Plants and Animals View All
Location View All
Coon Mountain is a naturalist's paradise and a view-hiker's dream. It is famous for its mysterious and craggy interior with rocky outcrops and dark hemlock forests. Steep cliffs and talus slopes reveal vistas of oak-pine forests, small fens and hardwood swamps. Visited by more than 2,000 people annually, this is our most popular preserve.
With strong town support from Westport residents, the Adirondack Land Trust acquired Coon Mountain primarily for its open-space value. The acquisition also protects ecologically sensitive and biologically rich lands, and is adjacent to the 3,700-acre Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest.
According to local lore, the Coon Mountain panther, which cries like a damsel in distress, would lure men into the deep woods where it would spring on its victim. Many dogs were lost to the panther in attempts to hunt it. During one such hunt, the panther was shot in mid-leap and crashed down a cliff, sinking into one of the mysterious tarns that dot the summit’s ridge. The body of the panther was never found, leaving the legend of the Coon Mountain panther intact.
An innovative land swap, in partnership with the Conservancy, enabled the Adirondack Land Trust to protect the rocky summit of Coon Mountain while keeping additional lands in forest management.The ecologically sensitive lands on Coon Mountain, which were owned by a local sawmill operator, were traded for 275 acres of productive Champlain Valley forestland donated by a longtime chapter and state trustee.
A steep hike of one mile to the summit offers great views of Lake Champlain, the patchwork of farmland in the Champlain Valley, the Adirondack High Peaks and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Hunters and pets are permitted on this preserve. A preserve guide is available from the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Land Trust and at the trail register.
In the spring, look for vernal pools in the ravines. Though these ecologically important water pockets will dry up later in the season, they are essential breeding grounds for frogs and salamanders. Porcupines sometimes den in the rock crevices farther up the slope. They have sharp, barbed quills for protection. Contrary to popular belief they don't "throw" their quills but can quickly slap you with their tail if you get too close. The summit offers a great vantage point from which to view migrating raptors, such as broad-winged hawks, as they make their way through the Champlain Valley in the spring and again in early fall.
Coon Mountain's low elevation and south-facing slopes are hospitable to trees usually found farther south, such as red oak, white oak, and shagbark hickory. American beech, sugar maple, and yellow birch are the climax tree species in the northern hardwood forest. At the base of the ravine you may notice a subtle change in the forest. Here, with richer, moister soils we find different plants growing, such as blue cohosh, jewelweed, and stinging nettles. The wildflowers are particularly abundant in the spring before the tree canopy shades the forest floor.
This 318-acre preserve is located in the Town of Westport in the Champlain Valley.