Directions to Preserve: There is no public transportation to Grindstone Island, but the preserves are open to the public. The Land Trust's annual, coveted Mule Tour and recurring bike tour TILTreks are some of the opportunities available for the public to experience inland Grindstone. Potters Beach is at the western end of Grindstone, accessible from the water, and from North Shore Road. The Grindstone Island Nature Trail is at the eastern end of the Island and links Canoe Point State Park with Picnic Point State Park. It is accessible from the public docks at either park.
Grindstone is the fourth largest island in the Thousand Islands at 7 miles long and 3 miles wide. For over 100 years, it had a thriving community based primarily on dairy farming, although stone quarrying and even ship-building are in its history. New York State's last operating one-room school was on the Island and closed in 1989.
Howard-Smith and Rusho Farm Preserves and Heineman Songbird Forest
Several preserves on the interior of Grindstone Island are conserving the agricultural heritage of the Island, as well as sensitive habitat for various native species. Grindstone has a long history of farming; the Island had a cheese factory; a hamlet that at one time was bigger than Clayton; two churches and two schools. The last one-room school in New York State was on the Island, closing in 1989, and a few families still reside there year-round.
The Howard-Smith and Rusho Farm Preserves feature grassland habitat that was historic farmland. TILT works with the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Natural Resource Conservation Service to reclaim some of that grassland by mowing and brush-hogging. Grassland bird species nest on the ground and need large expanses of open grassland to rear their young. This is among the most quickly disappearing habitat in the United States today due to development pressures and a shift in agricultural practices.
The Heineman Songbird Forest is the breeding ground for neotropical migratory songbirds, those birds that winter in Central America and return to North America for the summer season. These birds need an undisturbed leafy canopy where predators are less likely to live.
One of the only naturally occurring sandy beaches in the Thousand Islands, Potters Beach has been a favorite summertime spot for generations. On a hot summer afternoon, you'll find boats anchored off the beach and young and old playing and swimming. TILT purchased the beach in 1995 in order to ensure it remain open to the public.
Volunteers from Grindstone Island and the larger community help to look after this popular beach. Occasionally when equipment is needed to repair storm runoff or move fallen trees or rocks, local contractors help out, making the beach a true community asset.
Grindstone Island Nature Trail
The Grindstone Island Nature Trail is nearly two miles of trail, connecting Canoe Point and Picnic Point State Parks on Grindstone Island, located in the Town of Clayton on the eastern end of Grindstone Island. The trail is jointly maintained by The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation and TILT.
The Nature Trail winds through the deep forests of Grindstone Islands and takes you across a boardwalk, providing incredible views of both the St. Lawrence River and the important wetlands that serve to filter water, provide flood retention during large storms and provide important nursery grounds for spawning fish and nesting birds.
Trailheads can be found at both Canoe Point State Park and Picnic Point State Park. The Preserve is boat access only and visitors are encouraged to dock at either State Park's public docks to access the trail.