Morrow Mountain State Forest, Madison Reforestation Area #10, occupies 1,290 acres in the towns of Georgetown and Nelson in Madison County. Morrow Mountain rises to 2,142 and is the highest elevation in Madison County.
Georgetown was one of the original Chenango Twenty Towns and was patented to Thomas Ludlow Jr. of New York City in 1792. It was formed from DeRuyter and named Georgetown only after the State Legislature denied a local petition to name it Washington. In his 1880 history of Chenango and Madison Counties, James Smith reports that when Georgetown was first settled it was one unbroken forest: "...the bights of her hills crowned with large straight hemlock, spreading beech and sweeps of sugar maple; swamps gloomy with magnificent pine-ancient monarch of the forest, reigning with undisputed sway over the mass of tangled struggling foliage beneath them."
Soon much of the original forest that Smith described was cut for lumber or cleared for farms earning Georgetown the name "Slab City" for the rounded side of a log removed during milling. Farms produced potatoes, butter, hops, cheese and apples and sheep provided wool for local looms. By the late 19th century however, urbanization, westward expansion and an increasing demand for industrial labor reconfigured New York's rural landscape. Between 1870 and 1930 the population of Georgetown declined 52% from 1,423 to 684 residents. In the absence of plowing and grazing, pastures and fields began the slow but steady return to native forest. Between 1933-42, the Civilian Conservation Corp recruits planted trees, built roads and erected a 67' firetower and observation cabin atop Morrow Mountain. The tower was dismantled in the 1970s and replaced with a 100' communication tower to support a New York State Police radio network.
On a brisk autumn day the landscape is ablaze in reds and yellows from the changing leaves of sugar maple. Maples have long been valued for their sweet sap, blonde wood and spreading shade on streets, parks and village greens throughout New York State. But their brilliant fall color has earned them a distinction as one of the most beautiful trees in North America. In Native American legend, spirit hunters in the sky slew the constellation Great Bear in autumn and the bear's blood, dripping on the forest, changed many leaves to red. Some leaves turned yellow by the fat that splattered out of the kettle as the hunters cooked the meat. Science has revealed that color change is caused by chemical changes in the tree as summer turns to winter. Sugar maple is one of the most common trees on Morrow Mountain State Forest, and a visitor can enjoy its brilliance on any day of the year. But to experience sugar maple at its most spectacular, consider a visit in October when the sun is bright, the temperature is brisk and autumn colors are at their peak.
More maps, photos from Morrow Mountain State Forest.