Chautauqua Creek East

Featuring 2,400 feet of natural stream frontage, the Chautauqua Creek East Branch Preserve helps filter and slow runoff into Chautauqua Creek. This undisturbed preserve also provides habitat to many species of birds and wildlife, making it a favorite place for birdwatchers and for CWC-led tours. A beaver pond on the property attracts and serves as a home to many woodland and aquatic creatures.

Size: 21.6 acres

Year Conserved by CWC: 2005

Conservation Values: Trees growing along the protected streambank help stabilize the bank and mitigate flood events. Vegetation along the bank filters and improves water quality en route to Lake Erie and Westfield’s public drinking water supply. This large tract of undisturbed land provides crucial resting, foraging and breeding habitat for certain wildlife species.

Recreational Use: There are currently no developed trails or facilities in this preserve. Informal paths are present but fragmented and difficult to follow, often leading through dense underbrush and deep muck. The preserve is an area of special interest to botanists and birdwatchers. Archery hunting and fishing are allowed at this preserve.

Location and Parking: Located on the Mayville-Sherman Road (Route 430) in the town of Chautauqua, the preserve is accessible at the main sign and gravel parking lot across from Red Wing Road, about 5 miles from Mayville.  

Features of Interest: The preserve is filled with forested riparian wetlands and streams, as well as an expansive system of beaver ponds. An upland area on the west side of the property contains mature to old growth trees. The western edge of the preserve is bordered by an inactive railroad berm that is owned by Chautauqua Rails to Trails.

Species of Interest:

Trees: Black cherry (Prunus serotina), American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Shrubs: Dogwoods (Cornus spp.), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) raspberries (Rubus spp.)

Wildflowers: Lance-leaved goldenrod (Solidago graminifolia), Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), wild clematis (Clematis sp.), trout lily (Erythronium americanum), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), square-stem monkey flower (Mimulus ringens), wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia serotina), blue flag iris (Iris versicolor)

Aquatic Plants: Waterweed (Elodea canadensis), duckweeds (Lemna spp.)

Fish: Creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus), pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)

Mammals: North American beaver (Castor canadensis), river otter (Lontra canadensis), muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

Birds: Common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), green heron (Butorides virescens), great blue heron (Ardea herodias), red tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Insects: Baltimore checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton), ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculate), bumblebee (Bombus sp.)

Cassadaga Creek

Cassadaga Creek meanders through the center of the 151-acre Cassadaga Creek Preserve. The floodplains and wetlands on the preserve help ensure that runoff and floodwaters filter slowly through the creek. The Cassadaga Creek Preserve is one of the best CWC preserves for observing wildlife. It is home to beavers, river otters, fisher, mink, deer and other wildlife, and it’s an excellent spot to birdwatch.

Size: 151 acres

Year Conserved by CWC: 1998

Conservation Values:  The preserve’s floodplain wetlands allow floodwater from Cassadaga Creek to collect and slowly infiltrate, minimizing erosion and sedimentation downstream.  Trees protect and stabilize the bank of the creek. Water is filtered through riparian vegetation, improving water quality in the watershed.

Features of Interest:  Cassadaga Creek flows north to south through the middle of the preserve. Wetlands, meadows, shrubs and three abandoned farm fields interrupt the otherwise forested area.  

Recreational Use:  There are currently no developed trails or other facilities within the preserve, although an abandoned county road bisects the property and makes for quick and easy access to the creek. Primary recreation use consists of deer hunting, and the preserve is ideally situated for canoe and kayak access, as it is located between two canoe launches on the Cassadaga Creek Marden E. Cobb Waterway, upstream on CR 71 and downstream on CR 66.

Location and Parking: Accessible from Bloomer Road (County Rd. 56), half a mile West of county Route 380 in South Stockton. Parts of Bloomer Road are gated off from through traffic due to the deteriorating condition of two bridges. There is a sign near the west entrance of the preserve. The preserve also accessible by light watercraft from Cassadaga Creek.

Species of Interest:

Trees: Black cherry (Prunus serotina), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), American elm (Ulmus americana), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), black willow (Salix nigra), box elder (A. negundo)

Understory: American hornbeam (Carpinus carolinina), hawthorne (Crataegus spp.)

Shrubs: Silky dogwood (Cornus amomum), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), raspberries (Rubus spp.), staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)

Ground layer: Thinly vegetated due to dense shading, includes witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Indian cucumber-root (Medeola virginiana), beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana), common wood-sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) skunk cabbage (S. foetidus) and sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.)

Wildflowers: Goldenrod (Solidago spp.), blue flag iris (Iris versicolor), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate), asters (Aster spp.), turtlehead (Chelone glabra), pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule), Turk’s cap lily (Lilium superbum), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), square-stem monkey flower (Mimulus ringens), water purslane (Ludwigia palustris)

Mammals: North American beaver (Castor canadensis), river otter (Lontra canadensis), muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), fisher (Martes pennanti), mink (Neovison vison)

Birds: Spotted sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), wood duck (Aix sponsa), chestnut-sided warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica), belted kingfisher (Ceryle torquata), veery (Catharus fuscescens), red-eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus), red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Mussels: 15 species, including rayed bean (Villosa fabalis), clubshell (Pleurobema clava)

Fish: Redfin shiner (Lythrurus umbratilis)

Browns Creek Tributary

Situated in the hills of the Ellery Township, this property was acquired in 2016 through a generous donation of land. As Browns Creek is a tributary of Bemus Creek, the water passing through the wetlands on site ultimately enters Chautauqua Lake. The property features well-maintained trails for hiking and wildlife spotting, and a future platform to be constructed near the pond will allow for birdwatching and fishing.

Size: 31 acres

Year Conserved by CWC: 2016

Conservation Values: The preserve’s forests allow rainwater to collect and slowly infiltrate, minimizing erosion and sedimentation downstream.  Trees protect and stabilize the bank of the small stream passing through the property, which ultimately drains into Chautauqua Lake. Water is filtered through riparian vegetation, improving water quality in the watershed.

Recreational Use: Trails established by the land donor have been well maintained and expanded by CWC volunteers. Hunting is permitted at this property. Other uses include birdwatching and botanical investigations.

Location and Parking: Located on Walker Road in the Town of Ellery, the Browns Creek Tributary Forest Preserve has pull-in parking near the main preserve sign, as well as roadside parking.  

Features of Interest: An open and quiet woodland setting makes for a peaceful hike through this Preserve. A pond on site provides opportunity for wildlife watching as well as fishing.

Species of Interest:

Trees: Eastern hemlock (Tusga canadensis),  pignut hickory (Carya glabra), northern red oak (Quercus rubra), black cherry (Prunus serotina),

Shrubs: Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum),

Wildflowers: Canadian lily of the valley (Maianthemum canadense), Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), white turtlehead (Chelone glabra), eastern swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Birds: Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), mourning warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia), wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)

Bentley Preserve

The Bentley Nature Preserve has been a nature preserve since 1960. It was gifted to the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy by the Jamestown Audubon Society in 2016. The preserve offers a beautiful spot to hike, bike, cross-country ski or snowshoe through the woods. Visitors can enjoy CWC’s loop trail, which traverses foot bridges over the stream that weaves through the property, in any season. In spring and summer, many wildflowers can be found onsite, and the CWC maintains a dedicated wildflower garden near the parking area. The site also preserves habitat for local wildlife, and the stream passing through the Preserve drains into the Chautauqua Lake/Chadakoin River area, an important breeding ground for the spiny soft-shelled turtle (Apalone spinifera).  

Size:  40 acres

Year Conserved by CWC: 2016

Conservation Values: The Bentley Nature Preserve protects a Chautauqua Lake tributary that empties to the lake less than a half mile downstream. The trees on the site stabilize the banks of the tributary, while the streambank vegetation filters stormwater runoff from the nearby highway and agricultural lands. Water from this preserve flows into an important breeding habitat for the spiny soft-shelled turtle.

Recreational Use: This preserve is excellent for hiking and is convenient to access. It has a well-maintained trail system, including a foot bridge over the stream. The park is fantastic for outdoor recreation, as well as for spotting local flora and fauna.

Location and Parking: Located in the town of Ellicott, the Bentley Nature Preserve is located less than a half mile from the eastern shore of Chautauqua Lake just south of Interstate 86. The preserve can be accessed from Bentley Avenue, off of Route 430, and there is a main preserve sign, small lane for parking and an informational kiosk at its entrance.

Features of Interest: The preserve is almost entirely forested, ranging from coniferous to deciduous forest habitat, with large areas of open and forested wetland.

Species of Interest:

Trees: tamarack (Larix laricina), black cherry (Prunus serotine), American mountain-ash (Sorbus Americana), box elder (Acer negundo)

Wildflowers: turtle-head (Chelone glabra), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), impatiens (Impatiens capensis), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), great blue lobelia (Lobelia syphalitica), monkey flower (Mimulus ringens), blue vervain (Verbena hastata), starry false solomon’s seal (Smilacina stellate)

Shrubs: spicebush (Lindera benzoin), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), staghorn sumac (Rhustyphina), swamp rose (Rosa palustris), red raspberry (Rubus ideaus), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

Reptiles and amphibians: spiny softshelled turtle (Apalone spinifera)

Birds: pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), eastern wood-pewee (Contopus virens), red-eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus), tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis), common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus), Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula)



All lands are part of a watershed: The water that flows across and through our lands feeds our streams, rivers and lakes. Natural landscapes protect our waters by filtering stormwater and slowing the flow of runoff through our watersheds so it can replenish ground water rather than contributing sediment and pollutants to our lakes and streams. To protect Chautauqua County’s waters, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy conserves lands that are essential to the health of the region’s watersheds and waterways. We currently own and steward 1,000 acres of nature preserves in Chautauqua County on 28 properties, all of which are open to the public for outdoor recreation. In addition to creating public nature preserves, we conserve Chautauqua’s natural landscapes by working with landowners to create conservation easements along sensitive streambanks, wetlands and shorelines.


Everyone within a watershed has an impact on water quality. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy educates Chautauqua County’s property owners, government officials and school children on ways to reduce the flow of nutrients that lead to harmful algae blooms and nuisance plant growth in our lakes. We also share information on rain gardens, buffers, native plantings and other practices that can improve the health of Chautauqua’s watersheds, landscapes and waters. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy provides public education through our award-winning newsletter, The ‘Shed Sheet, through public workshops, lectures and preserve tours, and by distributing literature on watershed stewardship.


The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy actively works to improve the health of our watershed. We work with landowners, local governments and partner organizations to restore failing streambanks to reduce erosion and pollution in our waterways, identify and address sources of pollution, and carry out landscaping and shoreline improvements. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy constantly seeks projects to further our mission of preserving and enhancing the scenic beauty, ecological health and water quality of the Chautauqua region.

CWC Earns State Grant to Purchase Cassadaga Site

New York State has awarded a Parks Grant in the amount of $90,849 to the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy for the establishment of the 77-acre Cassadaga Lakes Nature Park on Upper Cassadaga Lake in the Town of Pomfret. The site contains important forest lands and wetlands that filter stormwater runoff to Upper Cassadaga Lake from 1,800 acres of roadways and farmland above the site. This grant, along with approximately $65,000 in funding already donated or pledged to the CWC for the project, will help with the approximately $120,000 in purchase costs for the site.

“We were very excited to learn of the State’s $90,849 grant to CWC to purchase the property for a nature park on 77 acres along Route 60 on Upper Cassadaga Lake,” said CWC Executive Director John Jablonski III. “Through the Cassadaga community campaign effort, community support for this has been wonderful. Cassadaga-area organizations, Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello and the legislature all were instrumental in this grant application process, as well as in securing other funds for the project.  In addition to the State grant, more than $65,000 has been raised locally to support this project from foundations, families and organizations.”

Plans for the park include walking trails, a picnic area, observation towers and blinds to allow for year-round recreation. The CWC will continue its capital campaign for the park, which kicked off in November with a goal of $200,000 to fully fund all of the planned amenities for the site.

“We want the Cassadaga Lakes Nature Park to be a place where County residents and visitors can go to experience the beauty of nature — which is so beneficial to the human spirit — with a walk through the woods or a family picnic alongside a pretty pond,” Jablonski said. “This will be a place where children can catch tadpoles or just go play in the woods. Visitors to the park will be able to hike, cross-country ski, snowshoe, birdwatch, walk dogs and fish.”

The CWC anticipates closing on the land purchase in the summer of 2019, with the majority of access improvements to be constructed in spring and summer 2020 for a projected fall 2020 opening.