by Will Parson
November 12, 2020
The Otsego Land Trust (OLT) has conserved over 11,000 acres in New York’s headwaters of the Susquehanna River, a rural region where Otsego Lake and Canadarago Lake, as well as major tributaries like the Unadilla River, are surrounded by rolling hills and valleys but threatened by increasing development. In its 30-plus years, OLT has protected private forests, wetlands, farmland and historic resources, with the benefits flowing directly to waterways in the area and downstream into the Chesapeake Bay. And in recent years, the nonprofit has opened a series of properties where visitors can feel the connection between land and water directly.
The sites forming the Blueway Trail not only conserve land, but provide access to the water. They fall along tributaries like Oaks Creek, which joins the Susquehanna below Cooperstown, and include sites on both Canadarago and Otsego lakes.
I visited in early fall to document sites along the Blueway, as the foliage reached peak colors and the late-blooming wildflowers had still not been hit with the first hard frost.
Overlooking Otsego Lake’s calm waters is Brookwood Point in Cooperstown, New York, something of a flagship site on the Blueway. After passing a 100-year-old garden, you can look across the lake and spot Kingfisher Tower, a 60-foot Gothic Revival structure that stands out against the forested lakeside. Canoers, kayakers and rowers can launch from Brookwood Point, where a sign even suggests you can paddle 444 miles to the Chesapeake (though you may have to portage a few dams on your journey).
Other activities offered by the Blueway Trail range from hiking and fishing to organized events like yoga and nature walks. On Deowongo Island you can picnic in the middle of Canadarago Lake. At Fetterley Forest you can get a bird’s-eye look at Deowongo from the ridgeline above it. At Parslow Road Conservation Area—the only Blueway site maintained in the winter—you can cross-country ski and snowshoe across its 96 acres.
Some sites, like Oaks Creek Conservation Area, currently can only be reached by paddlers. Future plans will make them accessible for all, but until then, what better way to see how protecting the land protects the water, than from the water itself?