The weather forecast predicted a sunny day, but it was drizzling when I arrived at the Indian Creek Nature Center near Rensselaer Falls, in Upstate New York. I was a little disappointed, I would have liked to continue my Great 8 challenge hikes under brighter skies, but hey, I was still excited to explore a place that I had never heard of before.
Especially since this time I was venturing a little further from the Canadian border. After all, that’s what the Great 8 Challenge is all about: discovering little-known places in St. Lawrence County, the largest in New York State!
The Indian Creek Nature Center is located within the Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area. The nature center borders flooded lands between the Oswegatchie and Grasse rivers, designed to improve habitat for waterfowl. There are several kilometres of trails that seek to give a good overview of these wetlands.
Observation Tower Trail
I decided to start with the Observation Tower Trail, because who doesn’t love observation towers? I figured the observation tower would give me a first good view of the surroundings, so I headed in that direction.
The Observation Tower Trail loops about 1.3 kilometres (0.8 miles) on a fairly wide, and grassy track. The observation tower is located halfway through the loop. From a height of 6 metres (20 feet), it offers a nice view over Lower Lake and its wetlands. It is apparently a great place to watch birds during spring and fall migrations, but under the summer rain, the lake was pretty quiet and a bit gloomy.
The Observation Tower trail then took me back to the parking lot.
Boardwalk and Observation Deck Trail
As its name suggests, this 1.6-kilometre (1-mile) trail includes a wooden boardwalk and an observation deck. It is also considered accessible.
I really liked the long boardwalk, which allows you to closely observe a pond, where I saw a few herons under the gray sky. There are several interpretive signs along the boardwalk, describing the surrounding environment.
After the boardwalk, I continued to follow the trail through the forest, following the directions to the observation deck. The trail took me to the edge of the marsh, but I had to turn back when I lost track of the trail in the cattails. I looked around for a few minutes, but I did not find the observation deck which was apparently supposed to be there… A bit disappointed, I continued with my hike.
PS – By browsing through the nature center’s website once back home, I learned that the observation deck is currently closed for repairs. That’ll teach me to do some research before exploring a new place!
The Lowland Trail was my favourite of all the trails hiked on that day. 2.5-kilometres (1.5-mile) long, it loops through a lowland forest habitat, and at times very close to the marsh.
I liked its winding course under the pine trees, its boardwalks which allowed me to keep my feet dry and the pretty views it offers on the marsh.
The Upland Trail is the longest trail in the nature center. It is almost 5 kilometres (3 miles) long and connects the western sector to the eastern sector of the nautre center.
I found the hike there a bit more challenging. Some sections were a bit muddier, and the rain made the boardwalks a little slippery. My original goal was to follow the entire trail (to get all the way to the east end of the nature center), but I turned back halfway through when I came to a boardwalk that was completely covered in brush.
There is another trail at the Indian Creek Nature Center, the Wildflower Loop, located in the eastern sector of the nature center. It can be reached either by following the Upland Trail or by driving to the Eastern Entrance of the nature center. As I wasn’t able to complete my hike on the Upland Trail, I decided that I would drove to the Eastern Entrance in order to get to this trail. In the end, I completely missed and drove by the entrance without seeing it. I found myself in another sector of the wildlife management area, where there were no trails and rather than driving back and try to find the Eastern Entrance, I decided to put off this last trail to another time!
So it was a hike that was not totally perfect, but which allowed me to discover another interesting place! Looking forward to the next Great 8 Challenge hikes!