Working on access to OK Slip Falls

INDIAN LAKE – The state closed on the 2,800-acre OK Slip Falls and Blue Ledges tract in April, but because access is limited, people are being discouraged from going to see a majestic and little-seen 250-foot-tall waterfall.

The state hopes to change that in the coming months.

During a tour of the lands on Thursday, state Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Forester Tom Martin said the state is working on a stewardship plan that could be completed in the next four to six weeks.

“Currently, there’s no public facilities,” Martin said. “We haven’t identified parking or a trail or done any signage yet, but staff is working on a stewardship plan, and we hope to have it in front of the (state Adirondack) Park Agency this summer, which will provide some early and limited public access.”

Once the plan is completed and trails are built, the public will get to see some very unique lands. The tract is home to OK Slip Falls and also contains the Blue Ledges, rock walls that are made of billion-year-old Grenville marble. The wooded ledges offer views of the Hudson River valley.

“The view down the Hudson when you’re on top of Blue Ledges looking upstream, it is stunning. It is unbelievable. It is so beautiful,” said Connie Prickett, who is the spokeswoman for the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, which bought this and many other tracts from the Finch Pruyn timber company in 2007 and is selling much of it to the state.

The other notable views from up high on the property come from around the OK Slip Falls gorge, which is where Martin, Prickett and DEC spokesman Dave Winchell led a group of about a half-dozen journalists.

The journalists hiked to two viewpoints that are accessible due to past use and bushwhacked to another. All three offered great views of the waterfall, which will likely be a big draw for hikers.

To get to the views of the falls, this group rode in a van on a road that goes all the way to OK Slip Pond, for about a mile into the property. From there, the group hiked about another mile on sometimes soggy logging roads.

While the access road was perfect for this excursion, it doesn’t appear it will be open to the public in the future. The one-lane dirt road starts from state Route 28, between Indian Lake and North Creek, and goes to the Northern Frontier Camp on OK Slip Pond. The private boys camp owns 168 acres around the pond, some of which is in a conservation easement owned by the Conservancy. None of the camp’s land is open to the public for any purpose.

“I’m not sure what the legality is of the public walking on that road,” Martin said. “We’re not encouraging the public to use it just because of all of the vehicle traffic from in and out of the camp.”

The road is so tight that cars can’t easily pass each other on it. Martin said the camp makes it one-way during weekend periods when children came and go.

Martin said an option for accessing the property may be to extend the Whortleberry Pond Trail, which is located near Indian Lake off of state Route 28.

“I assume that our stewardship plan is going to provide for parking and access trail to OK Slip initially, and then things like additional trails, additional access points and things like that, I suspect, will wait until the (unit management planning) process,” Martin said.

The unit management planning process will start once the classification hearings are finished.

The Park Agency is scheduled to hold eight public hearings around the state on the classification alternatives for several new tracts totaling 47,000 acres of Forest Preserve land in the central Adirondacks, including 23,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn and Co. timberlands. The first public hearing is at 6 p.m. June 12 at the APA offices in Ray Brook.

The state bought the OK Slip Falls-Blue Ledges tract from the Conservancy, which had bought it from Finch, Pruyn as part of a 161,000-acre deal in 2007. The Conservancy sold more than 90,000 of those acres to a Dutch pension fund for logging, with conservation easements sold to the state. Another 69,000 is going to the state for Forest Preserve.