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Ecological Studies of the Shaker Swamp
by Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program


The Shaker Swamp is a state-regulated freshwater wetland (CA-4) located in the Town of New Lebanon in north-eastern Columbia County, NY. This report is a summary of the field notes compiled by ecologists of the Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program during 11 visits to the Swamp since 2007. It presents lists of all the plant and animal species we have so far observed in and around the Swamp, a preliminary habitat map and descriptions of the habitat types found in and around the Swamp, highlights areas of particular conservation interest, introduces the most prevalent invasive plants in the Swamp, and discusses the wild-growing medicinal plants found in the Swamp. It closes with suggestions for future research.

Shaker Swamp

A Preliminary Ecological Description

Revised May 2012

Compiled by the
Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program
for the Shaker Swamp Conservancy

View full report
photos - plant & animal lists - maps

(PDF - 44 pages)  

This report documents that Shaker Swamp in New Lebanon is a valuable and unique natural area. It is composed of a variety of habitats, including marsh, wet meadow, hardwood and mixed swamp, upland hardwood, mixed, and conifer forest, upland meadows, upland shrub, and calcareous cliffs/boulders. It forms part of a system of calcareous valleys nestled between the Taconic Hills in the north-eastern corner of Columbia County and is part of the largest wetland complex in this part of the county.

A number of rare and uncommon native plant and animal species occur in the swamp and further studies will likely document additional species of conservation interest. We identified several areas of particular ecological interest, including a rocky forested stream, potentially ancient swamp and upland forest remnants, and calcareous cliffs/boulders. These areas beg further study and deserve special consideration when planning additional trails and increased public access.

We also describe the invasive species that seem to be most prevalent in and around the Swamp and suggest strategies for managing them.

A variety of wild medicinal plants was found growing in and near the Swamp. However, we have not yet located enough historical documents that would allow us to determine the amount (if any) of wild-growing medicinal plants has been harvested directly from the Swamp in order to supply the Shakers and/or Tilden. Information gleaned from an 1852 Tilden & Co. publication indicates that this amount might have been small compared to the amounts of plants bought in from further away or cultivated on site.

The report closes with suggestions for specific directions of further exploration of the current and historical ecology of the Swamp, as well as its economic importance for the local economy through time.

This report has been supported by a grant from the Fund for Columbia County, a fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, and by private donations.

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The mission of the Shaker Swamp Conservancy is to preserve the Shaker Swamp as a unique and defining asset of the Lebanon Valley, to promote understanding of this natural resource and its human heritage, and to create related opportunities for public access, education, and recreation. 


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Shaker Swamp Conservancy
PO Box 833
New Lebanon, NY 12125

Email: info@shakerswamp.org

Photo Credits: Claudia & Condrad Vispo, and Karen Ross

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