Smith Woods: Old Growth Woodland in T-burg

Join two authors of a new book about Trumansburg, NY’s Smith Woods, along with a local historian, on an interpretive tour through this unusual old growth forest and its history and ecology, in this episode 176 of Walk in the Park. Watch it right here anytime!


Trumansburg and Smith Woods are near Taughannock Falls State Park and are about ten miles from Ithaca, NY near the west shore of Cayuga Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Old growth forests of this size are very rare outside of the Adirondacks. This woodland has been extensively studied for decades by scientists from Cornell University. Smith Woods is owned and managed by Cayuga Nature Center and the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, and is open to the public. It is used for education and research. Smith Woods is directly across the road from the Trumansburg Fairgrounds. The guided tour through Smith Woods featured in this episode of Walk in the Park was presented by the History Center in Tompkins County. Marvin Pritts and Kurt Jordan of Cornell and S.K. List, historian for the Village of Trumansburg, led the tour. It was videotaped by Tony Ingraham, who is the producer of Walk in the Park, a weekly public access television series in Ithaca, NY, recorded at PEGASYS Studio.

This episide of Walk in the Park ran on Ithaca area cable channel 13 from October 26 through November 1, 2017.

Smith Woods Old Growth

Smith Woods Trumansburg NY old growth forest ecology environmental education

An old hemlock tree in Smith Woods

On the edge of the Village of Trumansburg, NY near Cayuga Lake and Ithaca, Smith Woods is a 32 acre woodland with “old growth” trees, some that pre-date European settlement. Cayuga Nature Center took over the preserve from a local trust organization that had protected this small forest from destruction for a century. Smith Woods is a valuable local resource for environmental education and forest ecological studies.

Watch this 3 1/2 minute video for more about Smith Woods.

From a press release from, 4/24/2009:

“Smith Woods is a magnificent, diverse tract of old growth forest located across from the fairgrounds, just south of the village of Trumansburg. Some of the trees are more than 200 years old, with a recently fallen hemlock dating back to 1663.

“The earliest records (1817) indicate that the tract was owned by Nicoll Halsey, a U.S. congressman who built a grist mill along Taughannock Creek. Mr. Halsey cleared lots of land south of Trumansburg, but for some reason, Smith Woods was left mostly intact. Halsey eventually sold the land to the local bank for debt repayment. After a few years, it was purchased by Henry Smith, a wallpaper manufacturer from New York City who vacationed in the area. When Smith died, he passed the tract on to his son, Arthur. A. Smith, who did not wish to vacation in the area but was a conservationist. He established a trust and sold the land to it for $1.00… [in]…1909.

“For …100 years, the woods [were] managed by community members serving as trustees of the trust. However, the Smith Woods board was not associated with an institution, so the property was not fully used for “educational and recreational purposes” as established in the charter. In 2005 the Smith Woods board began searching for a partner to help with the management of the property. [In 2009], the Cayuga Nature Center enthusiastically embraced the opportunity as the missions of both entities are nearly identical. A loop trail was established, school groups, scouts and community groups began using the woods for educational purposes, and invasive species were removed.”