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Stone dam is not the easiest thing to find. Once you get everything figured out, it’s actually a fairly easy and pleasant hike. It’s only a mile and a half mile round trip, and quite level. There is very little info that I could find on the trailhead, so hopefully I’ll clear that up so you have an easier time than we did. Fortunately, after a three-mile hike, through some nasty berry briers, mud-holes and a Studebakers final resting place, we got the straight info from a local driving by as we hiked back to our car.
Stone dam is on the middle branch of the Grasse river. The area is steeped in history, and still a very primitive and wild place. In the 1800’s, this was virgin timber territory, and the demand for forest products was huge. To meet these need, timber companies started to purchase these large tracts. This is still true today, although conservation easements with the timber companies have opened up the areas to the public, to the tune of over 50,000 acres. To move this timber to their sawmills, the logs would be banked near the rivers during the winter, and in the spring, they would float the logs downstream in the high water. These river drives were a cheap and effective means of transport. Later as the timber industry demands increased, railroads were built into the forests. Aptly named the Grasse River Railroad, and owned by the Emporium Forestry Company, stretched its tram lines throughout this area, nearly all the way to Clare from Cranberry lake. These added up to around forty miles of tracks. Today many of the roads you drive on here (and many other place s in the region), are built on the former railroad beds.
Stone dam was and still is in the heart of logging country. The dam was constructed to hold back water and logs in the spring. When the time was right, the dam was open and the Impounded water and logs stated their way downstream to Lampson Falls. An 1865 map shows the area of Lampson falls as being owned by John S. Lampson. A Clare business directory list him as “proprietor of grist mill, saw mill. Dealer in all kinds of lumber, timber, shingles, flour and feed”. Also, listed in the same directory is a M. M. Daniels- manufacturer and dealer of lumber, shingles and staves.
For more on Lampson Falls, visit our link here: https://hikingthetrailtoyesterday.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/lampson-falls/
After the log rush slowed, the area become a haven for sportsman. The areas hunting and fishing was legendary and many hunting camps were formed. Today the sporting traditions are still very active. Many camps & lodges are scattered throughout the area. Two very notable ones are the Rainbow Club and the Stillwater club. You’ll drive past both on the way to Stone Dam.
From St. Lawrence county route #27, Turn onto the Dean rode in the town of Clare NY. You will head East for 8 miles. You will drive past the aforementioned hunting clubs, and through at least one gate. You will see some posted signs and private property signs. I was assured, by a D.E.C. game warden that you are legal to drive here, due to the current easements, as long as you stay on the road. The easement boundaries are a very complicated thing to cipher out. If you have doubts or questions, call the regional sub office in Canton (315)265-3090 and ask for someone in the easement office. These folks know their business and are happy to help.
Around 5.1 miles, you’ll see a sign for the Stone Dam parcel trailhead and parking area. THIS DOES NOT TAKE YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE GOING. We found out the hard way. We walked on un-marked trails (never saw one marker, despite the sign telling us to stay on the marked trail), through briers, mud and other nastiness. About a mile and three-quarters in, we found ourselves back on the road, a little over a mile and a quarter from our car. Luckily a fellow stopped his truck and gave us some more accurate direction. As stated above, about 8 miles from RT 27, you will see a gravel pit on your left, will see parking area signs. This is where you want to be. Park your car, and head Northeast down the road.
On the Trail
A short way in you’ll notice that the road has railroad ties sticking out of the dirt. You are on a spur of the long defunct Grasse River Railroad… now that’s history. Before long you will come to an intersection of sorts, with Stillwater club posted signs ahead of you. Follow the road to your right, and you’ll soon see some designated campsites, and then the Grass river at around .5 miles. Follow the trail North (downstream) parallel with the river. Just about another 2/10th of a mile you will see the dam, and the footbridge about a hundred yards further downstream. The footbridge seems a little sketchy, cross at your own risk. The dam is pretty impressive, and I estimate from one end to the other it must be close to 100 yards long.
I couldn’t help wonder about the amount labor involved in the construction of this, given what they would have had to work with at that time. It’s a peaceful stretch of the Grass that gives you know hint of the time – with a little imagination, it’s easy to feel you’re back a hundred years in time.
There are miles of remote roads here, should you feel the urge to explore the wilderness further. Pleasant Lake (properly named too) is another 5-miles down the road. We did see moose tracks in that area as well. Still today, logging is a major part of the forests landscape. The easements between the NY D.E.C. and the timber companies ensure that the forest will be well managed for future generations to come.
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About the Author
I am a life-long resident of the north country, calling Edwards my home.I have always had a passion for the outdoors, and for local history. I recently started this site to share places that have been part of our local history and heritage. I hope you get a chance to hike some of these trails for yourself, and reflect on the rich history of those that walked here before you. And if not, sit back and experience these from where ever you are right now. Either way, enjoy!