Rare Old Growth: Lisha Kill Natural Area

Lisha Kill Composite

By Liz Clancy Lerner

Though the Capital Region has a good amount of green space, you usually have to travel a bit to enjoy an area that feels fully wild. Fortunately, we've got something close.

The Lisha Kill Natural Area in Niskayuna is 108 acres of flowing streams, deep ravines and high-reaching trees covered with moss and fungi. It's beautiful, untouched and just a little bit eerie. (It immediately reminded me of the woodland setting in M. Night Shyamalan's The Village.)

It's a great place for a short hike -- especially during the winter.

Lisha Kill is a rare old growth forest -- more than 200 years old. The Catskills and the Adirondacks have old growth, but because of logging, fire and tree maintenance, many trees you see in developed areas are new. Lisha Kill, however, has 40 acres of old-growth Eastern white pine and Eastern Hemlock trees.

Before our last storm hit, I spent a few hours there: taking photos, getting exercise and enjoying the peace. You can hear a slight hum of traffic when you're near the parking lot, but once you're 100 yards in, it's all streaming water and rustling leaves.

Lisha Kill Composite Extended

The Nature Conservancy runs Lisha Kill. Matt Levy, the stewardship coordinator there, tells me the area was slated to be a highway, but because of work by neighbors and residents, including Paul Schaefer, "a tireless crusader for land protection in the Adirondacks," funds were raised and The Nature Conservancy acquired the land through several purchases between 1964 and 1966.

There are three trails at Lisha Kill Natural Area: The Grattan Family Trail, Frank's Trail and Paul's Trail, but don't call it a park. There is a sign that explains it's "enter at your own risk."

Dave Furman has been the Steward of Lisha Kill for a little over 7 years. He's a retired school teacher who took over the job as steward after the original steward, Frank Ham of Niskayuna, passed away in 2002. He answered a few questions I had about the area:

What does your job entail?

Most of my job -- it's not really a job; it's a calling -- consists of walking the trails, helping maintain them in a more or less natural state; cleaning up litter that I find once in a while; trying to enforce the rules; and trying to prevent encroachments on the preserve.

On the Nature Conservancy website, it says the Natural Area is closed from late February until early May. Is that still the case?

Originally, the area was closed for the spring "mud season" but as our climate has changed some, I have not enforced a hard and fast rule about spring closings. After all, some years we haven't even had a "mud season". But I have been known to close the area when trail conditions were dangerous to the walking public and/or when walking on the trails was a danger to the trails themselves.

The Nature Conservancy website also says no pets are allowed at the natural area, but I saw people walking their dogs (and a "no" in front of "pets allowed" seemed to be scratched out on a sign at the entrance kiosk). Are dogs allowed?

Originally, it had prohibited dogs from the Natural Area, but when I pointed out to Matt Levy, who is my contact at The Nature Conservancy, that people had been walking their dogs there for many, many years; even before the area was deeded to TNC, he agreed to allow dogs there as long as they are leashed and the owners clean up after their dogs.


Lisha Kill is beautiful any time of year, but our impending snow storm is sure to make it even more striking. The entrance is located on Rosendale Road, near the intersection of River Road in Niskayuna. There is a small parking lot there. You can download a trail map through The Nature Conservancy. Sturdy shoes or boots are highly recommended.

Find It

Lisha Kill Natural Area
2518 Rosendale Rd
Niskayuna, NY 12309


I love these little gems you guys come up with. This one goes in the memory banks for the Spring. Thanks!

My wife and young son took a short hike through the Preserve for the first time in early November. It is all you described and more, and I would bet many residents of Niskayuna, Schenectady and Colonie have no idea what is right in their own neighborhood off Rosendale Rd.

Our first thoughts were that this area must look pretty amazing after a snowfall.

It is eerie how quickly you leave suburbia behind once you enter the trail and descend down into the first gorge with the small stream at its bottom - we experienced an air temperature drop of what felt like 10 degrees just going down that first slope.

Well worth a visit.

Thos photos are nice, does Liz have more online anywhere?

Thanks, Mr Galt. I can't wait to see it in the Spring.

That's something that I noticed too, tcoughlin. It seems like the area has its own microclimates. (the area around the stream was icy and cold while up further it was mild and green)

Thanks, B. I just put a few more into the story. Feel free to email me if you'd like to seem them as individual files: liz@alloveralbany.com

This is one of my favorite places for a walk, especially when I don't feel like driving to the Adirondacks. It is very special. Listen for the birds in the spring and summer!

Is this a good place to cross country ski? I like to go to 5 Rivers and this sounds similar. Also sounds like a good place for a trail run.

Agreed, Ellen.

I thought about that, NFN, but there are some very steep parts and roots from trees sticking in the trails that could be a bit hazardous. If you're looking for somewhere to xc ski near there, they haven't plowed the Mohawak-Husdon bike0hike trail from Blatnick Park (as og 1/11/11) to the entrance near Lock 7, so it's good for skiing (as are the trails behind it).

love love LOVE Lisha Kill. Great place to hike when time is limited. Was just there this past weekend, and while I was wearing my snowshoes they weren't entirely necessary as the trail had already been pretty well beaten down. I'm sure that's not the case now though. Wish I could bag outta work and go break trail there right now.

Thanks for the post. I brought my dogs there for a walk this weekend and it's beautiful!

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