The Curtiss-Gale ForestCurtiss-Gale is a preserved site, protected by a covenant in the deed. According to Cana11ing Oswego River (NYS Canal Commission, pg.13), the Curtiss-Gale Forest was donated to the state by former owners H. Salem Curtiss in 1918, and by Thomas and Ida Gale in 1936, with the stipulation that the site be used as "a wildlife and bird sanctuary." According Seaway Trail Wildguide (pg.140), Curtiss and Gale stipulated that this forest "remain forever natural and untouched."
The Curtiss-Gale Forest covers 45 acres between Route 57 and the Oswego River just south of Fulton. Most of the site is second-growth with a plantation of Scots Pine, with understory of Striped Maple nearest Rt. 57. However, farther west toward the Oswego River, Curtiss-Gale contains about eight acres of confirmed Old-Growth Forest on a ridge overlooking the Oswego River. There are many rock outcroppings on slope leading to river. The Old-Growth Forest segment has all the characteristics of classic cathedral-type old-growth, including:
Surrounding the Old-Growth is old second-growth that has a great many large grapevines (largest vine: six inch diameter, estimated age 150 years). This old-growth forest is probably the last remnant of the original forest that towered over the historic natural water route that (with several portages) connected Albany with Oswego, the main water route used by the British in colonial times to reach the interior of North America.
According to Donald D. Cox, author of Seaway Trail Wi1dguide, (Seaway Trail Foundation, P.O. Box 660, Sackets Harbor, NY 13685, 1996, pg. 141), Curtiss-Gale "may be the best example of a mature climax forest in Oswego County." Also, according to Cox, the site has Sassafras and Flowering Dogwood, but we did not see these species on our initial survey. The forest here is very diverse, and could possibly contain these species.
According to Sean Fagan, who is knowedgeab1e about the Fulton area, this old-growth forest is the site of the "Windrow"—or massive b1owdown—in the opening scene of James Fenimore Cooper's classic frontier novel The Pathfinder, sequel to his The Last of the Mohicans. This site, with its huge old-growth Red Oaks and Red Maples, seems to reflect a windstorm disturbance of about 1750-1760—the time of Cooper's novel. Today, the site looks much like Cooper's awesome description of the primeval forest of central New York:
"The forest... had little to intercept the view below the branches but the tall, straight trunks of the trees. Everything belonging to vegetation had struggled toward the light, and beneath the leafy canopy one walked, as it might be, through a vast natural vault that was upheld by myriads of rustic columns." (Cooper, The Pathfinder or The Inland Sea, NY: Signet, 1961, 1980, pg. 17)
First Survey Team Visit
September 14, 2002
roughly 8-acre 01d-Growth Forest
Team Leader: Rob Henry
Assistant: Tom Howard
Others: Sean Fagan, Beth Frey
Data Sheet: CurtisGale-ds01
These trees are estimated to be at least 250-300 years old, and logs and stumps have lain on forest floor since 1930 or even earlier, as the site does not seem to have had much disturbance since before 1930, or even before 1918.
All heights measured by Robert Henry with his clinometer.
New York Old Growth Forest Association — www.championtrees.org/NYOGFA/ — updated: 11/06/2002