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As one of only a handful of inland pine barrens left in the United States, Rome Sand Plains contains a fantastic diversity of habitats. Visitors can find an interesting and varied trail experience as they wind through high sand dunes and low peat bogs or walk through pine barrens, meadows and hardwood forests.
The biodiversity of the sand plains makes it a favorite spot for students and nature buffs. The various habitats at the plains harbor several rare and unusual species, including carnivorous plants such as the sundew and pitcher plant and animals such as the fisher and red-shouldered hawk. The plains is also a restoration site for the frosted elfin butterfly, a species listed as threatened in New York.
Rome Sand Plains is managed by a group of organizations, including The Nature Conservancy and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
Frosted Elfin Butterfly
The Nature Conservancy is working to restore this area, a former sand mine, to a pine barrens landscape that harbors frosted elfin and–perhaps someday–Karner blue butterflies. Over the last two years alone, scores of volunteers have helped plant over 3,000 wild blue lupine plants, 750 pitch pine seedlings and 28 pounds of little bluestem grass seed on a degraded area of the Sand Plains.
Rome Sand Plains Preserve is open to the public from dawn to dusk. Tread lightly on this fragile ecosystem while you enjoy the trails. Motorbikes and ATVs are strictly prohibited as they can damage young wild blue lupine and pitch pines.
- Sand Dune Trail (about 0.5 hr): This 0.7-mile loop trail starts at a former sand-mining pit, travels along the top of a sand dune, and continues along old wood roads and logging paths.
- Wood Creek Trail (about 1 hr): Follow this gently sloping trail along the crest of a towering dune to the bank of Wood Creek. The trail extends for about three-quarters of a mile to Wood Creek.
- Pitch Pine Bog Trail (about 2 hrs): Explore the unique plants and animals indicative of a pitch pine bog along an easy 2.6-mile trail. This trail is on Isaac Walton League property on West Thomas Street.
Rome Sand Plains Preserve supports a wide range of wildlife, including:
- frosted elfin butterfly
- spotted turtle
- wood turtle
- red-shouldered hawk
- hermit thrush
- Nashville warbler
- pine warbler
Many plant species make Rome Sand Plains Preserve their home, including:
- pitch pine
- pitcher plant
- blue lupines
- sphagnum moss
- cinnamon ferns
- grass pink orchid
- cranberries and blueberries
- sheep laurel
This preserve is located in Rome, NY within Oneida County.
- Head northwest on NYS Route 69 (Erie Blvd.) in Rome one-half mile past McDonald's (which is on the right) to the traffic light at the junction with Routes 46/49.
- Turn left (westward) onto Routes 46/49.
- Travel about 2.4 miles; along the way you'll pass the Erie Canal Village.
- Turn right onto Oswego Road and follow it for about 0.8 mile to Hogsback Road.
- Turn left onto Hogsback Road and follow it for about 1.7 miles to the Wood Creek parking area on your left.
- Along the way, you'll pass a Rome Sand Plains sign and parking area on the right. Park here for the Sand Dune Trail.
- Or, keep going to the small parking area on the left with Rome Sand Plains signage for the Wood Creek Trail.
- To reach Pitch Pine Bog Trail, turn right onto Gifford Road from routes 46/49/69, then turn left on West Thomas Street. The parking lot is located a ½ mile down on the left.