Cooperstown NY area

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Cooperstown NY area

Post by tomhoward » Wed Sep 21, 2016 6:35 pm


On this mostly sunny warm, humid (81 F) Sunday (Sept. 18, 2016), Elijah Whitcomb and I explored the Cooperstown, NY area.

We took the Thruway and NY 28 to Cooperstown. NY 28 goes by Canaderago Lake, with beautiful tall (possibly 110-120 ft. tall) White Pines along the shore. NY 28 south from there goes by boggy valleys with lots of Balsam Fir, some Tamarack, White Pine, Balsam Poplar.

We entered Cooperstown through a 2nd growth White Pine and hardwood forest. Cooperstown is a lovely old town with many big 19th century houses and big trees (especially Sugar Maples) in lawns. We saw 2 big Cucumber Magnolias in one of these lawns. The hills around Cooperstown are forested with tall White Pines and hardwoods.

We crossed the bridge over the beginning of the Susquehanna River (which flows out of Otsego Lake; Cooperstown is at the south end of Otsego Lake, and the Susquehanna River goes all the way to Chesapeake Bay).

We took Otsego County Rt. 31 along the east shore of Otsego Lake, by the Farmer’s Museum (White Pines on steep hills above the museum). We continued north along the east shore of the lake through a 2nd growth forest of Red Oak, Ash, Basswood, Shagbark Hickory, other trees, with scattered White Pines towering above all other trees. We stopped at Glimmerglass State Park.

At Glimmerglass State Park we visited the oldest covered bridge in the USA (built 1825), over a small stream in an open area with Basswood and bigger Shagbark Hickories. It is a small bridge, which Elijah says was mostly built of Hemlock with some Pine.

We drove to Hyde Hall, a c.1820 mansion overlooking Otsego Lake. Forested hills crowned with tall White Pines rise above this area.

We took part of the park’s main hiking trail into a very interesting forest. After the trail veered off steeply uphill, we continued along a dirt road through forest above the lakeshore. The route we took is an unpaved road and power line shown on the trail map just past Hyde Hall.

The forest at the beginning of the trail is mostly Shagbark Hickory (many of them in lawn around Hyde Hall), White Oak, White Ash, and White Pine.

White Pines are the only trees we measured over 100 ft. tall, but White Ash may also reach 100 ft. White Pines are still the tallest trees on this site and in the entire Cooperstown area.
Trees in the forest in Glimmerglass State Park (at least in the section we explored):

Dominant: White Pine (in some sections, tallest trees seen), White Oak (oldest trees seen), Red Oak, White Ash, Bigtooth Aspen (in some sections, large with gray rough bark).

Associate: Hemlock, Shagbark Hickory, Pignut Hickory, Basswood, Sugar Maple, Red Maple, Striped Maple, Black Cherry, Sweet Cherry, Shadbush, Hornbeam, Hop Hornbeam, Gray Birch (largest and tallest seen of this species), Flowering Dogwood, Sassafras (small, but one large fallen tree), American Chestnut (one of biggest of this species seen), Beech (none large, Beech Bark Disease present), Black Ash, Elm, Witchhazel.

I measured a White Pine at the beginning of the trail to 122 ft., and Elijah measured another White Pine in the same area to 121 ft. I measured a White Pine near the trailhead to 122 ft. Elijah got 107 ft. on another White Pine. These White Pines at and near the beginning of the trail are the tallest trees we would measure.

I measured a White Oak to 97.8 ft., and Elijah got 88 ft. on another White Oak. We came to a small White Oak with lots of balding bark.

Although this is not a very old forest, some of the White Oaks are very old trees from the original forest. Most trees are young, with old White Oaks and old-looking Red Oaks and old-looking White Pines scattered throughout. It looks like the forest was thinned from the 19th to mid-20th centuries with original trees left behind.

I counted 296 rings on the 13” radius of a White Oak cross-section. The rings were uniform in width, and extremely tight throughout. The cross-section was from high up in a tree that had fallen – we saw its shattered stump down a slope toward the lake. This White Oak could have been close to 350 years old when it fell.

We stopped at a bench overlooking Otsego Lake. It is a beautiful spot, the lake hemmed in by high forested hills, with Cooperstown a small town at the base of the hills at the south end of the lake. This is the “Glimmerglass” of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, the first significant American novels, with America’s first important literary hero, Natty Bumppo or Leatherstocking as the main character. The most famous of these books is The Last of the Mohicans. This is a storied, timeless landscape, and Otsego Lake in this pine-scented setting looks almost as primeval as in Cooper’s day in the early 19th century.

Many of the White Pines in this area are quite small, but they have rough bark, and are likely to be older than they look. The abundant Red Oaks (most common trees) also could be older than they look, although they are not very large. These Red Oaks have old-looking blocky bark. This whole forest looks, feels, and smells like the old 2nd growth forests of New England. It seems to be a poor growth site, which lets trees get old, but keeps them small.

There are several large Grapevines in the forest.

We saw an Osprey flying overhead.

We came to a big American Chestnut. I noticed the long leaves and twisted spiral grain trunk, and pointed it out to Elijah. This is the largest American Chestnut he’s seen, 16.5” dbh (4.3 ft. cbh). This tree has burs in its dead top. Elijah measured the Chestnut to a height of 74 ft. This was a big highlight of this survey.

We found a Sassafras log with sprouts coming up. Growth rings on the stump are wide, so this tree should have been under 100 years old. We would see only small Sassafras trees.

We would soon see many large Bigtooth Aspens, some of the finest (if not the finest) I’ve ever seen. I measured a typical Bigtooth Aspen to 78 ft.

In the same area Elijah counted possibly over 200 tight, hard to count, rings on an old 9” radius White Oak stump.

I measured a White Pine by the dirt road to 106.5 ft., the tallest tree in this section.

We found a Birch tree, with bark lighter than Yellow Birch, but darker than Gray Birch usually is. This is still a Gray Birch, with the typical triangular leaves; I measured this tree to 68 ft., as far as I know, the tallest Gray Birch measured by NTS.

I measured another Gray Birch with the typical whitish bark to 66 ft. This tree stands among White Pines, in a place where Elijah found Bear and Deer scat. There are several fine whitish barked Gray Birches in this section.

Elijah counted over 190 rings on the cross-section of an uprooted White Oak.

Elijah measured a White Pine to 112 ft.

There are many big Bigtooth Aspens in this section. A typical one is 21.5” dbh. I measured another Bigtooth Aspen to 80.4 ft., and a slender Bigtooth Aspen to 84.6 ft. Elijah counted a little less than 100 unclear rings on a Bigtooth Aspen cross-section. I got a straight up shot of 88.6+ ft. on a nearly 2 ft. dbh Bigtooth Aspen. A Grapevine climbs at least 65 ft. into the crown of a Bigtooth Aspen over 80 ft. tall; the same Grapevine covers the top of a small White Pine. I measured another Bigtooth Aspen to 79.4 ft. The biggest Bigtooth Aspen has a wide, partly dead crown. The trunk is 25.5” dbh (6.7 ft. cbh). Elijah measured this tree to 91.5 ft., the tallest of these magnificent Bigtooth Aspens that we would measure. I measured a nearby smaller Bigtooth Aspen to 80.7 ft.

The air was fresh and pine-scented in this section due to large numbers of White Pines.

We returned to the parking lot near Hyde Hall. Elijah measured one of the tall White Pines on the ridge above to over 122 ft. He could not see the base, but the base is about 2 ft. below his lowest measurement point, so this tree could be about 124 ft. tall.

We headed back to Cooperstown on County Rt. 31, stopped at a parking lot in an area of towering fragrant White Pines. They are beautiful trees, rising over a much lower 2nd growth forest of Hemlock, White Ash, Red Maple, Striped Maple, small Black Birch. This site also has a historic marker sign about Cooper’s fictional character Natty Bumppo. It was here, that in Cooper’s stories, Chingachgook, the last of the Mohicans, died.

I measured one of the tall White Pines by this parking lot to 117.6 ft., and Elijah measured a White Pine near it to 123.5 ft. Elijah measured 2 Blue Spruces in a nearby cemetery to about 100 ft. These could be the tallest Blue Spruces yet measured in NY.

We drove through Cooperstown by beautiful tall (could be 120 ft.) rough-barked White Pines by an adult home in a 19th century mansion.

We took NY 28 back to Herkimer, and then back to North Syracuse. I saw a huge open-gown Cucumber Magnolia in a lawn by NY 5 west of Herkimer.

Trees Measured with Elijah Whitcomb Sept. 18, 2016:

Glimmerglass State Park NY:

White Pine
122-124 (Elijah - possibly 124, base est. 2’ below lowest point visible)

White Oak

American Chestnut
74 16.5” dbh (dead top) (Elijah – biggest Chestnut he’s seen on any outing)

Bigtooth Aspen
91.5 25.5” dbh

Gray Birch
68 (tallest measured by NTS)

Otsego County Rt. 31 north of Cooperstown, NY :
(by parking lot with “Natty Bumppo” sign)

White Pine

Blue Spruce (Elijah in cemetery nearby)
2 trees, both about 100 (possibly tallest NY)

Tom Howard

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Erik Danielsen
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Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:46 pm

Re: Cooperstown NY area

Post by Erik Danielsen » Thu Sep 22, 2016 11:35 am

Beautiful and thorough description- I feel like I can see and smell the forests from here. Congrats on those large birches. I wonder what conditions are most conducive to its maximum growth?

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Matt Markworth
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Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:41 pm

Re: Cooperstown NY area

Post by Matt Markworth » Thu Sep 29, 2016 8:50 pm


I always enjoy reading your reports. Thanks!

Nice to see blue spruce doing pretty well up there. I always feel bad for them when I see planted trees struggling.


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