New Yorkers are getting a big gift this holiday season, in the state’s recent purchase of the former Finch, Pruyn land.
For the sheer beauty of the wilderness or to fulfill the promise of generating commerce in the towns where the new land is located, we need to get out and get to know the “Former Finch” Forest Preserve Acquisitions.
On the last day of deer season, I set out for OK Slip Falls on the new OK Slip Tract in Indian Lake. The OK Slip Tract, like much of the other “Former Finch” property, was logged sustainably for more than 100 years. The forest seems rich with wildlife and healthy diversity, and it feels like a moment in Middle Earth to stand on the ledges facing the falls.
OK Slip Brook is a deceivingly inconspicuous brook that suddenly drops 250 feet over a fantastic, forested ledge, creating thunderous sounds and, in winter, impressive ice formations. It is the tallest waterfall in New York state and spectacular to see. Fortunately the trip to the falls is a moderate hike.
Starting from the Ross Pond trail off Route 28 between North Creek and Indian Lake, after some searching, I eventually found the new flagged trail that the Department of Environmental Conservation has marked as an interim connector to the falls. I’d heard that bears and birds will sometimes pull down flagging tape on similar trails, and here I saw signs of both. There were some sections where no flagging was visible making the hike essentially a guided bushwhack and not recommended for inexperienced hikers. It does pass beside a series of wetlands and will be beautiful when it is finalized.
For those who want to see the falls this winter, there is an alternative route via OK Slip Road, which makes the falls trail easily accessible to snowshoe and ski traffic. OK Slip Road turns north from Route 28 between North Creek and Indian Lake just under a mile east of the Ross Pond parking area. Since the 1940s, this gated road has lead to Northern Frontier Camp, a 165-acre boys camp that remains in private ownership.
From Route 28, OK Slip Road goes north about 1.5 miles to a sign to the falls on the right. This new DEC sign is visible and sturdy, but I found two other signs that had been bitten by bears, so we’ll see how long the resident wildlife tolerates the new human-scented landmark.
The waterfall is one mile past the new DEC sign, on a trail following old logging roads that are wet in many places. If you go, take traction for your feet. There appear to be a lot of semi-frozen seeps and there is one significant brook crossing covered with knobs of burly ice.
The interim access plan to the falls notes that roughly a dozen “species of special concern” have been found by the New York Natural Heritage Program. The locations aren’t identified and protection of these rare species will be addressed more as the DEC Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the new land unfolds. Camping in designated tent sites will eventually be permitted, though these sites have yet to be determined. For now, prospective campers may follow general DEC camping regulations until Gov. Cuomo reviews the APA’s overall classification decision and the UMP is spelled out.
All visitors should resist any temptation to go beyond the marked viewing ledges. The gorge is steep and treacherous to descend.
Elizabeth Lee is a licensed guide who lives in Westport. She leads recreational and educational programs focused in the Champlain Valley throughout the year. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.