Sam's Point Preserve

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Sam's Point Preserve, or Sam's Point Dwarf Pine Ridge Preserve, is a 4,600-acre (19 km²) preserve in Ulster County on the highest point (2,289 feet/697 m, on the Ellenville / Shawangunk border) of the Shawangunk Ridge in New York. It is owned by the Open Space Institute and managed by The Nature Conservancy. Its unique environment features dwarf pine trees along the ridgetop. Located within the park is Lake Maratanza, the highest lake on the ridge, and the Ellenville Fault Ice Caves.

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History

The name derives from a story that a man named Sam, pursued by Indians, jumped off the cliff to avoid capture and miraculously survived the drop. Roads throughout the preserve were built as fire roads in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The land was once owned by the nearby village of Ellenville to protect its watershed and partly by a company which offered tours of the ice caves. The Open Space Institute, working with The Nature Conservancy bought it with assistance from the Lila Acheson and Dewitt Wallace Fund for the Hudson Highlands, after the village considered selling the land to developers.

In 2005, the Preserve opened the Sam’s Point Conservation Center with education facilities, exhibits and a gift shop. A parking fee of $10 per vehicle is charged.

Ellenville Fault Ice Caves

The Ellenville Fault Ice Caves is the largest known open fault in the United States with corresponding ice caves. As a result of the cool microclimate, ice is present throughout the year and more northern plants such as black spruce, hemlock, mountain ash, and creeping snowberry, and bryophytes such as isopterygium distichaceum are able to survive.[1] It was designated a National Natural Landmark in November 1967.[2]

There are hiking trails to the ice caves which are open in the summer, but a permit is required to visit the area.

Trails

The Long Path long-distance hiking trail crosses it, eventually reaching VerKeerderkill Falls. A branch leads to Sam's Point (with a view of land for many miles, sometimes as far as High Point in New Jersey), and another to the ice caves, with solar powered lights. Visitors who want to get to Sam's Point have to go through Cragsmoor. Sam's Point Preserve is near the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

1987 disappearance near ice caves remains unsolved

Joseph David Helt, age 17, disappeared on January 16, 1987 and has never been found. Joe, who was an Ellenville High School student, was out late partying with friends the night he went missing near a popular party spot, the remnants of the old Mount Cathalia Lodge, just outside of Ellenville in the hamlet of Cragsmoor. After spending some time at Mount Cathalia, Joe left with three acquaintances, Kelly Diaz, John LaForge and Wade Marks to take a joyride in LaForge's Subaru. According to the accounts given by these three acquaintances, LaForge's Subaru got stuck in a ditch near Sam's Point Ice Caves and they were unable to get the car out. They stated that Joe left to walk 5 miles back down the mountain to Ellenville, and shortly after this Kelly Diaz and Wade Marks left to do the same. A short time later John LaForge gave up and walked to his home in Cragsmoor. LaForge, Diaz and Marks made it safely, but Joe was never seen again. Laforge and his companions said that night that they had expected to come across Joe on their way down the mountain, but they didn't think much of it when they didn't because he had a head start. They claim that it wasn't until LaForge retrieved his car from the mountain the next afternoon that they found out that Joe never made it down the mountain. [3] A huge snow storm moved in the next day, hampering search attempts. The search was called off after 6 days as it was believed that Joe could not have survived the storm. [4] In spite of renewed interest in Joe's case in late 2010, no trace of Joe has ever been found. An effort to bring awareness to Joe's case has been established on Facebook.

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Coordinates: 41°40′09″N 74°21′19″W / 41.669257°N 74.355211°W / 41.669257; -74.355211 (Sams Point Preserve)