Photo: Bill Hecht

Finger Lakes Land Trust Opens Two New Nature Preserves

In October 2020, the Finger Lakes Land Trust added two new nature preserves to its growing network of conservation lands in the region.

The organization opened its 26-acre Botsford Nature Preserve in the town of Jerusalem, Yates County. The preserve is a gift from Jerusalem residents Art and Kay Wilder who donated the land in 2019, and is named for Art’s maternal grandmother’s family who originally owned the land as part of their farm.

The property contains a half mile of frontage on Big Gully Creek—a tributary to Keuka Lake that has carved a three mile long gorge. A 0.3-mile hiking trail guides visitors to the gorge from a new parking area off Hemlock Rd.

Photo: Andy Zepp

Located just north of Branchport, the preserve features streamside woodlands and open meadows that are reclaiming an area used as a gravel mine until 2003. It is one of the last two parcels associated with the farm that had been in the Wilder family for 150 years. Art and Kay hold fond memories of family outings to the gully, and they chose to ensure the future of this very special place through their donation to the Land Trust.

A hike to Big Gully yields glimpses of scenic waterfalls, towering shale cliffs, and mature hemlock and hardwood trees. The flat beds of shale are punctuated by glacial “erratics”—boulders deposited by the last glacial advance. It’s a fascinating walk that is possible at the height of summer when the creek level is low. For a trail map, directions, and more information, visit

The organization also formally opened its 74-acre Owasco Bluffs Nature Preserve in the town of Niles, Cayuga County. The property, which protects 1,100 feet of undeveloped shoreline, was originally purchased in 2018 from Dr. Joseph Karpinski, a well-known oral surgeon from Auburn who passed away earlier this year.

Photo: FLLT

The preserve features forested bluffs overlooking Owasco Lake as well as wetlands, meadows, and a rugged gorge. A one-mile trail begins off Sam Adams Lane and guides visitors through fields and forest, ending at a scenic overlook that offers spectacular views of the lake. This is only the third publicly accessible park or conservation area on the lake itself and it is the sixth conservation project completed by the Finger Lakes Land Trust within the Owasco Lake watershed.

In partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Finger Lakes Land Trust created two seasonal wetlands on the preserve. Construction of the wetlands improves wildlife habitat and also enhances the protection of Owasco Lake’s water quality by filtering runoff to the lake. Efforts were also made to further improve wildlife habitat by removing invasive plant species such as buckthorn and black locust, and by planting native trees and shrubs.

A map, directions, and additional information about the new preserve can be found at