Connecticut Hill is the largest Wildlife Management Area in New York State, totaling 11,045 acres. It's located 16 miles southwest of Ithaca and 1 mile northeast of Alpine, astride the Tompkins-Schuyler County lines. State Route 13 provides access to the eastern side of the area.
The history of Connecticut Hill
In the late 1700's the native American peoples were driven out of the Connecticut Hill area by George Washington's troops. After the American Revolution, many soldiers returned to the area to settle and farm. In these higher elevations, the harsh climatic and shallow soil conditions were not conducive to successful farming and from about 1900 on much of this land was abandoned. Shortly thereafter, New York State acquired almost 10,000 acres of the Hill for use as a game refuge. Since that time, Connecticut Hill has been the site of many experimental programs and studies designed to gain insight into the habits and needs of wildlife species. The Connecticut Hill ruffed grouse study (1930 - 1942) is still considered one of the classic studies on the species. As part of the Appalachian Highlands, Connecticut Hill lies within a belt of high, rugged land. Since this is one of the highest points in the area, panoramas can be viewed from atop the Hill to the surrounding lowlands. Throughout the area there are numerous streams and ponds. Many of the ponds were built between 1948 and 1950 to attract waterfowl. These water bodies have since become popular with other wildlife species. Beaver have also added to the ponded area benefitting reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and birds.
The mature forest on the area consists of American beech, maple, and hemlock; areas of oak and pine are also present. Open meadows, fields and stands of evergreen are scattered throughout the area. With so much diversity of habitats, there is also a variety of wildlife. The white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, cottontail rabbit, beaver, mink, muskrat, grey squirrel, red and grey fox, eastern coyote, waterfowl and numerous species of small mammals and songbirds are residents of the Hill.
What to do at Connecticut Hill
Connecticut Hill is open to the public all year around and offers a wide variety of outdoor pursuits including hunting, fishing, trapping, nature study, birdwatching, picnicking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The Finger Lakes Hiking Trail crosses the management area and a shorter Department of Environmental Conservation Trail weaves through a white pine and hemlock forest.
Since Connecticut Hill is a Wildlife Management Area, activities not generally compatible with wildlife are prohibited. A few of the prohibited activities include off road vehicular travel (such as snowmobiles, motorcycles, all terrain vehicles), swimming, and boating with motors.