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The beaver narrows trail as it was originally known has a couple other names listed, depending where you look. The sign near the trailhead lists it as the beaver ponds trail, and I’ve also seen it listed as the narrows trail. I’ve always known it as the beaver narrows trail since the 1980’s, so that is the moniker that I will be using here. Despite what you call it, it’s a great hike and offers some picturesque views of the Huckleberry lake outlet (also listed as Carter Creek). This is a part of the Wolf Lake state forest, and is located in the town of Hermon NY.
The 4316 -acre Wolf Lake state forest is comprised of quite a few different parcels purchased throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. This trail is in the northern part of the forest. The area was originally used in the 1800’s for logging. Hemlock was an important tree at that time. The trees were cut only for the bark, which was used for tanning leather. The trees were left to rot in the forest after the bark was harvested. Later the wood gained value in the production of pulp, and as for sawlogs used for lumber. In a conversation with the town of Dekalb historian, he relayed to me the story of his grandfather (14 years old at the time), living in a logging camp in these woods for the winter months. He drove a horse drawn sleigh loaded with hemlock bark to a tannery in Harrisville. An interesting memory that the grandfather had shared with the family, was of the endless kettle of beans that they ate. Dry beans were just added to replenish the kettle as it was eaten. Often some were cooked thoroughly- some not so much.
The area that this hike encompasses is what is referred to as the Red Ranch. Prior to the states acquisition, the Reed Family ran a sizable maple syrup operation here. The 1914 April/May edition of the Canton commercial Advertiser featured the headline: “BIG FOREST FIRE AT TROUT LAKE”. The May 22nd dated article told that the fire was believed to have started at the Reed Brothers sugar house. When I first started hiking these woods in the 1980’s, the foundations of the Reed farm were still found near where the parking area is today.
From St. Lawrence county RT19, in Hermon NY, you will head south on the Sam Day road. This is a seasonally maintained dirt road, so winter months could be a gamble. Often times I have seen the road plowed by someone unofficial, so it’s nothing guaranteed. Less than a mile down this road, you will see a D.E.C. sign and a road on your right (west), this leads to the parking area & trailhead, a distance of about one third of a mile.
On the trail
Once at the trailhead, the trail goes through some planted evergreens and within a few minutes you’ll reach Carter Creek. This trail is marked with red trail markers. The trail turns southerly at this point. Not far from here, I found a steel cap from a ventilator stack, off a barn roof. A subtle reminder of the time when this was a working farm. My last trek through here, was in May and spring runoff necessitated a bushwhack of a couple hundred yards to get around a wet spot near here. You will get your first glimpses of the narrows and some dark hemlock timber at about a third of a mile. The trail alternates between being close to the level of the water, and then up onto some bare bedrock, which offer amazing overlooks of ponds below.
A little over a mile in you will come to a lean-to. Right below this is a narrow cut between to rock faces, and the beaver have it dammed up. The creek is only about 30’ wide here. It’s easy to draw the conclusion that, this is likely the spot that earned the beaver narrows trail. The entire length of the creek has beaver activity, and that makes for some great habitat for otter, waterfowl, deer, song birds and I’m told perch as well. I’ve never fished here, so I can’t confirm that, but it would be a great place to be even if you caught nothing.
At around the 2-mile mark, the trail leaves the waterway and starts overland through some rougher territory, and past an impressive boulder field. At this point you are a little over a mile from Moon lake.
There are trails to Huckleberry and Wolf lake ahead as well as another trail back to the Sam Day road (yellow trail markers, about 3.6 mile by GPS). You will be about a half mile from the parking lot when you reach the Sam Day road on that trail. The D.E.C. site list this as 3.9 miles, but I have found the narrows trail to be somewhat less than the listed mileages. It is actually 3.4 miles to Moon Lake according to my GPS. For more on these three lakes, see the Hiking the trail to yesterday article here: https://hikingthetrailtoyesterday.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/wolf-lake-state-forest/
This is a large state forest, and has much to offer. The trails are all well marked, so you can decide how far you hike and what you want to see for yourself. Every season adds something to its charm. The narrows trail has some fairly steep climbs, but nothing technical. You will want sturdy waterproof shoes, and allow plenty of time for photos. This is a popular hunting area, so wear something orange or red if hiking here in the fall. Even if you just do a quickie hike to the lean-to and back, you will see some beautiful natural forests and waters.
When you hike through some of the hemlock stands, think back to the 1800’s when these trees were cut for the bark, and the maples that the Reed’s tapped for sugaring in the 1900’s. Much of the pines and oak you see are the result of the forest fires that swept through the area in the early 1900’s. These fires gave name to the nearby 1570- acre fire-fall state forest. Most of all, enjoy the fact that we still have these forests and open spaces to roam around today.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Bryan Thompson, DeKalb Historian – Email interview
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!
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