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Designated a National Natural Landmark, the most outstanding feature of Moss Lake Preserve is its 15-acre bog lake. As the last continental glacier retreated some 15,000 years ago, a large block of ice was surrounded or buried by gravel carried by the glacier. The ice melted, leaving behind a water-filled depression. Eventually, a sphaghum moss mat grew over much of the open water, thus giving it the name Moss Lake.
Although it swims like a duck, the pied-billed grebe does not have webbed feet. Instead of having a webbing connecting all the toes, each toe has lobes extending out on the sides that provide extra surface area for paddling.
Moss Lake Preserve is open to the public from dawn to dusk. Tread lightly on this fragile ecosystem while you enjoy the boardwalk and woodland trails. Please do not walk on the sphagnum moss or feed the bullhead fish.
At least 75 species of birds have been seen at the preserve, including waterfowl such as wood duck, canvasback, redhead, and horned- and pied-billed grebe. Waders include great blue and green herons and raptors include red-tailed hawk, northern harrier and osprey. In spring, up to 17 species of warblers can be seen foraging for insects. Upland wildlife includes deer, chipmunks, gray squirrels and woodchucks.
A boardwalk over the mat enables visitors to enjoy the bog's unusual flora: bog laurel, carnivorous round-leaved and spatulate-leaved sundew and pitcher plants, leatherleaf, cranberries and bog club moss. Insectivorous bladderwort can be seen in full yellow bloom in July.
At 82 acres, Moss Lake Preserve is located in Allegany County, NY.
From the NY state Thruway (I-90) in western NY:
- Take Exit 54 and drive southeast about 15 miles on Route 400 to Route 20A.
- Turn east on Route 20A and drive 29 miles to Warsaw.
- Turn south on Route 19 and drive 25 miles to Houghton.
- From the intersection of Rt. 19 and Genesee Street in Houghton, drive 1.4 miles south on Rt. 19.
- Turn right on Sand Hill Road (a dirt road). The entrance is 0.9 miles on the left.
From Rt. 86/17:
- Exit at Belvedere and drive 13 miles north on Rt. 19 to Houghton, then follow directions above.