State officials made a big deal of some land purchases for conservation in Whitehall more than 6 years ago, part of a purchase of timber company parcels that were to be opened for recreation.
I've written about part of it that was opened up, now known as the Saddles State Forest, where there is kind-of a system of hiking trails, and land to some nice viewpoints is open for recreation. This property has real potential to take pressure off overused areas of state land, but the lack of marked trails really limits who will use it.
The state also bought some land south of the Saddles, around Dolph Pond in Whitehall. The state has formally created the 726-acre Dolph Pond State Forest, and also opened it for recreation.
Never heard of it? You're not alone. It doesn't appear on any state DEC website as far as I can tell. A few private websites and hiking sites mention it. Google Maps shows a rough outline.
I got an email from a reader earlier this month who had driven up Dolph Pond Road, which is off Route 4, to see what was back there, and he was perplexed when he ran into a fence and no trespassing signs posted by the state Department of Correctional Services.
How could state land that is supposedly open for recreation be off limits and posted by the agency that runs the state's prisons?
Well, Dolph Pond itself is not part of the state land that is open for recreation. The pond is actually a reservoir for the nearby state prisons in Comstock. The fencing there had fallen down or apart in places, but the state recently put up new signs and locks to keep people out.
The land that was purchased by the state to be opened to the public sits to the north of the pond, in an area that includes a section of woods known as Spruce Point.
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Getting there is not easy, as both my emailer and I figured out. I also took a ride up Dolph Pond Road after I got this gentleman's email, and found a confusing array of dirt roads to private stone quarry properties, with no evident signage to direct visitors to the state land. It's also not a road for a low-clearance vehicle.
My inquiries to the DEC about the property resulted in the following emailed statement:
"DEC built a parking lot in the southeastern corner of the 726-acre Dolph Pond State Forest. A seasonal access road between Dolph Pond Road and the parking lot crosses private property. Dolph Pond Road connects with state Route 22 (and 4) approximately one mile south of the village of Whitehall. The public should avoid the access road east of the road to the parking lot as there is no public access roads on those private lands. Currently there are no developed trails or other infrastructure on the state forest other than old logging roads that can be used by hunters and others to navigate the property.
The logging roads are not maintained or marked. Visitors to the Dolph Pond State Forest should use a map and compass or GPS so they don’t get lost."
So that's what I have about Dolph Pond. Explore at your own risk, if you can find it.
(Addendum -- A friend who fished Dolph Pond years ago said it was loaded with nice bass at that time. I'm not advocating trespassing, just putting that information out there.)
-- Don Lehman