Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve
Town of Amsterdam
Approximately 2.5 miles of trails over moderate terrain
Strawberry Fields is 118 acres of protected land. The property includes the nature preserve, a family homestead, and a working farm. The property was protected in 2013 under a conservation easement with MHLC. In 2017, Jeff Leon, steward of the preserve, officially opened Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve to the public.
Preserve notes, 9/17/2020:
The fringed gentian is out and there are lots of plants to see at Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve! The plant is at its peak in the first week of October and usually blooms through early November. Gentian blooms do not open unless it’s sunny and close at night; for the best view, visit between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
A better than usual display has been reported, with more than 100 plants, many stems with 12+ bloom heads, and some stems with 40-60 bloom heads. They don’t all open at once though and start from the top down with 2-4 opening at once. Each bloom opens 4-5 days before staying closed and starting to mature its seed. The daily open/close cycle plus sequenced blooming down the stem keeps their pollen dry and ready for the few active pollinators needed to make seed. They need all the help they can get to successfully make a seedling of the biennial plant!
From Albany, take I-90 W to exit 26. Merge onto NY-890 W. Continue for .8 miles, and then turn left onto NY-5 W. Continue on NY-5 W for 8.2 miles. Turn right onto Cranes Hollow Rd. Strawberry Field Nature Preserve will be on your right after approximately .7 miles.
Natural History and Property Features
Strawberry Fields is located on a thick layer of limestone and dolomite, which formed from marine deposits in an ancient, shallow, warm water sea that covered this area approximately 500 million years ago. The Cranesville dolomite found here is also found as the cliff walls on the west side of the Wolf Hollow section of Hoffman’s Fault, which is located three miles east of here. The dolomite is visible as “limestone pavement” in a number of places on the preserve, and can best be seen by visitors around the sinkhole, another feature that is characteristic of this geologic history.
Glacial activity in the past million years has also left its mark on Strawberry Fields. As glaciers scraped over the Cranesville dolostone, they continuously dropped large boulders and rocks carried from Canada and the Adirondacks. The stone walls seen on the property were built with both glacial boulders and flat pieces of dolostone.
The dolostone serves as a filter and reservoir for drinking water. Precipitation on the property is captured on the surface in wet areas and ponds. A small seasonal stream disappears into the sinkhole, except during floods, when it overflows and descends the ravine into Evas Kill Creek and flows down to the Mohawk River.
The property also has abundant wildlife, and protecting that life is a primary purpose for the preserve. Over 300 vascular plant species, over 100 bird species, and uncounted other members of the food chain have been identified here. Some favorite flowers which bloom in the springtime are bloodroot, marsh marigold, trillium, wild ginger, trout lily, and mayapple. In the summer, the fields are full of Joe-pye weed, boneset, and rudbeckia. In the fall, the preserve blooms with eight species of asters, eight goldenrods, and fringed gentian. Fringed gentian, an uncommon plant which can be difficult to find, is regularly spotted in the wet, open slopes and early successional forests of Strawberry Fields. The deep blue-purple flowers open on sunny days, but remain closed when it is cloudy.
Strawberry Fields is a wonderful place for birders. Visitors can often spot American woodcock, turkey, ruffed grouse, pileated, red-bellied, downy, and hairy woodpeckers, Northern harrier, bluebirds, bobolink, meadowlark, osprey, red-tailed hawks, and Baltimore orioles. Deer sightings are common, as are squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits and chipmunks. Less commonly sighted are fishers, foxes, bobcats, weasels, and coyotes.
In the early 1700s, Phillip Groat purchased the land that included Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve. He and his descendants had survived the Stockade Massacre of 1690, a Canadian attack on the village of Schenectady. The Groats settled just south of this property, in what was later named Cranesville, a village named after mid-19th century innkeeper David Crane. The Groats established a flour mill on the creek and retained ownership of Strawberry Fields until about 1870. Historical maps show that this land was not cleared until the mid-1800s, when a small house was built near the site of the present homestead. Around 1870, the Morris family bought the Groat property, erected a mansion and a large barn overlooking the Mohawk River, and built the current house as a tenant home for their farm.
A succession of owners farmed this property into the 1960s. After the barn burned down, the property was sold to Alexander Leon in 1968, who subsequently entrusted it to his son Jeff. As current steward of the property, Jeff combines three uses of the land: as a family home enjoyed by multiple generations, as a working farm, and as a nature preserve open to the public. Today, Strawberry Fields is dedicated to the contemplation of humanity’s connection to the natural world, and is a special place respected by all who live and visit here. Visit the other side of this kiosk to read about the natural history and property features of Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve.