Bear Swamp

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY


From the Albany area, take Route 32 (South Pearl Street) to the Alcove Reservoir. About two miles after it crosses the Alcove Reservoir, Route 32 takes a left turn. (There is an Agway store on the left.) Turn right on County 404 (Bear Swamp Road) which shortly crosses Basic Creek Reservoir. Continue on County 404 through the intersection with County 401. Enter the parking area on the left, about 1.7 miles from the intersection with County 401.


Bear Swamp is owned by the Nature Conservancy. It was designated a Registered National Natural Landmark by the Department of Interior in 1973. Bear Swamp itself dates from 13,000 years ago, with the retreat of the last glacier. The rhododendron at Bear Swamp are a relic stand, the northernmost in New York State.


Bear Swamp shows evidence of deliberate management for biological purposes. It may be fire management, or hunting to remove browse pressure. In Bear Swamp, deer are the problem because they eat the rhododendrons. Management includes building fences around the rhododendron stands to protect them and allow regrowth from overgrazing by deer.

The conservancy has also removed beavers that threatened to drown the rhododendron with their swamps.

Whatever hunting is done on Nature Conservancy lands is usually done by special permit to manage populations and protect plants. In general hunting is not allowed. Neither is camping. Visitors are encouraged to stay on the trails so as not to damage delicate habitats.