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Hiking the Neilmann Parcel Trail

Updated on August 21, 2014

Photos of the trail

Wilton Wildlife Preserve Trail Series: Neilmann Parcel

Wilton Wildlife Preserve Trail Series: Neilmann Parcel

The Neilmann Parcel trail is one of the five properties that make up the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and this trail is a dandy. Located on Ruggles Road in the town of Wilton, this parcel was protected in 1999 using a combination of local funds and state grant money. The Town of Wilton owns the Neilmann parcel.

The 145-acre parcel is primarily wooded, and a lot of the trees are old. There are wetlands and year-round pools of water. It is a wooded trail and the woods reveal old logging roads and stumps that are clues to the land’s history. The western portion of this property also includes part of Miller Swamp, the largest wetland in the Town of Wilton.

This trail is really wonderful. There are two loops, each about 7/10 of a mile, with a connecting trail of 4/10 of a mile, for a total of 1.8 miles. The back trail is the one that leads to the swamp. I walked this trail in the early spring, and the forest was alive with the sounds of thousands of peepers, as well as some bullfrogs.

A caveat to walking this trail, though is the presence of wetlands and swamps means mosquitoes, and they can be quite overwhelming if you are not prepared with bug spray. Also, as the trail is fairly flat with only small hills, a lot of standing water and mud has to be negotiated in the spring. The other thing to watch out for is roots strewn all along the trail because of the old trees. These roots can be far-reaching and cross the trail entirely, so a watchful eye is needed to ensure you don’t trip and fall, which I have been known to do!

As you start the trail, you cross over a footbridge that is well-maintained and fairly new. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the other “bridges” on this trail. The back trail that winds through the swamp, uses only primitive planks to navigate the swampy area and navigating them can be difficult.

But all caution aside, this is indeed a very pretty trail. Old forests are not very common in upstate New York and this is an excellent opportunity to view one up close. There are a lot of dead trees that have fallen that are strewn across the forest floor. Some of them are hosts to mushrooms and insect life and provide an educational opportunity for those hiking with kids.

As I said earlier, this is a fairly even trail, so most children would have no problem walking the length of it and there is a lot to capture their interest. The parcel is home to Barred Owls, and if you walk near dusk, you might actually see one, which I did, but wasn’t able to get a picture of it. Their call is very eerie, in a series of four hoots that sound like “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you”, according to some observers.

Other wildlife I have observed on this trail include non-venomous snakes, squirrels and chipmunks, a wide variety of birds, and even a red fox.

The trail is also lined with a wide variety of ferns and wild strawberries. The fiddle-head ferns are very delicate and are a sight to see when they poke their heads up in the spring. Other plants I am able to identify are lady slippers and violets. Not a lot of other flowers are able to grow here because the thick growth of trees makes for a very shaded environment.

The real beauty of the trail is the swamp. It is very peaceful and still, and surrounded by trees, both dead and alive, it isn’t hard to imagine you have stepped back in time.

I highly recommend this trail, and it is an especially good one for a hot day, when the shade keeps the forest much cooler than other trails.

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