The August Project: 8-27-13 The Altona Flat Rock Preserve.

Today for the August Project a good friend and I took the day to visit a place neither of us had been to, the Altona Flat Rock Preserve. We had heard of others visiting this place and thought it would be a great way to spend this muggy Tuesday. We checked the internet for directions and came up empty-handed. We pulled up maps of the area, made our best guess, and headed out in search of this mystery spot.

Our first guess led us on a very long narrow dirt road deep into the woods. Unfortunately this trip turned out to be a bust.

The first attempt.
The first attempt.

Take two, we headed in the direction where we had heard we could find the Flat Rock Preserve. Of course we should have listened to this suggestion, because right there, clear as day, we found it. The trails through the preserve. So if anyone is interested, just check out your GPS and head to the end of Burnell Rd in Altona NY.

The beginning of the path through the Flat Rock Preserve.
The beginning of the path through the Flat Rock Preserve.

The Altona Flat Rock Preserve is a very unique space. To make it easy, I will simply borrow information I found while scouring the internet for how to find this place.

Altona Flat Rock is the largest (approximately 32 km 2 ) of a discontinuous, 5-kilometer
wide belt of bare sandstone areas that extend approximately 30 km southeastward into the
Champlain Valley from Covey Hill, near Hemmingford, Québec (Fig. 1). Created by
catastrophic floods from the drainage of glacial Lake Iroquois and younger post-Iroquois
proglacial lakes in the St. Lawrence Lowland more than 12,000 years ago (Denny, 1974;
Clark and Karrow, 1984; Pair et al., 1988), the exposed sandstone today provides habitat for
one of the largest jack pine (Pinus banksiana) barrens in the eastern United States. The
relatively low-diversity jack pine community is maintained by fire, which has an
important role in ecosystem regeneration in this nutrient-poor, drought-prone
environment.

We walked carefully on the bare rock to be sure not to step on any of the fragile plant life living here. The short and sparse Jack Pine forest and the strange vegetation made both my hiking partner and myself think of the bare rocks found in the highest elevations of the Adirondack Mountains. Today’s hike through nearly flat terrain was the perfect way to spend my day while still recovering from my water skiing mishap a few days ago. Another Adirondack Coast day well spent.

The sparse vegetation in the Jack Pine forest
The sparse vegetation in the Jack Pine forest

Read more information on the Altona Flat Rock here http://community.middlebury.edu/~wamidon/geology/franzi_GMG_1993.pdf

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5 thoughts on “The August Project: 8-27-13 The Altona Flat Rock Preserve.

  1. I’ve read about Flat Rock and saw a good video documentary on it (in an episode of “Our Little Corner” on the public access cable channel, several years ago when I had cable). I definitely want to get in there, but can’t find a good way, despite its being clearly mapped as state land.

    How far into the Flat Rock did you walk? Did you reach any of the ponds or Cold Brook?

    I have only explored a little of it from Rock Rd (west side of the state land, where the road passes through turf clearly marked as state land), and from what I can see, it’s a long hike in that way to the best parts (ponds), only bushwhacking beyond the end of the trails from Rock Rd.

    I’ve looked several times for reasonable vehicle access to the state land there, and except for Rock Rd, every access I found either did not have a trail to the interior or had Miner Institute posted signs on it, including Brunell Rd (not Burnell).

    It appears that the Institute has the surrounding/bordering land on the north and east, posted against the best access routes to get to the best features of the Flat Rock state land … the old roads, waters, dams, Miner’s dream projects that never worked.

    Been a while since I looked at it … Did you encounter the orange Miner Institute posted signs at the end of Brunell Rd? Was there a non-posted way in from Brunell?

    1. We made it a very quick trip and did not venture too far in. I studied maps and was in hopes of getting to the ponds, but all of the property I came upon first was clearly marked as Private. I did see the Miner Institute signs, but nowhere on them does it state that it is “private” or “no trespassing”. They only indicate that it is an area used by the Miner Institute for study, and that there is no hunting, trapping, or fishing permitted. We kept to the exposed rock surfaces to be sure not to trample on any of the vegetation, and only went in about a mile. I have not been there, but I have heard that there are “no trespassing” signs surrounding the remaining dam structures within the forest preserve.

      1. Thanks for the additional info. I’ll have to look more closely at those Miner Institute signs! I’ve seen them in other places, too. Maybe some of them said No Trespassing and I assumed it of others. Thanks again.

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