Little Moose Wilderness

The Little Moose Wilderness is an inscrutable little area, cut off from most public access for half the year and not attracting much attention to itself for the other half. Nearly all of it is mountainous, with the exception of the South Branch Moose River bottomlands that happen to fall within its boundaries. It must certainly be the most wilderness-like wilderness in the Adirondacks, because so few people know anything about it, let alone make the effort to visit it. 

Its existence is owed to a compromise struck between the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) in 2010, at the time the two agencies were finalizing a management plan for the Moose River Plains. At stake were the numerous drive-in camping sites strung along the Moose River Plains road network; too numerous and densely spaced for the original Wild Forest designation, the choices were to either eliminate dozens of popular campsites or to reclassify the lands to something more suitable. 

DEC and APA selected the latter option, applying the Intensive Use classification to the road network and its attendant campsites. To offset this action, they chose to upgrade the 12,000-acre Little Moose area from Wild Forest to Wilderness. 

Although this is now an officially designated and protected wilderness, it is virtually indistinguishable from either the Moose River Plains to the north or the West Canada Lake Wilderness to the south. By all rights, this area should have been added to the existing West Canada region, to which it is entirely contiguous. Instead, the state planners left open an option to extend a bike trail between these areas, and thus the Little Moose and West Canada Lake areas are separated by a non-wilderness corridor that almost no one uses. 

Please click through the tabs below to learn more about the Little Moose Wilderness. 

Little Moose Wilderness at a Glance

Size: 12,201 acres

First Designated: 2010

Unit Management Plan Status: No management plan has been completed for this area

Special Regulations: None; standard Forest Preserve regulations are in effect

The Little Moose Wilderness consists of a sprawling, double-summited mountain isolated from its neighbors by deep valleys on all sides. It is not so much known as it is seen from a distance; the mountains do attract a small number of climbers, but most people know the area as a backdrop to something else. 

Indeed, the area would be deserving of wilderness status even if it were not so isolated. The high-elevation terrain is very rugged, and the forests are thick. The highest point is Little Moose Mountain at 3634 feet in elevation, which along with its conjoined twin Manbury Mountain forms the primary feature of this wilderness. The State Land Master Plan identifies this terrain as potential Bicknell’s thrush habitat, although it is doubtful anyone has made the effort to verify this. 

Perhaps the next most distinguishing feature is Sly Pond, which at 2872 feet is among the highest ponds in the Adirondack Park. It occupies a perch on the mountain plateau a short distance to the west of Little Moose Mountain, and well within sight of it. The boggy shoreline makes Sly a challenging place to explore. 

Other key features include the short sections of Otter Brook and the South Branch Moose River that flow within the wilderness boundaries. 

Forest quality ranges from maturing second-growth to vast expanses of montane spruce-balsam. Most of the wilderness was purchased in a single transaction from Gould Paper Co. in 1963, and past logging activities have certainly left their mark. Still, enough time has passed there is no doubt this little-known, little-used area exhibits high wilderness attributes. 

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