Tug Hill Plateau

One of the unique geographic features of upstate New York is the Tug Hill Plateau. The 2,000-square-mile plateau stretches from near the eastern coastline of Lake Ontario to the western edge of Adirondack Park. Its northern boundary is near Watertown and extends to the Mohawk Valley on the south.

Tug Hill rises to an elevation of 2,000 feet and is one of the largest areas of unbroken hardwood forest in New York State. It’s also known for its pristine wetlands drained by coldwater streams that provide excellent trout fishing. The streams and melt water from Tug Hill’s famous 200 to 300 inches of annual snowfall constantly replenish aquifers under the hill’s surface. Many area residents drill their own water wells for private use.

Tug Hill, among the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, experiences the highest average annual snowfall of any area in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. The snow is considered a natural resource, supplying recreational opportunities throughout the season on miles and miles of snowmobile trails and cross-country ski trails, jeep trails, foot trails, abandoned highways and rural gravel roads. And many multi-use trails are enjoyed by snowshoe enthusiasts, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers and dog-sled mushers. Tug Hill also offers downhill skiing at Dry Hill and Snow Ridge ski areas. Once the snow melts, hikers and mountain-bikers take to the trails, along with bird-watchers. Recreation support facilities are located all around the plateau.

Some 17 state forests are designated on the Tug Hill Plateau, encompassing more than 70,000 acres of wooded recreational land for public use.

Tug Hill Plateau is drained by hundreds of brooks, dozens of streams and a few rivers. The major rivers and streams are the Mohawk River (Erie Canal), Salmon River, Mad River, Fish Creek and Sandy Creek and its branches.

Among the 4,000 miles of streams and rivers on Tug Hill, some flow through deep gorges that the locals call “gulfs.” These picturesque rock cliff canyons zigzag down from the plateau. Sandy Creek flows through Inman Gulf and Lorraine Gulf west toward Lake Ontario. Whetstone Gulf State Park is built in and around the Whetstone Gulf, a spectacular three-mile-long gorge cut by Whetstone Creek. The state park area between Tug Hill and the Black River offers what some observers consider the most scenic river canyon views east of the Rocky Mountains.