Big Gully. Photo by Andy Zepp

The Finger Lakes Land Trust recently announced it has formally opened its 26-acre Botsford Nature Preserve in the town of Jerusalem, Yates County. The preserve is a gift from Jerusalem residents Art and Kay Wilder who donated the land in 2019, and is named for Art’s maternal grandmother’s family who originally owned the land as part of their farm.

The property contains a half mile of frontage on Big Gully Creek—a tributary to Keuka Lake that has carved a three mile long gorge. A 0.3-mile hiking trail guides visitors to the gorge from a new parking area off Hemlock Rd.

Located just north of Branchport, the preserve features streamside woodlands and open meadows that are reclaiming an area used as a gravel mine until 2003. It is one of the last two parcels associated with the farm that had been in the Wilder family for 150 years. Art and Kay hold fond memories of family outings to the gully, and they chose to ensure the future of this very special place through their donation to the Land Trust.

A hike to Big Gully yields glimpses of scenic waterfalls, towering shale cliffs, and mature hemlock and hardwood trees. The flat beds of shale are punctuated by glacial “erratics”—boulders deposited by the last glacial advance. It’s a fascinating walk that is possible at the height of summer when the creek level is low. For a trail map, directions, and more information, visit

Art Wilder and his niece Beth. Photo by Kris West

The preserve is open during daylight hours for quiet, unobtrusive nature observation and low impact recreational activities such as walking, hiking, and snowshoeing. Please stay on the trail to minimize disturbance of native plants and wildlife, and to avoid hazards. From October 1- December 22, bow hunters will be hunting on the preserve in locations that are at least 150 feet from the marked hiking trail, and the trail will remain open to the public. Hikers must stay on the marked hiking trail at all times.

By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected nearly 25,000 acres of the region’s undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, rolling forest, and scenic farmland. The Land Trust owns and manages a network of 35 nature preserves that are open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 150 properties that remain in private ownership.

The Land Trust focuses on protecting critical habitat for fish and wildlife, conserving lands that are important for water quality, connecting existing conservation lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. The organization also provides programs to educate local governments, landowners, and local residents about conservation and the region’s unique natural resources.

Additional information about the Finger Lakes Land Trust may be found at Information on the region’s premiere destinations for outdoor recreation may be found at, a resource created by the Land Trust to encourage people to get outdoors.

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