Aug 05, 2023
THE GREAT OUTDOORS: A word of caution about Swallow Hollow Nature Trail
T here are a number of nature hiking trails at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge near the Town of Alabama that are open to the public for walking and observing nature. The popular Kanyoo Trail,
There are a number of nature hiking trails at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge near the Town of Alabama that are open to the public for walking and observing nature. The popular Kanyoo Trail, off Route 77 going west from Casey Road, is a roughly 1-mile loop around a variety of habitats. The Onondaga Nature Trail, off the old seasonal Sour Springs Road (which is off Roberts Road) is a straight trail about 1 one mile long going through a variety of woodlands and marshes. Swallow Hollow Trail, on the east end of the refuge, is accessed from Knowlesville Road south of Podunk Road.
Planned trails really aren’t my thing; I prefer “natural” trails, in various habitats, that are pretty much free of human disturbances. But out of curiosity, earlier this summer I joined a friend for a walk on part of the Onondaga Trail.
There was no map at the kiosk to tell us how long the trail was, or tell us anything about it, really. I’m grown up enough that my legs and hips are not good anymore, so I brought a couple of walking sticks; and of course I tire easily, so I hoped to find a resting bench somewhere along the trail. That didn’t happen, and my walking partner and I gave up about halfway through, not knowing what conditions — and further distance — laid ahead.
I had been on the Kanyoo and Swallow Hollow trails many years ago, when I did volunteer work at the refuge, but not since.
About the Swallow Hollow trail, which consists of several long, elevated boardwalks and some stoned dike sections through flooded woods, recently I have become concerned as readers and friends ask why it’s such a mess. I have noticed that there are not as many vehicles parked at the trail head as in previous years. Given that recent input, I figured I better check it out.
I started out on the south (left) boardwalk. Right off the bat I noticed that this place had really thickened and grown up; so much so that it was all but impossible to see anything other than the masses of brush that blocked the view. I saw a lot of poison ivy growing up the trees next to the boardwalk which, in some cases, was close enough for someone to accidentally touch it. The boardwalk was quite uneven in some areas, probably from support posts sinking; everything was still smooth, but I could see a hindrance for anyone in a wheel chair using a stroller.
After traversing the boardwalk I entered a long section of stone walkway. This was the area that the folks contacting me were concerned about. It was heavily overgrown and in some spots almost lost. I noticed a rest bench where tall weeds were growing all around and over it; it was quite obvious that no one had “rested” on it for awhile. I could not see much of the marsh areas, or any of the water areas for that matter.
What really stood out for me on that overgrown, long walkway was the amount of poison ivy and the lack of any trail maintenance. Ivy hung down from trees on the edge of the trail, and a lot was growing on the path edge and even in the path.
There are audio information guides posted along the trail that you can access by scanning with your phone to tell you about the area. One of these had huge poison ivy leaves hanging face-high in front of it, ready to reach out and touch someone.
The few folks I saw along the trail mentioned the lack of maintenance, and some had kids or dogs that were walking in the ivy on the edge, apparently unaware of it. I mentioned the ivy to one fellow who told me he knew what it looked like and was watching for it — as he stood in it talking to me.
Why is there such a lack of maintenance on this famous nature trail? Why aren’t notices, with identifying photographs, posted about the poison ivy? I don’t know, but I do know the Swallow Hollow trail is not the place it used to be. The ivy and overgrowth are only going to get much worse if not managed, and will eventually ruin this beautiful place.
My recommendation, if you go, is to know what poison ivy looks like and stay on alert for it, as it is everywhere. If you have kids or a dog, you better keep close tabs on them. Remember, you only have to get a bit of that poison ivy oil on you or your dog and it can be transferred all over your body, then you’ll spend a week or more going crazy from itching.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at 585-798-4022 or [email protected].
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