Here in the Skaneateles Lake Watershed, we invite you to discover a dramatic forest and gorge landscape, take in the vista, and watch the secrets of the Bahar Nature Preserve unfold before you as you explore.
Within the folds of farmland next to Skaneateles Lake, lies the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s 53-acre Bahar Nature Preserve, a hidden forest that calls to visitors yearning for an enchanted retreat. The mature mixed northern hardwood/hemlock forest on the preserve is part of a larger block that fills the Bear Swamp Creek gorge and extends through the adjacent Carpenter Falls State Unique Area and onto private lands. Although most evidence of an old mill disappeared many years ago, a trail that has been used for more than a century, referred to by locals as the “Jug Path,” takes hikers along the south rim of the gorge, where they are treated to dramatic views into the 100-foot-deep Bear Swamp Creek ravine. The preserve extends across the creek and up the other slope.
While the forest on the preserve that is found on the gently-sloping terrain around the rim of the Bear Swamp Creek gorge was logged over the past two hundred years (most recently in the 1970s), the forest in the deep gorge was mostly inaccessible because of the steep slopes. This area likely harbors a significant area of old-growth trees such as Eastern hemlock and red oak. Other species include white pine, American beech, sugar and red maple, white ash, black cherry, American basswood, yellow birch, and tulip tree. The hemlock, red oak, and tulip trees are often over 24″ dbh (diameter at breast height), and some very large oaks are certainly well over 100 years old. In 2006, two trees on the preserve—an American chestnut and yellow birch—were winners in the Cayuga County “Big Tree Contest.”
Visitors to the preserve can delight in the towering canopy and the old and gnarled wild grapevines that coil around maple and ash trees in search of sunlight. A carpet of mosses and ferns, such as shining clubmoss and maidenhair fern, adds to the lush vegetation. White trillium and Jack-in-the-pulpit are among the wildflowers that add color to the forest floor.
The Bahar Nature Preserve includes 65 feet of Skaneateles lakeshore, which is a fine place to beach a canoe or kayak before hiking up the ridge trail.
The white trail, which mostly follows the route of the old Jug Path along the south rim of the gorge, runs between the Bahar Nature Preserve and Carpenter Falls State Unique Area for approximately 1.1 miles, with the iconic 90-foot Carpenter Falls at the upstream end. The red trail runs 0.5 miles from the Finger Lakes Land Trust parking area on Appletree Point Road through the Bahar Preserve to the white trail/Jug Path.
Please do not park at the beach area. Swimming is not allowed.
An exceptional land steward and wilderness lover, Hu Bahar intended to keep his forested gorge untouched. Honoring her late husband’s desire to preserve their family land, Dawn Bahar sold the original 25-acre preserve to the Finger Lakes Land Trust at a significantly reduced price in 1998. In 2005, the Land Trust more than doubled the size of the preserve by acquiring an adjacent 33-acre parcel, and then purchased another 29-acre parcel in 2007. These more recent additions were very significant in that they permanently protected public access to dramatic Carpenter Falls and a series of other falls in the gorge.
In 2008, the Land Trust conveyed 36 acres to New York State, creating the Carpenter Falls State Unique Area. The remaining 51 acres of land downstream toward the lake continue to be managed as the Land Trust’s Bahar Nature Preserve. In 2022, the state completed access improvements at Carpenter Falls including an elevated boardwalk leading 630 feet from the parking lot to an observation platform, accessible to people with mobility impairments.
The Finger Lakes Land Trust recognizes that our nature preserves exist on the homeland of the Haudenosaunee. We hope to honor indigenous peoples’ ongoing relationship with the land by conserving wild places forever.
Please see our public use policies for recreational activities on nature preserves.
Go Finger Lakes
Go Finger Lakes is the free web site created by the Finger Lakes Land Trust to promote recreation and conservation. Use the interactive map of over 50 hiking, biking, paddling, skiing, and outdoor adventure destinations across the region!