Approximately 10,000 years ago, as the Ice Age was coming to an end, receding glaciers carved out many of the features of upstate NY, including the Thousand Acre Swamp in Penfield. The name is reflective of its initial size, but early settlers gradually drained the outer portions of the swamp to expand their farm lands, so today the TAS is a wetland spanning roughly 800 acres.
Conservation of Thousand Acre Swamp began in the early 1970s, when 52 acres were bequeathed to the Nature Conservancy by Fletcher Steele, a local landscape architect. In 1975 Irene Gossin, the conservation-minded town supervisor, asked Katherine Tucker Zarik, a retired Penfield HS biology teacher, to look into ways to preserve this wetland. A steering committee, which would become the Thousand Acre Swamp Preservation Committee, was formed and in July of 1976 it recommended that the group partner with The Nature Conservancy, an organization whose stated goals at the time: 1) preservation, 2) education, 3) research and 4) aesthetic enjoyment, aligned with the group's plans for the Thousand Acre Swamp. Over the next 30-some years, a dedicated group of volunteers, raised funds to expand our holdings, constructed a system of trails and introduced TAS to the community through numerous speaking engagements and guided hikes.
Besides providing important habitat to many species of plants and animals, including several protected and vulnerable species, TAS provides value to people, too. It is one of Monroe County’s largest wetland systems, providing downstream landowners with a buffer against flooding, and purifying groundwater and surface water by absorbing nutrients and sediments. The swamp serves as the headwaters of Hipp Brook, which drains into Irondequoit Bay, and Four Mile Creek, which drains into Lake Ontario.
Thousand Acre Swamp is a valuable educational, recreational, and environmental asset, and is an important contributor to Penfield’s quality of life. Although Thousand Acre Swamp is not a “park,” The Nature Conservancy encourages public access to the extent that it does not degrade biological diversity.
The Thousand Acre Swamp Preservation Committee continues to function today as a group of local volunteers carrying out stewardship, advocacy, and educational programs for TAS on behalf of The Nature Conservancy.
The Swamp is open daily from dawn to dusk for hiking and nature observation. A network of trails and boardwalks enables public access throughout the eastern portion of the preserve; we estimate that thousands of people visit the swamp each year. You are cordially invited to visit Thousand Acre Swamp, located in Penfield, NY. Our preserve is open daily, a schedule of guided hikes is available at nature.org or visit our facebook page, www.facebook.com/thousandacreswamp, for more information.