New York

Frenchman's Bluff Preserve

Frenchman’s Bluff Preserve features over nine miles of trails, some of which offer exceptional birds-eye views of the Chemung River 700 feet below. The trails wind through open meadows, wildlife ponds and south-facing shale cliff and talus slopes, as well as eastern red cedar and heath oak forests that feature white, red and chestnut oaks. In the winter, the trail system provides great cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

Frenchman’s Bluff is an example of The Nature Conservancy’s “conservation through partnerships” strategy. In 1980, 290 acres of the preserve’s original footprint was donated by Arthur C. Smith, Jr. This guaranteed its permanent protection and laid the groundwork for further conservation. In 1990, a 172-acre parcel adjacent to the park was purchased by Tanglewood Nature Center, which increased the preserve's size by 60 percent.

Frenchman’s Bluff Preserve is open to the public from dawn to dusk. The Tanglewood Nature Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm.

Nature Center Hours:
May 1st - October 31st
Tuesday thru Saturday: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sunday & Monday: closed (trails are open)

November 1st - April 30th
Tuesday thru Saturday: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Sunday & Monday: closed (trails are open)

Nature Center Closed: New Year's Eve, New Years Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Many different animals roam through the diverse habitats found at Frenchman’s Bluff. Birds are especially abundant; throughout the year the preserve is home to a variety of species, including more than 30 different types of warblers that refuel here during spring migration. Ravens, ospreys, eagles, and other raptors are often seen soaring from the steep slopes and scenic vistas that overlook the Chemung River. Some visitors may have the extraordinary opportunity to spot an eastern timber rattlesnake on the preserve. Timber rattlesnakes are rare in the region and are a legally protected, threatened species in New York. Because they rely on camouflage to remain hidden from predators and prey, they can be difficult to see (so please stay on well-maintained trails). If you do encounter a rattler, give it the right-of-way and do not disturb it. But don’t worry, timber rattlesnakes are normally shy and timid. They will not harm you as long as you don’t present a threat.

Frenchman’s Bluff has amazingly diverse plant communities, from meadow and old field species to southern oak and hickory species in the cliff and talus woodlands. The preserve is also home to some plants, including a wild onion and a member of the iris family.

Frenchman's Bluff Preserve is located in Big Flats, New York, within Chemung County.


From the North:

  • Follow NY 13 south to I-86 (NY 17) East.
  • Continue East on I-86 (NY 17) to Exit 56.
  • Drive up the ramp to the first red light and turn right on to Church Street (also NY 352).
  • Follow Church St west for about three miles, traveling through the business district of Elmira and the residential district in West Elmira.
  • Turn right at the red light on to Coleman Avenue, and continue North on Coleman to the top of the hill.
  • Coleman Avenue narrows at the top of the hill, and a television tower will be on your left.
  • Continue for about one half mile. Tanglewood Nature Center will be on your left.
  • Turn left into the driveway and continue to the parking lot. 



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