More than a decade ago, The Nature Conservancy accepted the donation of a 36-acre, raisin-shaped island located in the Upper Delaware River. Completely uninhabited, the unassuming Butternut Island represents a critical link between the river’s headwaters in New York’s Catskill Mountains, the unique heaths and wetlands of Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, and ultimately, the well-known migratory bird habitat located where the river meets up with the Atlantic Ocean.
The Nature Conservancy was drawn to Butternut Island’s floodplain forest of willows, maples, oaks sycamores and the butternut trees for which it is named. Also referred to as “white walnut” in reference to their pale wood and natural sheen, butternut trees have experienced a decline in recent years rivaling that of the American chestnut and elm. With a tendency to grow alone rather than in groves—across a very large range—scientists have been baffled as to how a fungus has managed to spread among these trees at an unprecedented rate.
The floodplain forest shares the island with other important habitats, namely a sedge meadow, and an oak savannah underlain by heaths of blueberry and raspberry. Freshwater mussels populate surrounding waters and add to the reasons why Butternut Island represents an important project for The Nature Conservancy’s efforts in the Upper Delaware River.
While officially located in the state of New York, the Conservancy’s Pennsylvania chapter manages Butternut Island. To date, controlling and removing non-native vegetation such as Japanese knotweed has dominated conservation efforts. In the future, the Conservancy will continue working with local partners to manage habitats on Butternut Island and other sensitive riparian habitats along the Delaware.
Japanese knotweed invasion.
Removing and controlling invasive vegetation.
Acquisition of the island in 1995.
Delaware Highlands Conservancy
Sullivan County, New York, 2 miles north of the hamlet of Callicoon
What You’ll See
Floodplain forest of willows, maples, oaks, sycamores and butternut trees.
Butternut Island is not open to the public due to the fragile nature of the habitat. However, interested conservationists may view the island during a volunteer workday.
To view the island during a volunteer workday, please contact the Nature Conservancy at:
P.O. Box 55 Long Pond Road
Long Pond, PA 18334
Phone: (570) 643-7922
Fax: (570) 643-7925