A rugged and marshy locale, the Elm Flats Preserve and the First Site at Elm Flats are most frequently visited by naturalists, botanists, hunters and birdwatchers looking to explore the site’s extraordinary flora and fauna. Located at the headwaters of Chautauqua Lake, these preserves are the only properties on Chautauqua Lake’s Big Inlet that are not privately owned.
Size: 83 acres in the main Elm Flats Preserve and 30 acres in the First Site.
Year Conserved by CWC: 1995 (Elm Flats Preserve) and 2015 (First Site at Elm Flats)
Conservation Values: These preserves include a significant portion of the upper headwaters of Chautauqua Lake and therefore play an integral role in conserving the water quality of the lake and the ecological health of the region. The Elm Flats Preserve and the First Site at Elm Flats protect the only portion of Chautauqua Lake’s Big Inlet that is not privately owned.
Recreational Uses: There are currently no developed trails or other facilities within the preserves due to the extensive wetland, thick brush and deep mud. Most visitors are naturalists, botanists, hunters and birdwatchers.
Location and Parking: The main Elm Flats Preserve is north of Lawson Road in the Town of Chautauqua. The preserve is by a sign west of the entrance that is set back approximately 25 feet from the road and may be obscured by vegetation at times. The First Site is just south of Lawson Road with three entrances, each a narrow dirt track over the culvert. Currently there are no designated parking areas.
Features of Interest: Mostly forested wetland, which serves as the headwaters for Big Inlet, the largest tributary to Chautauqua Lake. Many minor tributaries to Big Inlet also traverse the preserve. Forest canopies are interrupted by small treeless areas consisting of shrub and wetland meadows. A logging road extends from the eastern entrance on Lawson Road almost to the southeastern boundary.
Species of Interest:
Trees: American elm (Ulmus Americana), black ash (Fraxinus nigra), cucumbertree (Magnolia acuminate), basswood (Tilia americana), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)
Understory: witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)
Wildflowers, Shrubs, Grasses and Mosses: spicebush (Lindera benzoin), common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), goldthread (Coptis trifolia), sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.), Canadian lily of the valley (Maianthemum canadense), Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), timothy (Phleum pretense), New England aster (Aster novae-angliae), rattlesnakeroot (Prenanthes sp.), willows (Salix spp.), silky dogwood (C. amomum), staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
Aquatic Plants: Softstem bulrush (Scirpus tabernaemontani)
Mammals: bobcat (Lynx rufus), muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), northern raccoon (Procyon lotor)
Birds: red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), green heron (Butorides virescens), American woodcock (Scolopax minor), ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla), pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Amphibians: northern spring peeper (Pseudacris c. crucifer), wood frog (Rana sylvatica), pickerel frog (Rana palustris)
Fish: redside dace (Clinostomus elongatus), pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdii), grass pickerel (Esox americanus vermiculatus)