Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve

Location: Lloyd Harbor, NY 

Size: 1,400 acres 

Date of hike: Feb. 2, 2014 

Every list I've seen of Long Island's top parks and preserves includes Caumsett Sate Historic Park Preserve and deservedly so.  The place flat-out rocks.  It has everything from a modern equestrian center to incredibly beautiful beaches and bluffs to extensive trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.  But that's only the beginning.

Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve sits on a peninsula that extends into the Long Island Sound with terrain that ranges from salt marshes to rocky shorelines, according to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation's website.  The park came to be when a man named Marshall Field III purchased 1,750 acres of Lloyd Neck to create one large estate in 1921, titling the property after its Indian name Caumsett, which means "place by a sharp rock."  He then built a self-sufficient English-style estate with a mansion, several cottages, and a herd of 80 cattle with a dairy farm.  The property also combined the features of a country club, hunting preserve and home complete with its very own water and electrical supply.  "When the estate was finished, it had facilities for every sport except golf," the website said.  The park was later acquired by New York State in 1961 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.  As for hiking, a map is on the state's website and shows a dozen trails from 0.4 to 3.2 miles in lengthwith 6.4 miles of unmarked trails.

The park's entrance is located on Lloyd Harbor Road, just west of the historic Henry Lloyd Manor house, which was built in 1711 and is leased to the Lloyd Harbor Historical Society.  The vehicle entry fee is $8 unless you have an Empire Pass.  After parking, I stopped at a small structure with a series of informational displays about the land's history and habitats.  "The maritime beach is the fourth largest of six documented in the state," stated one sign, adding that the preserve's oak-tree tulip forest is "outstanding and may be the state's best example of this habitat type."  Apparently, the property is also home to the Caumsett Bird Conservation Area and features one of New York's most significant nesting areas for piping plovers, which remain endangered.  "Within these habitats are important breeding grounds, migratory corridors and and forest communities that support a diversity of neotropical birds," another sign said.  In total, more than 225 different birds have been documented in the park.

From there, I followed a three-mile fitness path with exercise stations.  It looped around the Lloyd Harbor Equestrian Center and attracted everyone from hardcore joggers to moms with strollers.  It also led to Caumsett Hall, which is where the real fun began for me.  Behind the hall is one of the preserve's top spots: a vast downhill slope that offered a view straight out to the Long Island Sound.  After inching my way down the snowy slope, I tiptoed onto the edge of a frozen freshwater pond that sat between me and the beachThen, I took a trail through the trees until I touched sand.  I also set my beloved iPod to Anathema's Weather Systems, which might be the most perfect music to make you feel at one with the world.  "Your world is everything you ever dreamed of, if only you could open up your mind and see, the beauty that is here," Lee Douglas sang on the electrifying "Lightning Song."  I sang along with her.

The beach was dotted with rocks big and small.  Strangely, some large rocks were topped with little piles of snow, although the neighboring bluff hardly had a flake.  I'm not sure why the snow wasn't swept away by a wave or wind.  It hadn't snowed in days, maybe a week.  But I wasn't complaining.  The views were insane.  I continued until I reached Lloyd Point, which had a sandy area that jutted into the mirrored tide.  Fog also floated over the water, making it feel like the world's edge.  "Lloyd Point is an excellent example of undeveloped coastal wetland ecosystem," according to the Suffolk County Fish & Floating Guidebook.  "This area includes one of the least disturbed salt marshes on Long Island's north shore."  

Realizing the time, I began to backtrack.  Unfortunately, my sense of direction disappeared as the trail strayed from the shore, and I began to panic as some shadows started to set in.  That's around the time I passed the water towers.  They stood tall and proud as if they were trees themselves.  Before calling it a day, I also strolled through the Walled Garden.  I'm not certain of its origin or purpose, but I loved it.  It's a large garden enclosed by brick and filled with symmetrical walking paths a place where a man can really get some thinking done. 

With regard to wildlife, Caumsett has everything from American black ducks to eastern box turtles to white-tailed deer.  As for birds, you might find everything from Baltimore orioles to eastern screech owls to great blue heron.  I should also note the park has scuba diving by permit and houses the Nassau BOCES Outdoor and Environmental Education Program.  

Looking back, I wish I'd given myself a little more time to explore Caumsett.  But regardless, it left me with a strong sense of calm.  And, to me, that's the greatest gift a hike could give. 

Video: Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve (360-degree view)    

2 comments:

  1. loved this story - thanks for sharing

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  2. Just came upon your blog and fell in love with it. Thank you for exploring and posting your adventures. It certainly helps me while planning engagement locations and spots of interest to photograph. So appreciated!

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