Southampton Trails Preservation Society
SOUTHAMPTON TRAILS PRESERVATION SOCIETY
We Are A 501(C)(3) Not For Profit
P.O. Box 1171
Bridgehampton, NY 11932
Last month, Bernard Corrigan of Water Mill asked me about a special place that he occasionally visited many
years ago as a kid, usually astride a dirt bike exploring the old woods roads that crisscrossed the moraine
north of Water Mill and Bridgehampton. “Mike, is there anyway to access Camps Pond? I was trying to find it
and it seems as though the entire area is developed with private homes.”
I wasn’t sure, but decided to look into it. It had been over ten years since I was last at Camps Pond. One visit
was in the autumn, part of a reconnaissance mission to explore possible trail linkages for the Paumanok
Path. All on hand agreed that Camps Pond was the most spectacular kettlehole they had ever seen. A
dramatic dimple in the landscape near the highest point on the South Fork, we descended nearly one
hundred feet into a perfectly-shaped bowl. The bottom, despite an elevation of 110 feet above mean sea
level, held the tiny, circular patch of water called Camps Pond.
Another visit was in early June with South Fork Natural History President Andy Sabin. The Mountain Laurels
lining the steep slopes encircling the pond were just beginning to bloom, and the rainy spring weather had
filled the bottom of the kettlehole in which the pond lay to a depth of over ten feet. We had come in search of
the endangered Tiger Salamander, specifically its aquatic larvae that should be four to six inches in length
and beginning to metamorphose into terrestrial adults at that date. A well-known Long Island naturalist and
East Hampton resident during the early and mid 1900s named Dr. William Helmuth had documented this
elusive creature at Camps Pond many years ago.
Wading out into the astoundingly clear water with a fine-meshed, twenty foot-long net, our seine captured
the only thing worse than nothing: fish. In an ignorant but well-meaning attempt to “improve” the small 100
feet by 150 feet pond, someone had stocked it with pickerel. Were the abandoned vehicles sitting in the
pond also ill-conceived attempts to create fish habitat and enhance the pond’s wildlife habitat? Probably not.
Before leaving, we followed a small brook that emptied into the pond’s north end. It led up the wooded
hillside to a point where the freshwater magically gushed out of the ground beneath a large White Oak. The
brook and spring were not flowing on my previous visit, and this amazing feature added to the site’s
Still, the natural beauty of the site stood in stark contrast to the junked cars, trash, and rutted tire tracks that
wound along the pond’s sandy shore. It appeared that its main attraction for people was the wide, treeless,
sandy shore of the pond that formed a naturally banked, oval track for racing cars and dirt bikes. I found it
hard to fathom how such an amazing place came to be so abused, and for me it was a depressing place to
Since then, many things have changed. Pingree Louchheim of the Southampton Trails Preservation Society
spearheaded a successful effort to clean up the area, including removing the automobiles in the bottom of
the kettlehole. In 2004 the Town of Southampton purchased the critical kettlehole parcels from Cliff and Lee
Foster of Sagaponack. And both the town and Suffolk County have teamed up to purchase and preserve 90
acres of forest surrounding Camps Pond, and another 90 acres close by to the south and east.
Last week I visited the area from its eastern entrance off Noyac Path, turning west onto Old Sag Harbor Road
and parking on the shoulder where that dead ends as a cul-de-sac (#1 on the map). The public trail here is
not marked, and the number of “POSTED” signs is a bit intimidating, but many of the signs are on town-
owned land. Follow the unpaved woods road that is actually a continuation of Old Sag Harbor Road (NOTE:
some maps label this Werewolf Path), keeping a split rail fence on your left. The route passes through a Pitch
Pine forest, with pine needles forming a soft cushion on roadbed.
The forest canopy soon changed to an oak-dominated one with an understory of Mountain Laurel, and
remained so all the way out to the preserve’s west entrance on Little Noyac Path (2). Note the number of Red
Maples found along the route. This species, very common in wet soils, actual has a wide range of tolerance
with regards to soil moisture. But its presence in small groves here may be an indication of pockets of clay
in the otherwise dry, sandy soils typically found atop the moraine.
Here and there along the trail, something had swept away the leaf litter and exposed the dark humus layer of
soil underneath. These leaf-free patches were one to two feet in diameter, and at first I suspected they might
be the sign of White-tail Deer searching for acorns. But a careful examination revealed it to be the work of
Wild Turkeys, a species recently re-introduced to eastern Long Island and apparently doing quite well.
Within three hundred yards is a trail intersection marked with a sign that reads: Clifford and Lee Foster
Camps Pond Preserve (3). Old Sag Harbor Road goes off to the right; a left turn soon leads onto private
property. Continue straight to descend into the kettlehole in which Camps Pond is found. The steep-sided
gully here provides ideal conditions for the growth of Mountain Laurel, which forms dense thickets on either
side of the trail. I noticed the typical toothed leaves of Bigtooth Aspen underfoot, and was surprised to find
this uncommon tree quite numerous in the vicinity. Bigtooth Aspens are short-lived, pioneer trees that are
often found in areas that have been burned. Many of the specimens in the Camps Pond area are
succumbing to old age and shading out by oaks.
The trail ends on the southeast shore of the pond. Follow the shore around to the north side to visit the area
where the spring is located (4). Last week, the intermittent brook connecting pond and spring was filled with
leaves and waterless. The spring is probably the result of a thick layer of impermeable clay that is shaped in
such a way as to funnel rainwater percolating down through the soil towards a specific point on the side of
the kettlehole, where, under certain rainfall and snow melt conditions, it gushes out of the ground.
Whether or not the spring is flowing, consider the advice of Lee Foster in advocating for Nature Preserve
status for the area. Stop to look down into the kettle and try to comprehend the timescale of the glacial
processes that formed it. Contrast and compare this to the brevity of our lives and the long-term results of
our actions. “It is a place for reflection and affection; to be moved by that which moves more slowly.”
This most recent visit was a reminder that time, and hard work by a surprisingly few, dedicated people, can
bring about good change. The kettlehole is free of junk, the pond’s shoreline vegetation is slowly
recovering, Wild Turkeys are back, a recent drought eliminated fish from the pond, and some day the
salamanders might recolonize their former breeding pond.
DIRECTIONS: None of the preserve’s access points are currently marked. The easiest access point is from
Little Noyac Path (#2 on the map). From its intersection with Deerfield Road, head south on Little Noyac Path
for 250 yards and look for mailbox #672 on your right. The entrance to the preserve is directly across the
street from the mailbox. Park on the shoulder.
To reach the eastern entrance, take Scuttlehole Road to Millstone Road. Turn left onto Lopers Path, and
follow that to Noyac Path. Turn right onto Noyac Path and left onto Old Sag Harbor Road. Park at end.
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According to Bill Mulvihill in "South Fork Place Names" in 1737 a David Burnett owned "Cap's Pond".
He postulates this is where the name came from.