a unique landscape in the Adirondacks
Gadway Preserve a unique landscape in the Adirondacks © Carl Heilman II

Places We Protect

Gadway Sandstone Pavement Barrens Preserve

New York

Explore this unique Adirondack landscape.

Formed 12,000 years ago by a catastrophic flood, Gadway Sandstone Pavement Barrens Preserve is an interesting and unusual Adirondack preserve. The exposed sandstone can heat up to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit in July and August.

The trail begins at the register located at the edge of the parking area and is approximately a mile long. It is a relatively flat, loop trail that gives visitors a sense of how changes in elevation and soil depth affect species composition of the preserve.

The area was formed when glacial till was scoured off the flatrock, resulting in the exposure of an expansive rippled "beach" of Potsdam sandstone. Only in the last 10,000 years have trees and shrubs colonized this unique sandstone. To this day, jack pine forests dominate the area, this fire-dependent species is the only tree species that can survive in these extreme conditions of poor, thin soil and minimal nutrients. The understory is composed primarily of heath shrubs, such as blueberry, chokeberry and huckleberry, which can withstand flooding as well as drought. You can also find a wide diversity of lichens and mosses.

You may hear songbirds at the preserve, including the white-throated sparrow. The barrens provide important breeding habitat for several bird species in New York. Some large mammals such as fisher, bobcat and deer populate the jack-pine barrens community. Its small-mammal population of deer- and white-footed mice, red-backed voles and short-tailed shrews show interesting adaptations to high temperatures and extreme aridity of the barrens in the summer. 

Why We Work Here

Gadway Barrens represents an outstanding example of a sandstone pavement barren, a globally rare natural community found in fewer than 20 sites around the world.

What We Do

The Nature Conservancy has worked cooperatively with the Miner Institute and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh to conduct scientific research at this unique site. 

A preserve guide is available from the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy office and at the trail register.

This 520-acre preserve is open to the public from dawn to dusk during the summer and early fall seasons for recreational, educational and, with written permission, scientific use. The access road to the Preserve is rough, and high-clearance, all-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. The access road and parking lot are not maintained by the Conservancy in winter.

To help ensure the continued protection of the preserve and that this special place can be enjoyed for future generations, please respect the following guidelines: 

  • No removal or destruction of plants or animals.
  • No camping.
  • No fires or cooking.
  • No bicycling.
  • No littering.
  • No hunting or trapping.
  • All dogs must remain on a leash, and owners must remove dog waste. 
  • Pack out what you bring in.

Staying on marked trails is a simple way to protect the Gadway Sandstone Pavement Barrens' natural areas. Walking off trail causes erosion, tramples plants, and can increase the likelihood of invasive plants becoming established.