "Cedar Swamp" played an important role in the development of Nelson's agricultural economy. Many area farmers owned swamp parcels known as "post lots" that provided a ready supply of timber and other forest products. The rot resistant wood of white cedar was used for split rail fencing and poles for supporting hop vines. White pine was cut and milled for building materials and balsam fir was harvested for decorative greens and Christmas trees. Baskets were woven from thin strips of black ash and the dense wood of American elm was used to manufacture a variety of farm implements.

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 community of Cazenovia.

Madison County Tourism Webpage (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.

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  • NYSDEC Region 7
    Sherburne Sub-office
    2715 State Hwy 80
    Sherburne, NY 13460
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