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.