Ice Pond Conservation Area – Historical

Ice Pond Conservation Area Historical Info

Ice Pond has long been recognized as a habitat area of special significance. The pond itself, which is drained by Muddy Brook, is one of the largest bodies of water in the Great Swamp. It has been a fishing area for many years, though fishing has been limited by lack of access.

Ice Pond is bordered on three sides by extensive shrub swamps which support a diverse population of birds–over 120 species have been sighted in the vicinity/ Ice Pond and its wetlands lie over calcite marble bedrock and several geologic faults which enhance the area’s value as an aquifer and source of drinking water.

Ice Pond lies between two ridges which rise over 400 feet. These forested hills, formerly occupied by the Wappingers Confederacy and Sachem Daniel Ninham, contribute to the great diversity of wildlife by offering a wide range of habitats for birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, insects, plants and amphibians.

Much of the area is protected. PCLT owns another 55 acres in the immediate area: the 22 acre Shawe Preserve and the 33 acre Twin Hills Preserve. The Clough Preserve owned by the Town of Patterson is contiguous to the Twin Hills Preserve. Forests, hills, swamp, pond, streams, marshes and vernal pools atre now permanently protected. The area is endowed with great beauty and natural riches. A Click on the picture above will bring you to a printable map of the facility.

The marsh and wetland area north of the Ice pond are excellent areas to bird watch. The swamp is a combination of Shrub Swamp and Shallow Marsh vegetative cover types. These cover types differ from the principal cover types of the Great Swamp which is primarily Floodplain Forest and Wooded Wetland. The Shrub Swamp cover includes pussy willow, silky dogwood and arrowhead while the Marsh includes cattails and sedges. The unique and fecund attribute of Ice Pond is the large variety of ecotones, or edges, between different cover types (Upland/Swamp edge, Swamp/Pond edge, etc.) These ecotones offer a wide diversity of food and shelter for birds, and thus contribute to the many recorded species.

Bird counts by the Audubon Society and volunteers have identified 120 species, some extremely rare and threatened in New York State. Herons, warblers, wrens, hawks, owls, woodpeckers, swallows, thrushes, turkey, grouse, and ducks have all been observed at Ice Pond and its surroundings. From the tiny hummingbirds to the soaring vultures, diving ospreys, and the rare least bittern, Ice Pond is a paradise for birds and bird lovers.

Ice Pond is as unique and special as it is isolated. The different habitats in the area are far from houses and other developments. Many species that shun human disturbances such as the Virginia and Sora Rails, the northern goshawk, and the wood thrush can be found. The large number of standing trees provides excellent nesting sites for wood ducks. During spring and fall migrations, warblers and seasonal avian residents stream back and forth through the corridor in the Great Swamp.

Visitors may also see otter playing in the pond, beaver, muskrat, mink, coyote, deer and bobcat. Vernal pools along swampy edges are nurseries for amphibians of all sorts including spotted and blue salamanders. Both painted and spotted turtles can be found here, but try not to startle the common water snakes that bask in the sun–you’ll both be in for a fright.

Fish in the Pond
Ice Pond is a host to a number of fish species. William Blake’s History of Putnam County, N.Y., written in 1849, mentions that the Ice pond contains, “..excellent perch, pickerel, and other kinds of fish.“

New York Department of Environmental Conservation Fisheries Biologists conducted surveys in 1967, 1968 and 1977 and they found white perch to be the dominant species. During the 1968 survey, three trap nets were fished for a total of 286 hours and yielded 2632 white perch with a total weight of 763.2 pounds. Common species in all surveys included white suckers, black crappie, yellow perch, bluegill sunfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, and brown bullheads. Other species were large mouth bass, chain pickerel, carp, and trout. Largemouth bass were reported to be common and weighed up to five pounds in a report from 1943.

Norlunge, a sterile northern pike/muskellunge hybrid, were stocked in 1968 with the release of 2700 fry and 704 fingerlings. This experimental cross was stocked to act as a large predator species. The goal of the 1977 survey was to determine the success of this stocking through the capture and evaluation of large mature fish. Unfortunately, no norlunge were captured then. The Ice Pond Corporation, Ice Pond’s previous owners, did report an 18-pound norlunge was caught in the fall of 1975 and another of approximately the same weight in 1976.

A Brief History
Bedded in limestone marble, bordered to the west by steep and rocky hills of tough metamorphic granite gneiss scraped bare in spots by the Wisconsin ice sheet, and to the east by amphibolite, lies a small lake know today as Ice Pond.

About 0.6 miles long and0.2 miles wide, this natural pond is located in the southwestern corner of the Town of Patterson. A large stream flows northwest into the pond from the region around Brewster High School near Farm to Market Road, and many smaller spring fed streams feed into the pond from the surrounding hills. Muddy Brook drains the Ice pond northward through a portion of the Great Swamp, eventually joining the East Branch of the Croton river near the hamlet of Patterson.

From the artifacts found at the Muddy Brook rock shelter, Cornwall Hill Estates, and the Kessman Property, it is clear that prehistoric people were camping on these knolls, living under the over hangs of the surrounding hills and utilizing the food resources found in abundance in the wetlands.

The earliest artifacts were projectile points which date back about 8000 years. Fragments of Indian pottery were found at all the sites mentioned above and along the ridges that formed travel routes above the tangled wetlands. The Woodland Period began here about 1000-2000 years ago and marked the beginning of the use of the bow and arrow, pottery and the organized cultivation of corn, beans and squash. The Native Americans of this area were called the “River Indians” by Henry Hudson; we call them the Algonkian speaking people. The local groups probably consisted of 20 to 30 family members loosely known by the name of the area and joined in a larger assemblage or confederacy.

The local Native Americans were members of the Wappinger Confederacy whose territory ranged from Northern Westchester County to Fishkill Creek. Their last sachem or chief, was Daniel Ninham, who fought an extraordinary legal battle with the King of England and the Colonial Courts to try to retain his tribe’s lands in Putnam and Dutchess Counties. With the Revolutionary War and the unsuccessful court ruling, the Confederacy ceased to be a presence in Putnam County. Its members joined other Indian groups and moved. west.

Many of the European settlers in this region came from Cape Cod, Connecticut and even Long Island. One Historian mentions Crosby, Mabie, Merritt and Dykeman families living around Ice Pond from the late 1700’s.

William Blakes History of Putnam County, N.Y., written in 1849, mentions that the Pond’s “west bank forms the west line of the Harlem Railroad.“ Built in 1848-49, this is the older of the two rail lines that border the pond. In the early 1850’s, New York and New England Railroad (known today as the New Haven Freight Line) built a raised rail bed along the east side of Ice Pond. In 1912, engineers were told not to fire up their engines so that cinders would not fall on the forming ice

During the days of ice production, ice was cut in blocks and drifted under the Harlem tracks on the west shore through a cement lined channel. It was stockpiled in a huge ice house near the tracks before it was loaded onto railroad cars for the trip to New York City. Laborers used specialized ice saws and axes to cut large blocks from the frozen surface and pulled them along by horse through open water channels to the shore. The ice was packed in insulating layers of sawdust or hay before being loaded into insulated cars for their trip south.

The workers were housed in a long frame building on the side hill to the north of the present fishing lodge. The building contained a kitchen, and at one end a make-shift jail to house rowdy workers after they celebrated payday! All that remains of the ice house is the impressive foundation. The area was destroyed by fire in the 1950’s but the dormitory building are is marked by piles of charred wood, broken pieces of pottery, rusted tinware, bedsprings, and a flight of steps leading up from the tracks.

When the Ice Pond Corporation acquired the property, the members built a fishing lodge next to the Harlem tracks on the west side of the pond. which remains to this day.