Attention! You will need to wade across Six Mile Creek to get to the wildflower preserve. Depending on the season and recent weather, the water may be 6 to 18 inches deep. The rocks and creek bed can be extremely slippery, especially in the fall and winter. Wear rubber-soled boots or sneakers.
Six Mile Creek marks the western boundary of the preserve. Two tributaries, lesser intermittent streams, and small springs flow across the property. Geological features along the creek include exposed shales and sandstones, with especially good examples of joint-plane fracturing. Upper reaches of the tributaries cross glacial rubble and alluvial material. The upper section of Six Mile Creek is an important site for the study of aquatic insects. The steep gorge walls are covered with ferns, lichens, and liverworts.
The Slaterville 600 has always been forested, and much of the site is old-growth forest (trees older than 150 years). It is part of a much larger forested area that includes the Hammond Hill State Forest. As in much of the rest of the state, these lands were extensively cut in the late 1800s; however, there is no evidence of farm use in the natural area. Mature forest covers the tract.
The site includes steep, west-facing hillsides and a high hilltop. The elevation ranges from 1,200 feet at Six Mile Creek to 1,650 feet at the top of the slope. Maple and beech are dominant throughout the forest. Hemlock and yellow birch are common on the steep slopes along the creek. Large white ash is common on the upper slopes. The hilltop forest is dominated by red maple, oaks, and beech. Maple-leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), and striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) are common in the understory. The site is noted for the abundance of wildflowers along the creek beds in the rich, well-drained, gravelly soils.
The Williams Preserve is surrounded by the Hammond Hill State Forest. The area has a wilderness character and is used for recreation, including hunting, hiking, cross-country skiing, and environmental education.
Reference: Norris, W. Glenn. 1951. The Origin of Place Names in Tompkins County. Ithaca, N.Y.: DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County.
Beech-maple mesic forest
A hardwood forest with sugar maple and beech co-dominant. Found on moist, well-drained soils, on north and east facing slopes, and on gently sloping hilltops of any aspect, this ecological community type rarely occurs in ravines. Common associates are basswood, American elm, white ash, yellow birch, hop hornbeam, and red maple. Characteristic species in the sub-canopy are musclewood, striped maple, witch hazel, hobblebush, and alternate-leaved dogwood. There typically are few herbs and shrubs, but tree seedlings may be abundant. There are many spring ephemerals.
A sparsely vegetated community that occurs on vertical exposures of unconsolidated material, such as small stone, gravel, sand and clay, that is exposed to erosional sorces, such as water, ice, or wind.
Hemlock-northern hardwood forest
A forest that typically occurs on lower slopes of ravines, on cool, mid-elevation slopes, and at the edges of drainage divide swamps. Hemlock is a co-dominant species with one to three others: beech, sugar maple, red maple, black cherry, white pine, yellow birch, black birch, red oak, and basswood. Shrubs have low abundance, but striped maple may be present. Herbs characteristic of northern and montane areas are common.
The aquatic community of a stream that has a well-defined pattern of alternating pool, riffle, and run sections. Waterfalls and springs may be present. Typical aquatic macrophytes include waterweed and pondweeds. Persistent emergent vegetation is lacking.
Riverside sand/gravel bar
A meadow community that occurs on sand and gravel bars deposited within, or adjacent to, a river channel. The community may be very sparsely vegetated, depending on the rates of deposition and erosion of the sand or gravel. Characteristic species include sandbar willow (Salix exigua), sand-cherry (Prunus pumila), dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).
Rocky headwater stream
The aquatic community of a small to moderate sized rocky stream with a moderate to steep gradient that lacks persistent emergent vegetation. The cold water stream flows over eroded bedrock near the stream origin and contains alternating riffle and pool sections. These streams typically have mosses and algae present, but few larger rooted plants.
Shale cliff and talus community
A community with sparse vegetation that occurs on nearly vertical exposures of shale bedrock, ledges, and talus. The talus is unstable, there is little soil. Characteristic species include blunt-lobed woodsia, rusty woodsia, hairy penstemon, herb-Robert, panic grass, Carex pensylvanica, and eastern red cedar.
A shrub dominated wetland that occurs along a lake or river, in a wet depression, or as a transition between wetland and upland communities. The substrate is usually mineral soil or muck. Alder, willows, or red-osier and silky dogwoods are common dominant species. Other characteristic shrub species include gray dogwoods, meadowsweet, highbush blueberry, winterberry, spicebush, viburnums, and buttonbush. A few red maple trees may be present. The herb layer is lush and diverse, and typically includes species found in sedge-grass meadows.