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Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area

hike hunt trap fish boat launch handlaunch watchable accessible park icon key

Upper and Lower Lakes WMA locator map

The primary purposes of Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area (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 (leaves DEC website). It is bounded on four sides by public roads: State Route 68, Irish Settlement Road, County Road 14, and County Road 15.

Featured Activities



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

Hiking is allowed only at the Indian Creek Nature Center. Please stay on the designated trails to protect the diversity and richness of the plant communities found within this area.

Hunting and Trapping

Main open water marsh at Upper and Lower Lakes WMA
Main open water marsh at
Upper and Lower Lakes WMA.

Wildlife Management Unit: 6A

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

Special entry and permit restrictions are in place at this WMA to protect key habitats and provide high-quality hunting opportunities. Upper and Lower Lakes WMA Wetlands Regulations lists permitted hunting opportunities and describes access restrictions.

This WMA is divided into three zones: refuge, restricted use, and public hunting (see Upper and Lower Lakes WMA map). 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. Please be sure to abide by all game laws (view hunting seasons and trapping seasons).



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

Smallmouth bass, walleye, and muskellunge are present in the Grass River.

Boat Launch

Wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting blind
Wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting blind
boat launch

There is a boat launch to access the Grass 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.



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

A demonstration area featuring various types of habitat manipulation is located off of 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 (leaves DEC website) 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 Vertebrate Checklist (PDF) and the Wildlife Management Area Bird Checklist (PDF) as wildlife viewing guides. Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area is designated as a Bird Conservation Area.

Boardwalk at Indian Creek Nature Center
Boardwalk at Indian Creek Nature Center.


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 is an accessible privy located at the main Indian Creek Nature Center (leaves DEC website) parking area off County Route 14.

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 of County Route 14 on 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, and large enough for 2 people and a dog. It has a dog door and ramp which a dog can use to retrieve game.

Note: The trail and blind located off Rte. 15 are currently under repair.

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

Parking and accessible trail at Upper and Lower Lakes WMA
Parking and accessible trail at
Upper and Lower Lakes WMA.


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

All Google links leave 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 Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management 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.

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).

How We Manage Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area

Wildlife Restoration

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, and 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 with cattail and other emergent plants. Water level control structures stabilize water levels which contribute 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 to 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), approved in August 2016, which identifies the WMA-specific target species and habitat goals for the WMA.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

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

State Lands and Facilities

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.

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.

Upper and Lower Lakes WMA Wetlands Regulations

Public Use of Wetlands Restricted Area

The portion of the Upper & Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area that is posted WETLANDS RESTRICTED AREA will be open to specific types of public access as outlined below. Noe that permits are required for trapping and camping and that other regulations detailed in Title 6, NYCRR Part 54 Amended Regulations to Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area, apply.

Northeastern Zone Waterfowl Hunting Season

Opening day hunting hours are from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. On all other days of the waterfowl and September goose season, statewide hunting hours are in effect. Hunters must leave the area two (2) hours after shooting hours end each day.

Open for youth waterfowl and youth pheasant hunting on designated dates.

Big and Small Game

State-wide regulations apply.


Access is to land only between April 15 and May 31.


Permits are available only for the fall on an annual basis by contacting the Bureau of Wildlife at the Watertown office (315) 785-2263. The following information must be provided for the camping permits:

  • names and addresses of all persons who will be at the camp site;
  • vehicle description(s) and license plate number(s) of all vehicles that will be at the site; and
  • the dates the site will be occupied

Complete camping rules and regulations are contained in the camping permit.


Permits are available for both the spring and fall by contacting the Bureau of Wildlife at the Watertown office (315) 785-2263.