Chaumont’s Best-Kept Secret

Chaumont Barrens

Chaumont Barrens

Chaumont Barrens

Chaumont Barrens

Cracks in rocks? Who cares, right?


This is the Chaumont Barrens, an ecological wonderland just outside of Three Mile Bay in Jefferson County, NY. This is a unique alvar landscape unlike any other natural area in the northeastern United States.

What’a an “alvar” you ask?

With Swedish origins, it describes an environment of austere, windswept vegetation growing among exposed limestone slabs. It’s an area that floods in the spring and runs dry as a prairie in the summer.

The Chaumont Barrens were created when a huge ice dam burst some 10,000 years ago. During the last glacier melt, a torrent of unimaginable proportions flooded the surface dissolving the limestone bedrock and exposing long-buried fossils.

Fossils like the Cephalopod (related to the squid or octopus) date back 450 million years and look surprisingly like the tread of a large sneaker but deeper observation reveals a mystic sea creature.

Be careful where you walk. Between the fragile vegetation, deep fissures and mossy gardens, it’s Chaumont’s best-kept secret undisturbed by pedestrian traffic.

Towards the end of the trail, we discovered a fissure big enough that bodies could fall into! We swore we saw something shiny and metallic buried among the rock. Ooh, la, la, a mystery…

The biggest obstacle is finding the habitat itself. There’s one marked sign in the town of Chaumont before you turn onto Morris Track Road (County Route 125) but then you’ll need to look for Van Alstyne Road just after the small cemetery on the left. Go about 1.25 miles and a parking lot big enough for about 5 cars sits on the left.