Buffalo Audubon Society

Allenberg Bog

Allenberg Bog is also known to some as Waterman's Swamp, Congdon's Pond, and Owlenburg Bog and is on the border of the towns of Napoli and New Albion, New York in Cattaraugus County. A unique and fascinating refuge of 390 acres, it is a jewel of the Buffalo Audubon Preserve System. Even before the first parcels joined Audubon's preserve holdings in 1957, the area was famous among botanists for its wild orchids, more than 30 species of liverworts, nearly 60 species of mosses, and approximately 258 species of vascular plants. It should be noted that any collecting of any plants in this or any of our refuges is strictly prohibited. Please respect the purposes behind our stewardship of these environments and habitats.

View Allenberg Bog Audubon Preserve in a larger map

The unique vegetation and flora includes dense thickets of rhododendrons, numerous species of wildflowers, ferns, huge hemlocks, pines, black cherry, black spruce, and tamarack stands. The preserve sports two sphagnum bogs surrounded by tall trees, fragrant blossoming wildflowers, deciduous shrubs, clumps of ferns, and shoulder high bracken. Allenberg Bog Preserve represents one of the finest undisturbed areas in southwestern New York State.

The area includes two glacial kettle ponds with bogs. There are walking trails through part of the property that direct visitors to the main destinations, the bogs themselves. The property's two bogs, one known as Congdon or Black Pond and the other, Allenberg Bog, are a few miles within the limit of the Wisconsin glacier's furthest advance in the line of glacial debris known as the Kent terminal moraine. The bogs are kettles, depressions formed as ice became stranded and partially buried when the glacier melted back approximately 15,000 years ago. The site lies in a valley within the Allegheny watershed close to the hydrological divide that separates the Great Lakes and the Ohio River basins.

The area has long been recognized by naturalists as a special place to study. Its 400 acre extent, owing to land acquisitions by the Buffalo Audubon Society beginning in 1957, has allowed the property to remain undisturbed for many years. Its geographic position has resulted in an unusual diversity of plant species of western, northern, coastal plain, and Appalachian distribution. Its elevation, at 1720 feet above sea level, is higher than most other glacial lakes with bogs in the region. The consequent coolness of the habitat has allowed many plants to thrive that are more typical of the arctic tundra.

Dr. Stephen W. Eaton, professor emeritus at St. Bonaventure University, has explored the bog with biology classes since 1950. In 1963 he published a paper along with Sister Mary Salesia Schick that added much to the list of plant species present in this interesting complex of forests and peatlands, which includes a small alkaline meadow in addition to the bogs. (Schick, Sr.Mary Selesia and S. W. Eaton. 1963. Liverworts, mosses and vascular plants of Waterman Swamp and Allenberg Bog. Science Studies, St. Bonaventure College 21: 5-51.) The list includes 28 species of liverworts and 58 species of mosses, including 10 of the genus Sphagnum. Vascular plant species number more than 300, including 19 species of ferns and 38 species of sedges. Fern species include Grape Fern, Rattlesnake Fern, Crested Wood-fern, and Silvery Spleenwort. An electronic copy of part of the plant list is available here.

Plants in the Congdon Pond vicinity include Bladderwort, Round-leaved Sundew, Black Spruce, White Pine, Tamarack, Bog Rosemary, Labrador Tea, Leatherleaf, Black Huckleberry, Blue Flag Iris, Wild Calla Lily, Water-mat, and Creeping Snow Berry.

Allenberg Bog supports Cotton-grass, White Beakrush, Large-fruited Cranberry, Rose Pogonia, Buckbean, and Northern Fly-honeysuckle. Pitcher-plant is common in both bog areas.

One of the best times to visit Allenberg Bog is in mid-July when the Great Rhododendron are in bloom. Several acres of the massive shrubs, some reaching heights of twenty feet or more, guard the approach to the bog meadow and put on a great show at that time of year. The kames and hills that surround the bogs are covered with birch-beech-maple-hemlock forest that in places becomes more diverse with White Ash, Black Cherry, American Basswood, Cucumber Magnolia and other species. The understory consists of Hobblebush, Common Wood Sorrel, Goldthread, Wintergreen, Clintonia, May-apple, and Indian Cucumber-root.

Birds that may be sighted during the nesting season on the property include Wood Duck, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Pileated Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Swamp Sparrow, Brown Creeper, and Bobolink.

Beaver work is often found in these wetlands, and the animals themselves are occasionally seen. Other animals, from insects to amphibians to mammals, should be watched for, especially those that are suited to the unique cool peatland habitat found here.

This property is open to the public, but the owners strongly recommend a guide when hiking into this property. The entrance area on Farm Market Road is not well marked. While much of the trail is clearly marked, some areas can be confusing, and even those experienced with the property can occasionally get "twisted". Wear a good insect repellent, suitable footwear (old sneakers are best), and a carry a map and compass.

The bog areas do not have boardwalks. This means that you will get wet, at least to the knees, depending on the time of year and where you step. The bog habitat is very sensitive, and foot traffic should be kept to a minimum. In short, bogs are extremely interesting places to explore, and a visit should definitely include at least one experienced naturalist to help interpret the unique characteristics of the bog and to ensure that the highest degree of care is exercised by all in protecting the habitat from disturbance.

For information on field trips to Allenberg Bog contact us.

How to Get There

Allenberg Bog is located northwest of Salamanca, NY; northeast of Randolph, NY; and just west of Little Valley, NY. A trail map can be found here. [hyperlink to trail map]

From the southeast: From NY 417 in Salamanca (I-86 exit 20), take NY 353 north 9.2 miles to NewAlbion Rd, just north of Little Valley. Turn left onto New Albion Rd and proceed 1.7 miles to Pigeon Valley Rd. Turn left onto Pigeon Valley Rd and proceed 3.5 miles to Farm Market Rd. Turn right onto Farm Market Rd. The right of way to the bog is on the right side of the road. However, it is very hard to recognize. It is strongly recommended that you have a guide take you into the property.

From the southwest: From exit 16 off I-86, take NY 394 east through Randolph and East Randolph. Approximately 6.5 miles from exit 16, turn left off NY 394 onto NY 242 and proceed approximately 3.3 miles to Allegany Rd in Napoli. Turn left onto Allegany Rd and proceed to its end. At its end, turn left onto Pigeon Valley Rd and then immediately look for the next right. The next right is approximately 0.2 mile from where you turned onto Pigeon Valley Rd. Go right onto Farm Market Rd and continue to the bog. The right of way to the bog is on the right side of the road. However, it is very hard to recognize. It is strongly recommended that you have a guide take you into the property.