Just south of Ithaca, the FLT passes through the Sweedler Preserve at Lick Brook, a nature preserve owned by the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

After the Revolutionary War, the land that is now the Sweedler Nature Preserve was cleared and used for agriculture. The farms in the area were later abandoned, leaving the land to recover and eventually return to forest. Since the 1800’s, Lick Brook has been a favorite picnic and hiking spot. In 1993, the Finger Lakes Land Trust purchased Lick Brook from Moss and Kristin Sweedler at a bargain price. Today, thanks to the Sweedlers and contributing members, the Land Trust owns this “Lost Gorge” to protect its unique and largely undisturbed woodland from future development.

Natural History

Lick Brook’s 128 acres provide excellent examples of the area’s geologic history and ecological systems. During the last ice age, glaciers thousands of feet thick covered much of northern North America. The ice scoured the land, sculpting the beautiful topography of the Finger Lakes Region.

Much of the Sweedler Preserve is covered by stands of Eastern Hemlock and White Pine, but many varieties of trees and shrubs thrive here, including familiar oak and maple as well as the less common cucumber magnolia. In the autumn, Lick Brook becomes part of a colorful tapestry that blankets the region in red, yellow and orange. The steep topography of the preserve dictates the downward flow of soil nutrients, which collect in the forest and meadows at the base of the slope. This produces a tremendous springtime wildflower display. Among the flowers that cover the forest floor are Wild Geranium, Dutchman’s Breeches, and the aptly named Spring Beauty.

Lick Brook historically was hunting grounds for the Peregrine Falcon, which has become endangered from the use of pesticides. On a spring day listen for the flute-like song of the Hermit Thrush and the “zee zee zee zoo zee” of the Black-throated Green Warbler; grab some binoculars and wait in the meadow to view the vivid color of a Yellow Warbler. In the winter, walk carefully through the snow and find the tracks of Wild Turkeys, fox or deer. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll even see a Peregrine.

Courtesy of Finger Lakes Land Trust