Lime Hollow Nature Center

Photo: Lime Hollow

Kettle and kame!

Twelve miles of trails and a center for budding naturalists...

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Cortland, NY

42.569578, -76.251792 42.564332, -76.263027 42.562337, -76.247109 42.55673, -76.244791

Trail Information

Total Trail Length: 12.3 mi.

Maintained By

Lime Hollow Nature Center


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What’s in a name?  Well, the aptly named Lime Hollow Nature Center derives its title not from the citrus fruit, but rather from its unique and highly calciferous soil composition.  Before modern soil additives, marl, a whitish muddy mix of clay and lime, was highly sought after to sweeten the soil.  As might be surmised, Lime Hollow is home to several marl ponds.

These unique marl ponds owe their existence to two separate, but equally formative stages of New York’s geological history.  The first happened when New York was a part of an ancient inland sea.  Sediments that contained an abundance of marine seashells accumulated over eons and lead to the creation of calcium-rich limestone.

The second transformative influence was that glaciers were not limited to just scouring, gouging, and bulldozing.  What was removed certainly altered the landscape most dramatically, but what it left behind also had a lasting impression.

During glacial recession, debris often accumulated in depressions within the ice.  Additionally, large chunks of ice often calved off and were covered and surrounded by similar debris.  When the glaciers melted, the accumulated debris would form highly stratified mounds, known as kames, while the buried blocks of ice left behind created deep depressions, known as kettles.  The two landforms often coincide forming what is known as kettle and kame topography, a highly irregular amalgamation of depressions and hummocks which can be seen clearly at Lime Hollow.   The confluence of lime-rich soil and kettle ponds leads to the formation of Lime Hollow’s marl ponds.

Twelve miles of trails, open dawn to dusk year-round, weave through meadow, forest, and scrubland, often neighboring or encircling the numerous ponds and varied wetlands found throughout the 430-acre property.  The deep forest sections found along the Mill Pond Trail feature large-diameter trees that are reminiscent of the old-growth forest found at Green Lakes State Park.

Two landforms often coincide forming what is known as kettle and kame topography, a highly irregular amalgamation of depressions and hummocks which can be seen clearly at Lime Hollow.

Aside from a small 1.1-mile section along the Lehigh Valley Trail, dogs and all other pets are prohibited from the center and its network of trails.  A quarter-mile trail, the Trail for All, is wheelchair accessible and a trail-ready wheelchair is available at the visitor center along McClean Road if needed.  FYI, the center also rents cross country skis and snowshoes during the winter months, so no excuse to not enjoy the center year-round.

The center acts as an information hub for budding naturalists through summer camps, forest preschool, and year-round school programs, in addition to the plethora of community programs and events.  The center also “walks the walk” in regards to environmental stewardship.  It features, solar power (providing 110 percent of its energy needs), rain catchment, a greywater lagoon, composting, and native plant landscaping.  One final unique aspect of the nature center is Chicago Bog, one of only a few remaining peat bogs in the Finger Lakes.  Its rare ecosystem is a favorite destination for the many school field trips that use the center as an outdoor classroom.

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