The Cotton Lake Wilderness

A Wild Proposal

Wilderness is a place where man is a visitor who does not remain. It is a place where people go to remove themselves, however temporarily, from the stresses and mediocrity of everyday living. It is a place of sensuous beauty. A day of vigorous exercise in the wilderness stimulates the mind, the body, and all five senses. In the wilderness we take ownership of our lives. We provide our own shelter, cook our own meals, tell our own stories. Wilderness is part of our culture.

In the Adirondacks, there are 18 separate tracts of state land formally protected as Wilderness Areas by the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. These include many remarkable destinations, including the West Canada Plateau, the High Peaks, and the headwaters of the Sacandaga River. Wilderness protection ensures that these areas will remain wild and rugged for generations to come—places where motorized access is forbidden, where people are free to enter under their own power.

However, several deserving tracts were omitted from the list of protected Wilderness Areas—places that meet all of the guidelines, but were either overlooked or passed over due to other considerations. Without formal protection, these should-be Wilderness Areas remain underappreciated and vulnerable to motorized trail development. The fact that they have survived into the twenty-first century intact is an historical accident. Protecting them as Wilderness will ensure they are henceforth preserved by design.

One such area is a 25,000-acre tract in the Herkimer County towns of Ohio and Russia. Currently designated as part of the Black River Wild Forest, this low-key area has for generations been a resource for local hikers, hunters, backpackers, fishermen, snowshoers, and skiers. There is only one marked trail, the old snowmobile trail to the Twin Lakes Reservoir dam, which is now mostly used for foot travel. Destinations such as November Falls, Cotton Lake, and Twin Lakes Marsh remain available only to the savvy backwoods enthusiasts who know the area well. Because it is not well known, it is an outstanding place to find solitude.

Wild River Press is proposing that this area be reclassified as the Cotton Lake Wilderness Area, permanently reserving it as a place where people can experience the pleasures of backcountry recreation without the intrusions of motor vehicles. We are working with state officials and conservation groups to make this reclassification happen.

In the meantime, if you are a resident of the Oneida-Herkimer County region, you can demonstrate YOUR support for wilderness preservation by letting your elected officials know that you live locally, work locally, pay taxes locally, AND support the reservation of local public lands for low-impact backcountry recreation.

After all, our proximity to vast expanses of wilderness is part of our region's quality of life.