Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve
Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, NY
192 acres


Head north on the Taconic State Parkway. Get off at the exit for Route 199; drive 3.7 miles and pick up Route 308 (heading straight instead of bearing right); drive 6.3 miles into the village of Rhinebeck. Turn right onto Route 9.  Drive north and turn left onto Montgomery Street (just before Northern Dutchess hospital); drive 0.6 of a mile and bear left at the fork onto Mount Rutsen Road; drive 1.1 miles and turn left into the park entrance at a pull-off. (There is more parking at another pull-off, this one on the right.)

The parking area is off Mt. Rutsen Road, near the intersection of River Road.


Thomas Suckley of Wilderstein owns part of Ferncliff.

1883 -- Suckley builds a Methodist chapel. He established a retirement home for Methodist ministers (living rent-free on Church Trail). The ministers ran the farm here.

John Jacob Astor, richest man in the world at the time, amassed an estate of 2,800 acres. The Methodist ministers were forced to leave.


1864  -- John Jacob Astor IV born in Rhinebeck, New York, the son of William Astor and great-grandson of John Jacob Astor the fur trader; educated at St. Paul's School, Concord and Harvard.

1888-1891  -- travels abroad.  He had homes at 840 Fifth Avenue, New York and at Ferncliff, Rhinebeck, New York.

1891 --  marries Ava Willing, daughter of Edward Shippen Willing of Philadelphia. The couple has a son (Vincent) and one daughter.

1894 --  writes a semi-scientific novel A Journey in Other Worlds.

1898  --  develops a bicycle brake.

1897 --  builds the Astoria Hotel, New York adjoining the Waldorf Hotel which had been built by William Waldorf Astor, his cousin. The new complex became known as the Waldorf-Astoria.

Becomes a Colonel on the staff of General Levi P. Morton.

1898  ---  during the Spanish-American War, becomes a lieutenant colonel in the US volunteers. He places his yacht Nourmahal at the disposal of the U.S. government.  

1905  -- owns real estate property of  the Hotel St. Regis.

c. 1905 -- Bessie Suckley of nearby Wilderstein writes her husband Robert that "Jack" Astor was rumored to have several women at Newport (one even a mulatto) and that he was making advances to the Duchess of Malborough, then a guest at Ferncliff. Bessie commented that a man of such loose morals should not be a warden of the local Episcopal Church. The fast life at Ferncliff is thought have been the inspiration for Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth. (Philip, 2001:67)

1906  -- owns the Knickerbocker Hotel.

1909 -- The Suckleys enjoy the Hudson-Fulton Celebration from Jack Astor's mighty yacht Nourmahal.

1909 --  Jack divorces Ava.

1911  --  Jack marries 18-year-old Madeleine Force (who was a year younger than his son Vincent).

1912  -- the couple decides to winter abroad in order to let the furor over their recent marriage die down.  In the spring they decide to return to America on the Titanic.  The wife survived but Astor himself perished when the ship sank.
1914 -- Vincent and Helen Astor put on their usual Fourth of July fireworks display followed by a dance at Ferncliff.

1950s -- the land went on the market in parcels.

1963 -- Homer Staley, a local retired businessman in the area, asked Brooke Russell Astor to try and save the forest. She gave the land as a gift to the Rotary Club of Rhinebeck.


mixed deciduous and hemlock forest


Access to such trails as: the North Pond and East Tower Trails.

9/27/04.  My son and I walked the trails.  Headed out going southwest on a nice wide path.  We followed the white triangle trail.  We soon came to South Pond, which has a lot of giant reed grass (Phragmites australis).  There is an abandoned building here along with a camp site set-up.  We turned left and headed south parallel to the pond.   Turned right and now we are on the red triangle trail.  The red trail went off left away from the pond.   We make the transition to the blue trail.  (This is a very informal trail system with colored trails blending into each other without a definite marked transition.)

Followed the blue trail to complete the circular trip around the pond.  Then we followed the blue trail past the camp set-up heading north.  We find ourselves in a shallow valley between small rock hills.   Reached a fork in the path.  A yellow triangle trail goes up the hill to the left.  We continued going straight (north) on the blue trail  We reach a town road.  We cross it to take a look at the swamp on the opposite side of the road.

Headed back to the yellow trail.  The trail heads south.  Right turn heading west.  Find the observation tower on the hill.  There is no way to climb the tower.  There is a faded plaque on one of the four corner telephone pole supports that says "This tower was rebuilt in memory of H. Henry Staley and his wife Lucy Staley of Mt. Rutsen Road, Rhinebeck.  The necessary funds for the materials was given to Ferncliff Forest, Inc. by their daughter Elma Williamson."

Get back on the trail and find ourselves on the green trail heading south.  Rock outcrops are on the right; rock outcrops on the left.  Left turn and pick up the red trail heading northeast.  Come to a fork in the trail.  We go left, northeast.  Go through an area of hemlocks and chestnut oaks.  Find North Pond on the right.  A part of it is a red maple shrub swamp.  Return to the path; find a duckweed covered pond on the left.  The red trail finally delivers us back to South Pond.  We turn left to go around the lake back to the camp set-up and the abandoned building.  Return to the parking lot and our car.

Dr. Patrick Louis Cooney
date = plant blooming on day of field trip, 9/27/04

Acer pensylvanicum (striped maple)
Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Castanea dentata (American chestnut)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Fraxinus pensylvanica (green ash)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Ostrya virginiana (American hop hornbeam)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus bicolor (swamp oak)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)
Ulmus americana (American elm)

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Chimaphila maculata (striped wintergreen)
Cornus amomum (swamp dogwood)
Cornus racemosa (gray dogwood)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Forsythia sp. (golden bells)
Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Ilex verticillata (winterberry holly)
Ligustrum sp. (privet)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Rhamnus frangula (European buckthorn)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus occidentalis (black raspberry)
Rubus sp. (blackberry)
Rubus sp. (dewberry)
Salix sp. (willow)
Staphylea trifolia (bladdernut)
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
Vaccinium pallidum (hillside blueberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum dentatum (arrowwood viburnum)

Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Clematis virginiana (virgin's bower)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis aestivalis (summer grape)

Acalypha sp. (three-seeded mercury)
Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Actaea alba (doll's eyes) ?
Agrimonia gryposepala (common agrimony)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed)
Amphicarpaea bracteata (hog peanut)
Aquilegia canadensis (columbine)
Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
Arctium minus (common burdock)
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit)
Asarum canadense (wild ginger)
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)
Aster cordifolius (heart-leaved aster) 9/27/04
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster) 9/27/04
Bidens comosa (strawstem beggar ticks) 9/27/04
Boehmeria cylindrica (false nettle)
Chelidonium majus (celandine)
Collinsonia canadensis (horsebalm)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace)
Desmodium glutinosum (pointed leaved tick trefoil)
Desmodium sp. (tick trefoil)
Erechtites hieraciifolia (pileweed)
Eupatorium rugosum (white snakeroot) 9/27/04
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod)
Fragaria virginiana (strawberry)
Galinsoga sp. (quickweed) 9/27/04
Galium circaezens (wild licorice)
Geranium sp. (geranium)
Heuchera americana (alumroot)
Impatiens capensis (jewelweed)
Lemna sp. (duckweed)
Lespedeza sp. (bush clover)
Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco)
Lysimachia nummularia (moneywort)
Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) 9/27/04
Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe)
Osmorhiza claytonii (sweet cicely)
Oxalis sp. (yellow wood sorrel) 9/27/04
Penthorum sedoides (ditch stonecrop)
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)
Pilea pumila (clearweed)
Plantago lanceolata (English plantain)
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygonatum biflorum (smooth true Solomon's seal)
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose smartweed) 9/27/04
Polygonum hydropiper (water pepper) 9/27/04
Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed) 9/27/04
Polygonum sagittatum (arrow-leaved tearthumb) 9/27/04
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed)
Potentilla simplex (common cinquefoil)
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal)
Rumex obtusifolius (broad dock)
Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)
Smilacina racemosa (false Solomon's seal)
Solanum dulcamara (bittersweet nightshade)
Solidago bicolor (silverrod) 9/27/04
Solidago caesia (blue-stem goldenrod) 9/27/04
Solidago rugosa (rough-stemmed goldenrod) 9/27/04
Sparganium sp. (burreed)
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) 9/27/04
Thalictrum pubescens (tall meadowrue)
Trifolium pratense (red clover) 9/27/04
Trifolium repens (white clover) 9/26/04
Veronica officinalis (common speedwell)
Viola spp. (violets)

Juncus tenuis (path rush)

Carex latifolia type (loose-flowered sedge type)
Carex stricta (tussock sedge)
Cyperus sp. (nut or umbrella sedge)
Scirpus atrovirens (dark-green bulrush)

Digitaria sp. (crab grass)
Leersia virginica (white grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)   -- lots at South Pond
Setaria faberi (nodding foxtail grass)
Tridens flavus (purple top grass)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern)
Asplenium trichomanes (maidenhair spleenwort)
Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern)
Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)
Polypodium sp. (rockcap fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern)