Leaf-Peeping & Birding

Low's Ridge - Upper Dam Trail

Joan Collins

I once again led the "Leaf Peeping and Birding" field trip on the beautiful Low's Ridge - Upper Dam Trail in Piercefield-Colton. This annual trip is jointly sponsored by the Long Lake Parks and Recreation Department and Northern New York Audubon.

Participants meet in Long Lake for transportation on the Town's "Little Bus." It's not a terribly long ride, and the time on the bus allows everyone to get to know one another before we start the hike. As an added bonus, lunch orders were taken for the Adirondack Trading Post's delicious Panini sandwiches before we left. Each year, while we hike to Hitchins Pond, my husband picks up the lunch orders and rows our guideboat up the Bog River to deliver the sandwiches to the Hitchins Pond picnic area!

Long Lake's "Little Bus"

The Trail to the Upper Dam on the Bog River

It was a hot day for the hike this year, and we were a bit early for leaf-peeping! The 2.5-mile level trail to the Upper Dam on the Bog River is a dirt road that the Forest Rangers still use to drive to the dam.

Low's Ridge - Upper Dam Trailhead

The first mile of the trail is along Hitchins Bog, a huge peatland. Migration is in full swing, but we still found six different warbler species: Common Yellowthroat, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Palm, Yellow-rumped, and Black-throated Green Warblers.

Magnolia Warbler by Larry Master

Black-throated Green Warbler by Larry Master

Hermit Thrushes were observed pumping their tails and calling! A Broad-winged Hawk vocalized. Blue-headed Vireos sang, and Red-eyed Vireos called. Cedar Waxwings were found throughout the hike. Several Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were observed. Many year-round species such as Red-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and Golden-crowned Kinglets were also vocalizing among the nearly 30 species found during the hike.

Hermit Thrush by Joan Collins

Broad-winged Hawk by Joan Collins

Lovely views of the bog open up after hiking two-thirds of a mile along the trail.

Huge bog along the Low's Ridge - Upper Dam Trail

Bog along the Low's Ridge - Upper Dam Trail

Several Palm Warblers called while pumping their tails in the Tamarack trees.

Palm Warbler by Joan Collins

Next, we stopped at a beautiful marsh with views of Silver Lake Mountain behind. Everyone enjoyed the cliffs along the trail beyond this area.

Marsh along the Low's Ridge - Upper Dam Trail

After hiking through a second growth deciduous forest, we arrived at the metal gate before the Upper Dam on the Bog River.

Metal gate at the end of the trail by the Upper Dam on the Bog River

The Upper Dam on the Bog River

The spillway of the Upper Dam on the Bog River

I pointed out the trailhead for Low's Ridge to the right, but we headed left to Hitchins Pond for our food break first.

Great Memories!

Hiking in this area always brings back a flood of wonderful memories for me. I've been frequenting this area for nearly 20 years, and when our two sons were young, we would often bicycle in as a family. When I look at the Upper Dam, I recall my sons playing in the water at the bottom, and swimming in Hitchins Pond. We used to climb Low's Ridge long before there was a trail. Years ago, there was a short, steep herd path that went straight up! Now, there is a much safer trail through the forest that uses switchbacks and avoids the cliffs.

Hitchins Pond Picnic Area

We found my husband already at Hitchins Pond with the sandwiches. He also set up a canopy over the picnic table for shade, which everyone appreciated on this hot day!

The Bog River, Hitchins Pond, and Low's Lake are popular paddling areas and we met many visitors. A couple with two young children pulled up in their canoe with camping equipment and we all discussed how nice it was to see parents spending time outside with their children. Two Department of Environmental Conservation rangers were checking fishing and hunting licenses. (It was the first day of Black Bear hunting season.) The Hitchins Pond picnic area is the take out spot for paddlers that want to go around the Upper Dam on the Bog River and head into Low's Lake.

Guide boat at the canoe take-out along Hitchins Pond

I suddenly heard Bald Eagles vocalizing and looked up to see two adults interacting and vocalizing over Hitchins Pond. It was impressive that one of the young children camping with her parents, a girl who looked to be about 5 years old, also noticed the eagles and pointed them out to her family! As we all watched the spectacular eagle behavior, one of them went into a vertical dive to the pond and came up with a fish! A third Bald Eagle, a juvenile, was also observed chasing after the adult with the fish!

Bald Eagle by Larry Master

Climbing Low's Ridge

After lunch, everyone chose to climb Low's Ridge. The trail is a mile long with a 400-foot elevation gain.  It is well designed and uses switchbacks. The trail comes up behind the ridge in the forest, so those with acrophobia need not be frightened! There were already several groups of people on the summit when we arrived, including the family with young children. The views are always spectacular. The Bog River Valley is visible as well as countless mountains, including many of the High Peaks (the 46 mountains over 4,000 feet in the Adirondacks).

Enjoying the views on the summit of Low's Ridge!

In addition to observing the Bald Eagles below us near Hitchins Pond, an Osprey and Turkey Vulture were also observed during our time on the summit of Low's Ridge.

Osprey by Larry Master

There is a plaque to A. Augustus Low on the summit. When facing the views, hike to the left to find this plaque.

Plaque on the summit of Low's Ridge

The plaque area is also a great spot for scenic photographs!

View of the Bog River Valley and Mountains from the summit of Low's Ridge

A lovely photo on the summit of Low's Ridge!

Our descent of the ridge was much quicker than the climb and we continued back out the 2.5-mile trail to the waiting Little Bus! It was a great group of people and we all had a really nice time in this scenic area!

If you visit, there are many nice lodging and restaurant options nearby, along with outfitters if you need a canoe/kayak or camping equipment.

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