Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Exploring history and nature off the beaten path…

We recently discovered a remarkable trail system in Oswego County. Rich in history and natural beauty, Great Bear Springs is made up of over 300 acres along the east side of the Oswego River; owned in part by the City of Fulton and the Town of Volney.

According to Native American legend, a young brave (some say the father of Hiawatha) was attacked at the springs by a large bear. In honor of his victory over the animal, the brave named the springs “Mishemokwa”, meaning great bear.

From Great Bear Road, we began our hike on Alec’s Trail. Along the way, we found an abandoned (filled) well and pump house from a time when the springs of Great Bear provided water for commercial sale. Continuing on our path, we followed the former tow path toward the historic Hinsmanville Lock that was once part of the Oswego River Canal.

After stopping at the lock, we backtracked to Root Hill Trail (not for the faint of heart, by the by). At the summit, we turned onto the “Ifster” Trail where we learned to identify the red pine tree. What a delicious smell! Our path then took us through the quarry where we finished our journey along Upper Quarry Road.

Here are some of the sights and trails of Great Bear Springs…

There are six miles of diverse trails in the Great Bear Springs Recreation Area. Some are level and easy, while others provide a bit of a challenge; some are out in the open sunshine and some provide shelter from the heat of summer. You’ll find your way by following the trail markers (color-coded circles) on the trees along the trail. You can obtain a trail map at the entrance of Great Bear Springs or online at http://www.friendsofgreatbear.org/.

The trail system is open year-round for non-motorized activities such as hiking, mountain-biking and cross-country skiing. You can find Great Bear Springs on County Route 57 between Fulton and Phoenix, New York. The entrance is a bit obscure, so look sharp… it is well worth your discovery!

Friends of Great Bear was formed by residents of Oswego County interested in the conservation and protection of the Great Bear Recreation Area. With help from the local community, they have built bridges, marked trails and developed and posted a trail map of this unique area.

For more information about Oswego County Green, visit