Created By: Diane Lebo Wallace
The Shindagin Hollow State Forest is located on the Allegheny Plateau, which is made of sedimentary bedrock that formed approximately 350 million years ago when the region was covered by an ancient saltwater sea. Geologists believe that the plateau was created during a collision of the North American and African continents about 250 to 330 million years ago. The collision lifted the bedrock, which has since been shaped by continual weathering and the advance and retreat of continental ice sheets (glaciers). The glaciers created the 'U' shaped valleys of the region and the Finger Lakes. The last glacier left New York State about 10,000 years ago.
Human settlement followed the retreat of the glacier. Tompkins County was originally home to members of the Iroquois Confederation or Haudenosaunee, specifically the Cayuga Nation. The Haudenosaunee was established in circa 1570 under the influence of Hiawatha. It was a bond between five nations: the Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, and the Onondaga. In 1715, the Tuscarora nation was added making it a league of six nations. The Cayugas, who were the main inhabitants of the Tompkins County area, did not use the land heavily. They had semi-permanent dwellings placed near freshwater sources which enabled them to locate and transport game, as well as irrigate their crops without causing great stress to the land.
Early settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans referred to the area as "Dark Forest" because the forest was so dense that only small traces of light penetrated through the canopy. However, the new settlers had many superstitions involving forests, and they had little or no experience in producing forest goods. They therefore decided to clear the area almost entirely for use as farmland. The timber that was not used for carpentry was burned, becoming a valuable by-product known as potash. This process continued until almost the entire land was converted from dense forest to open fields, leaving the landscape seemly forever changed.
Soils on area hilltops, however, have major limitations for intensive crop production, including a seasonally high water table, low fertility, moderate to high acidity and steep slopes. Early farmers quickly learned that the combination of long, harsh winters and thin, fine textured upland soils would not support intensive agriculture. As such, many of the farmlands were sold or abandoned as farmers sought more fertile lands in the Midwest.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the landscape would be transformed again. In order to reduce soil erosion, protect water quality, and provide forest products and recreational opportunities, the State of New York began acquiring property for reforestation during the 1930s under the auspices of the State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931. These laws allowed the Conservation Department (now DEC) to acquire land, by gift or purchase, for reforestation. Properties had to be a minimum of 500 acres of contiguous land.
Although the Hewitt Amendment was a major acquisition catalyst throughout New York State, about 73% of Shindagin Hollow State Forest was acquired from the federal government in January of 1956. From 1933 to 1937, as part of Roosevelt Administration's New Deal, the federal government purchased about 8 million acres in the Appalachians through what was called the sub-marginal land purchase program. Van Etten Civilian Conservation Corp. Camp S-81, Caroline Center Youth Camp and New York State Conservation Department crews planted more than 2,231,700 tree seedlings on 2,105 acres from 1935 to 1952. Most of the seedlings were softwood species such as red pine, white pine, Norway spruce and Scotch pine. Today, forest covers about 67% of the surrounding landscape, while crop land and pasture cover about 27%
Shindagin Hollow State Forest has many different wildlife habitats, created by deliberate forest management over the last eight decades. DEC forest managers conserve, protect and enhance forest ecosystems by developing a mix of young (early successional), middle-aged and old (late successional) forest types. State forests are managed to conserve water quality, and to provide diverse wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and a sustainable supply of locally grown forest products such as firewood and sawtimber.
FLT Map 18
This point of interest is part of the tour: History along the Finger Lakes Trail - Eastern Region