Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

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North Fork

Laurel Lake Preserve

 

 

Laurel Lake Preserve is an excellent place for hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.  Laurel Lake itself is a kettlehole that may be as deep as 70 feet in some places. It is home to a diverse fish population including bass, pickerel, and perch. Through a fifteen year cooperative effort of the Peconic Land Trust (PLT), Southold Town, Suffolk County, N.Y.S. D.E.C., and the Suffolk County Water Authority, a large conservation area surrounding Laurel Lake has been preserved. 

This is an area critical to the drinking water supply of Southold.  In 1985, Jack McFeely purchased a 31-acre wooded parcel from the Diocese of Rockville Center that had been “Camp Molloy” from 1928 through the mid 1960s.  Jack and his wife, Mary had a strong appreciation for the natural beauty of the land, so instead of developing it, they worked with the PLT to preserve it.  The protection of the McFeely property has enabled the Town and the Trust to create an accessible trailhead.

Ashlee Reiniger, North Fork Land Steward for the PLT, with whom I recently walked the Preserve, explained that the Trust is assisting Southold not only with conservation, but also the stewardship of their open space parcels, including habitat improvement, invasive species removal, trail blazing, maintenance, education, and outreach. The preliminary trail is 2 miles long, but there is now the potential for a network of 14 miles of trails.  As stewards of this land, the Trust will facilitate the development of the trails, restore the disturbed areas, help eliminate the invasive plant species, and generally protect and care for the land. 

The trail is marked with diamond shaped plastic blazes.  Follow the blazes from the kiosk and trailhead sign across a grassy field into a wide woods path.  Cedar and oak, along with some dogwood and laurel comprises the first community of plants you encounter, but that, along with the topography, is constantly changing as you walk this 2-mile loop trail.  As you enter the wooded area, an untamed choir of birds greets you.  It is a short walk to the lake.  Stay on the marked trail to where a clearing allows for a wide vista of the lake.  The marked trail is wide, if you stay in the middle of it, the chances of picking up ticks is greatly diminished.  After enjoying a view of the lake, turn around and make a sharp right turn up the slope.  You will pass a distressed structure on your left.  A lot of clay is present in this soil; as a result, after a rain some large puddles may form in the trail.  Further on, the trail has a grass cover that the PLT periodically cuts.  Soon you will encounter a chain across the trail.  This is only to discourage motorized vehicles from entering, not hikers.  Duck under it and continue.  The woods are less disturbed here.  Notice the blueberry and huckleberry plants.  Take a right turn as you approach a fenced-off area; this is SCWA land. Continuing along the trail, note more mature woods with a dense canopy.  The grass on the trail is replaced with a thick leafy duff.  A little further along, the trail tread becomes uneven due to the aggressive root systems of a grove of beech trees.  A number of trails branch off of the marked trail here.  If they appear to have been cut, explore, then turn around and return to the main trail.

To the right of the trail you will see a sandy area. If you walk over a small ridge you will find a man-made irrigation pond dug down to the water table.  Frogs, toads, turtles, and fish may be observed here.  A bit further along the trail, note the abundant white flowers of the invasive multiflora rose, one of the plants the PLT will be working to eradicate.  Near Sound Avenue, note a single residence to the left that antedates the creation of the Preserve. Spice fern and bayberry are plentiful here.  Soon you will enter a beech and oak woods and see the railroad tracks in front of you.  The trail follows parallel to the tracks here for a short distance and then turns to the right.

The trail passes by the Water Authority property (you will see several test wells) and soon reaches the fenced off area.  As you approach a crushed rock drive; turn right into the woods.  The plentiful cedars here indicate early successional woods.  Another right turn takes you back to the chain across the trail.  There are some blazes on wooden stakes that lead you across a clearing.  The trail now becomes an old, worn asphalt road leading to the parking lot.

Directions to Laurel Lake Preserve:  Take exit 73 off the LIE to CR 58 east.  Follow this until it turns into 25.  Continue on 25 through Jamesport. Pass Laurel Lake Vineyards and the Town of Southold Visitor Information Center.  Just before the railroad overpass, turn left into the parking lot.  Park your car near the kiosk displaying an aerial photograph of the Preserve; it notes the patchwork of land managers and their wonderful cooperative effort here.
 

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Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

Ken Kindler
Open Space & Trails Advocate
Post Office Box 1466
Sayville NY 11782
ken@litlc.org

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