Volunteers on National Trails Day at the Pawling Preserve
Pawling Preserve Volunteers on National Trails Day at the Pawling Preserve © Charles Flores

Places We Protect

Pawling Nature Reserve

New York

Explore a microcosm of diverse natural communities.

Explore a microcosm of diverse natural communities at each level of 1,053-foot-tall Hammersly Ridge. In the reserve’s gorge, Duell Hollow Brook cascades down the rocks and The Appalachian Trail winds through stands of red pines, eastern hemlocks, and mixed hardwoods. Farther up the ridge, a hillside of beech trees slopes down into a yellow birch forest. And at the ridgetop, chestnut oaks, lichens and mosses grace the rocky soil and compliment stunning views of Great Swamp and Harlem Valley below.

Before you visit, download a trail map.

Why We Selected This Site

The reserve was donated to The Nature Conservancy in 1958 through a gift from a group of local residents, the Akin Hall Association. The large entrance sign at the Quaker Lake Road parking area proclaims the reserve “A living museum for man’s use.” Acquisition of this site was an important milestone in the Eastern New York Chapter’s early conservation portfolio because preservation of this large tract of land is vital to the health of adjacent Great Swamp, one of New York State’s largest freshwater wetlands.

What We Do Here

Devil’s bit, a New York state-rare plant, is one target of long-term protection and monitoring at the site. Isolated populations of state-threatened salamanders that occupy ridge-top wetlands in the reserve are also subjects of ongoing research and protection strategies here.  

Second-growth oak woodlands dominate, accompanied by swamps, red maple forests, fields and hemlock forests. Along the gorge sides, you will see unusual plants such as walking fern, maidenhair spleenwort and hobblebush. Other rare plant species include devil’s bit, soapwort gentian, yellow wild flax, scarlet Indian-paintbrush and Bicknell’s sedge.

Twelve species of amphibians, including six species of salamanders and five species of frogs, breed here. At least 77 bird species use the area for nesting or foraging, including hermit thrushes, black-throated green warblers, winter wrens, blue-gray gnatcatchers and Acadian flycatchers.