Adirondack Directory - Wilderness

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Jay Mountain Wilderness

As edited by IAATAP from the full DEC management report (click here for full report)


The Jay Mountain Wilderness is in Essex County, in the Towns of Jay and Lewis, and  covers 7,951 acres which covers portions of Lake Champlain, Ausable River and the Boquet River.  To the east, lies the Taylor Pond Wild Forest and to the south is Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area.  Jay Mountain Wildness is the smallest wilderness areas but offer the most solitude and primitive recreational experiences.  The wilderness is defined as: "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man."

Originally this region was part of the "Old Military Tract" set aside by the state in 1786 as "memorial of public gratitude" for the compensation to the Revolutionary War Veterans.  As this land was too remote, none settled there; and later settlements began in the 19th century, first known as "Mallory's Bush", now the town of Jay.    The earliest industries were lumber, iron and farming.  The in the early 20th century, fires devastated about 15% of the Adirondacks, and Jay was severely burned, altering the original composition of the forest.  In 1998, this region suffered a ice storm that struck northern New York.  The birch population sustained the greatest damage.  Today's forest of Jay consist of:  Northern and Red Pine, American Beech, Sugar & Striped  Maple, Balsam Fir, Red Spruce, White Pine,  Red Oak,  American Elm, Yellow Bird, Basswood, and Easter Hop Hornbeam.  








Primitive Tent Sites -There are no development facilities as trails or campsites.  This area attracts campers preferring to bush-whack or camping in the rough.


Other Regions:  IAATAP maintains a full directory of Camping. To explore nearby camping areas, click here.

Titbits:  DEC regulation requires that groups of ten or more persons camping on state land obtain a permit from a forest ranger. DEC policy prohibits issuing group camping permits to groups wanting to camp on forest preserve lands in the Adirondacks that are classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe area. This policy was developed to protect natural resources, the primeval character of the area and exceptional wilderness experiences for all recreationists, and follows Leave No Trace practices. Except for the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Pharaoh Lake Wilderness and the William C. Whitney Wilderness, where the group size is 8, camping groups in wilderness, primitive and canoe area lands are limited to 9 people or less.




The Adirondacks is rich in bird life.  Visit our Adirondack Bird Directory when you have time. The Jay Wilderness is home to 72 species.  The game birds of this region include Turkey, Ruffed Grouse,  Woodcock, as well as a variety of waterfowl which are common in the wetlands.  By the NY State's Unit Management Plan, the following species are under study, we have summarized their findings below.  The reintroduction of the Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle have been relatively successful; but we appreciate your "do not disturb" efforts when spotting these beautiful creatures.  The Adirondack Subalpine Forest Bird Conservation covers all summits above 2800' as to be protected for a distinctive bird community (including the Bicknell's Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler and Swainson's Thursh).


Songbirds are diverse in the deciduous and mixed forest.  Ovenbird, red-eye Vireo, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Black & White Warbler,, Wood Thrush, Black capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Downy and the Pileated Woodpeckers, Brown Creeper, Blue Warbler are among the song birds.  Bird of prey common to the region are Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, Easter Screech Owl, Northern Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk and the Broad-wing Hawk.


(Pictures and links provided by Wikipedia)  The endangered birds in the Jay Wilderness Primitive Forest are:


Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli)


Bicknell's Thrush - Picture credits to WikipediaBicknell's Thrush utilizes fir waves and natural disturbances as well as edges of ski slopes. They breed  in the Adirondacks at elevations greater than 2800 ft.   The species is most common on the highest ridges of the Adirondacks, preferring young or stunted dense stands of balsam fir up to 9 ft. in height.



Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)


Peregrine Falcon - Picture credits to Wikipedia

In 1974 New York initiated a program to reintroduce the Peregrine Falcon in the state. Peregrines were successfully hacked in the Adirondack Park with the release of the first birds in 1981. It is possible that Peregrines are utilizing the Siamese Pond Wilderness for nesting.  Three basic requirements nesting Peregrine Falcons include open country for hunting, sufficient food resources of avian species, and steep, rocky cliff faces for nesting. The falcons typically nest 50 to 200 feet off the ground near bodies of water. Nesting sites for Peregrines usually include a partially-vegetated ledge large enough for it young to move about. The nest is a well-rounded shape that is sometimes lined with grass, usually sheltered by an overhang. Sometimes Peregrines may nest in old Common Raven nests.   Human disturbance of a breeding pair may result in nest abandonment!  "DO NOT DISTURB" please!  Climbers, not it is illegal to climb during their breeding season, and breeders will attack.   To report a falcon signings please contact NYSDEC Region 5, Bureau of Wildlife, P.O. Box 296, Ray Brook, New York 12977, 518-897-1291.


Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)


Bald Eagle - Picture credits to Wikipedia

The bald eagle is currently listed as a threatened species by the federal government and New York. Buckhorn Mountain is believed to have been a center of eagle activity prior to 1970, although no nest sites had been confirmed.  Bald eagles are sensitive to human disturbance; so if you are fortunate to see one, please "Do Not Disturb".




Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)


Golden Eagle - Picture credits to Wikipedia

The golden eagle is a species once found in the Adirondacks.  The last successful nest in New York State was recorded in 1970.  Golden Eagles have nested at elevations between 1,500 and 2,600 ft; however, surveys conducted by the New York Habitat Inventory Unit, open habitat suitable for Golden Eagles has decreased at all but one historical site.





Northern Goshawk - The Goshawk prefer dense tall trees with partial canopy for cover to nest.  A typical place for their nest would be in the crotch of a tree.


Red-headed Woodpecker - These woodpeckers utilize both wetlands (swamps, beaver impoundments) and uplands (pastures and roadsides).  Then nest in dead limbs of live trees, poles, fences and roofs.

Sharp-skinned Hawk - These hawks prefer open or young woodlands that support a large diversity of avian prey.  They use mixed conifer-deciduous forest for nesting. 


Red-Shoulder Hawk - The Red-Shoulder Hawk breed mostly in hardwood forested wetlands in cool, moist lowland forest.    They forage in the same areas as well ass dryer woodland clearings.

Whip-poor-will - These birds select open woodlands; they nest on the ground in dry sparse areas.  They use leaf litter to conceal their nest. 




Wild Species of Concern


Moose,  Eastern Cougar, wolf and fisher inhabited the Adirondacks prior to European settlement.  These species have declined or extirpated from the Park.  The Canada Lynx restoration effort failed.  The Lynx is now legally protected.  The wolf and Eastern Cougar are considered extirpated; but some reports are most likely a hybrid of red wolf and coyote.


Spotted Salamander  (Ambystoma maculatum) 


SpottedSalamander.jpgThe Spotted Salamander have two rows of yellowish orange spots that run along the back side.  They make their home in hardwood forest area and spend most of its time below the surface, under leaves or burrows; and use nearby ponds for breeding in the Spring.  They have poison glands around their back and neck, to release as protection against their predators.  This toxin is harmless to humans.  They are nocturnal hunters.





Canada Lynx  (Lynx canadensis)


The Canadian Lynx is more like a bobcat, and twice the size of a domestic cat.  The lynx are secretive and mostly nocturnal animal.  They hunt in deep snow cover and higher altitudes.  They roam 1 to 3 miles a day.






Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)


The wood turtle is found in well oxygenated  good quality streams with sandy-pebbly substrates that are deep enough so that they do not freeze during hibernation Ideal habitat includes dense alder swamp and forested wetland habitat bordering the streams where the turtles can bask and have protection from predators.  Wood turtles forge for fungi and vegetation.  Wood turtles select both slopes and level sandy open areas for nest sites. They are listed as species of interest because of the long maturity rate (15 years) and high hatchling mortality.


Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum)

The Jefferson salamander is listed by New York State as species of special concern and believed to exist in the Siamese Pond Wilderness.  The salamanders require pools that remain deep long enough to complete their metamorphosis which takes approximately 1-2 weeks. They use the forested habitat used during the remainder of the year.




The Jay Wilderness lacks ponds.  The Ausable and Boquet River systems run through the Jay Wilderness and portions of these rivers are stocked with landlocked Salmon, brown and brook trout.  Visit the DEC's Public Fishing Guide for best areas of fishing on the Boquet or our Fishing Directory for more information. 




Hunters enjoy pack & paddling into the region for weeks of hunting.  The game species found in the Jay Wilderness are mainly white-tailed deer and black bear.  The Jay Wilderness is free and relatively unregulated.  Small game hunting may take certain waterfowl, woodcock, snipe, rail, crow, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, coyote, bobcat, raccoon, red or gray fox, weasel, skunk, varying hair, cottontail rabbit, gray squirrel, muskrat, beaver, weasel, river otter, mink, fisher, and  American Marten.


Hiking Trails


The backcountry acreage is enormous and the Adirondacks has the largest trail system in the nation with more than 2,000 miles.  Enjoy the glory of hiking the Adirondacks, nature's solitude, unbroken forest, lakes and mountains and take the path less taken.  Focus on your senses.  Visit our Adirondack Hiking Guide.    The Jay Mountain Wilderness is, for the most part, trail-less and requires bush whacking.


The tallest mountain in the Jay Wilderness region is Saddleback Mountain with an elevation of 4,515'.  The only trail is a herd path leading to the summit. This trail is unmarked and un-maintained by the state.   Access by vehicle can be along they Jay Mountain/Wills Hill Road - a little used forest road (4x4 recommended).  The road is not maintained in the winter, but open to snowmobiling.  In addition, Seventy Road in Lewis offers vehicle access and passable by most cars.  Again, the road is not maintained in the winter.


For future references, the DEC trail classification system is outlined in the Forest Preserve Policy Manual. This classification system recognizes four trail classifications as outlined below:



Class 1:

Trail Distinguishable: Minimal biological or physical impacts, slight loss of vegetation and/or minimal disturbance of organic litter

Class 2:

Some Impacts: Tail obvious, slight loss of vegetation cover and/or organic litter pulverized in primary use areas, muddy spots or tree roots, or water action evident.

Class 3:

Moderate Impacts: Vegetation cover and/or organic littler pulverized within the center of the tread, exposed rocks and trees or small mud holes, but little evidence of widening beyond the maintained width of the trail.

Class 4:

Extensive Impacts: Near complete or total loss of vegetation cover and organic litter, rocks or tree roots exposed and roots damaged, or ruts more than 20cm (7.8 inches) deep, or widening caused by muddy areas or water action consistently.

Class 5:

Very Extensive Impacts: Trail to bedrock or other substrate, or tree roots badly damaged, or some ruts more than 50 cm (19.5 inches) deep or large areas (over 50%) of bank erosion, or mud holes so extensive that the trail is outside of its maintained width.


Titbits: Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas: DEC has adopted a regulation prohibiting the use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected by this new regulation.



Ponds & Bogs


The Jay Wilderness has no ponds, but several beaver flows, including the Merriam Swamp.  The ponds are most likely fishless.  There are 41 identified wetlands covering 82 acres.  Merriam Swamp is 11 acres.  Spruce Mill Brook, Derby Brook, Hale Brook and Rocky Branch contribute to the wetlands.






Adirondack Mountain Club


Lake George


Forest Fire - Search and Rescue     518-891-0235 or 911
State Land Regulation/Backcountry Law Enforcement     518-897-1300
Environmental Law Enforcement     518-897-1326
Poacher & Polluter Reporting online     1-800-TIPP DEC
State Lands Interactive Map (SLIM)      


Wilderness Reports

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 *  DISCLOSURE:  "In and Around the Adirondack Park" is not affiliated with any of the above information, businesses, organizations or events, nor can we  vouch for the quality,  and is NOT responsible for the actions  of the above parties.  This is brought as a public service message only.   We publish your works (professional or amateur free).  Before going out in the Wilderness, please study your route and learn how to be prepared!