The Capital District is full of small hidden gems and one of them, Five Rivers, is shining bright during the autumn season. A few minutes west of Albany, DEC’s Environmental Education Center is a living museum comprising over 450 acres of broad fields, towering forests, and tranquil wetlands. With over 10 miles of trails for self-guided exploration, Five Rivers fosters “discovery, spiritual refreshment and physical fitness through wholesome outdoor recreation”. Fear not, if you enjoy your refreshment in a more liquid form and your physical fitness in small doses, Fiver Rivers is still a beautiful way to get some air right outside our city.
Click on any of the thumbnails to open a larger view, or check the full-screen Flickr slideshow if you have Flash installed.
Grounds are open every day, year-round, from sunrise to sunset. You can picnic, walk (ski) the trails, and observe wildlife. Dress for the weather and bring your binoculars, for there are more than 200 species of birds to discover. If you are into bird photography, this is a great place to start. I wouldn’t be able to spot a dead bird if it landed 5 feet in front of me, I’m cursed that way, but my buddy Bennett brought back great shots in the past—though he traumatized a few geese in the process.
The history of the site is quite interesting. Over a century ago, much of Five Rivers was covered by extensive orchards. In 1933, the NYS Conservation Department purchased two hard-scrabble farms to develop the Delmar Experimental Game Farm. Its primary mission was to learn more about the propagation and management of game species in serious decline at the time. From 1933 to 36, the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp put up buildings, erected fences, created ponds and developed access roads to prepare the site for game farming. In succeeding years, CCC crews expanded constructions for brooding, hatching and rearing upwards of 100,000 grouse and pheasant chicks per year, to be released on state lands throughout New York.
In 1941, the Department established a Wildlife Research Center. Techniques developed on site revolutionized the wildlife management profession nation-wide. In 1948 staff began developing a modest exhibition of caged wildlife, which came to be known as the Delmar Zoo. Tens of thousands of families and school group visited this collection annually. In 1970 there was a major reorganization of the Conservation Department, priorities were reoriented and the Game Farm and Zoo were closed. A group of concerned citizens convinced the state to transform the abandoned site into an environmental education center. The Department developed a rustic amphitheater, a series of nature trails and refurbished a former sign shop as a Visitor Center. The new facility opened in June of 1972.
Thanks to DEC I now know about Reptile Awareness Day. Thank you, DEC. On October 1 I could have learned all about snakes and turtles, as well as frogs and toads. Check the Programs and Events Schedule for more family fun. I did, however, solved the mystery of the weird purple boxes you see hanging from trees. They are not loudspeakers left at the last deer rave party but sticky traps which NYSDEC has installed throughout New York’s countryside to check for the emerald ash borer, an alien invasive insect destroying ash trees all over the Northeast. Boom! Damn aliens, where is Will Smith when you need him?
If there is something I would rather never have to ask myself, it’s “ARE THE BEARS HERE?”. Yet, this is the title of the class taking place this Saturday, November 12, at 10am. Should you decide to attend, I hope the answer is no but let’s face it, they ARE in our backyards, watching us, probably scheming with emerald ash borers. Note that December 10 is “Night Owls and Hot Dogs”, I would just go for that instead, unless the former refers to the meat in the latter.
The name Five Rivers was suggested by SUNY Albany meteorologist Dr. Vincent Schaefer, to denote the five rivers which comprise the watershed within the Center’s service area, namely the Hudson, Mohawk, Hoosic and Sacandaga rivers and the Schoharie Creek. I really enjoyed walking along the small streams and stopping at the numerous ponds spread throughout the site. There is a lot to see, especially early morning, natural wonders right at your fingertips.
Paul has a few too: