Grasse River
Wilderness Preserve

Grasse River
Wilderness Preserve

The Grasse River Wilderness Preserve is rewilding former timberlands, giving land back to wildlife at a critical gateway between the Adirondack Park and Canada.

In early 2000 Alice began walking from her home in the Adirondack Park, northwest until she arrived at the Canadian border, where she swam the width of the St. Lawrence River, crossed a four-lane highway, and then continued her trek until she reached the Algonquin Park in Ontario. Her journey took nearly two years and was filled with life-threatening obstacles.

Alice was a Moose. She was tracked by scientists via radio collar between 1998 and 2000. Her 350-mile walk is proof that the small neck of a relatively intact habitat connecting the vast protected forests of New York and Canada is an indispensable lynchpin in a vast corridor for our kin on the move. And while Alice the Moose’s feat may seem remarkable, animals, plants and fungi rely on this connected habitat on an everyday basis. That’s why the Algonquin to Adirondacks (A2A) Corridor has been formally recognized as a conservation priority, and why Northeast Wilderness Trust is interested in protecting the land in this region.

In 2000 Alice ambled over the ‘Blue Line’ that designates the boundary of the Adirondack Park not far from a 1,407-acre forested property that, at the time, was managed for timber production. Today, Alice’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on can travel through those same lands because they are protected as forever-wild and now known as Grasse River Wilderness Preserve.

Wildlife of Grasse River Wilderness Preserve

This land has incredible value for wildlife thanks in large part to the immense amount of water there. The Preserve protects a mile and a half of Grasse River frontage, more than 250 acres of wetlands, more than 7 miles of streams, and 20 freshwater ponds. Wilderness preservation ensures excellent water quality for this part of the Grasse River, which is home to one of just three known healthy populations of New York’s imperiled eastern pearlshell mussel. (This rare mussel has also been found on Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve in the eastern Adirondacks.)

The water features add diversity to this northern hardwood forest, and many are influenced by beaver activity. During the land’s management, beavers were trapped or controlled as part of the forestry activities. Now, these hardworking ecosystem engineers are free to create even more wetland homes for cattails, minnows, ebony jewelwing damselflies, chestnut-sided warblers, and more as part of the rewilding process.

Grasse River Wilderness Preserve lies at the transition between two distinct eco-regions: the Western Adirondack Foothills, characterized by mid- to low-elevation hills tapering off of the granite massif that forms the Adirondack Mountains, and the low-lying Western Adirondack Transition Zone of gently rolling plains. These transitional areas, or ecotones, are rich in biodiversity and are poised to play an outsized role in speciation and adaptation as human-caused climate change advances.

The Preserve abuts two protected state forests—Downerville State Forest to the north and Degrasse State Forest to the south. It also directly abuts forever-wild land just outside of the Adirondack Park’s boundary line: the 1,300-acre Lampson Falls section of the Grass River Wild Forest, a popular site for camping and walking. The Grasse River Wilderness Preserve secures a wild buffer for the special character of that land, while complementing the more developed recreation area of Lampson Falls with land that is open to the public to on-foot exploration without infrastructure or drastic human-made changes to the land.