Imagine a small, tranquil lake surrounded by forests. There's one picnic table set at the edge of the lake that seems to be there just for you. In fact, no one else is there. You are alone except for the mass of squirming catfish you will see in the clear water at your feet. But NO FEEDING and NO FISHING!
Moss Lake Bog, located in rural Western New York near the village of Houghton in Allegany County, is owned by The Nature Conservancy and has been designated a national natural landmark. Partially covered with sphagnum moss, this 30-acre lake offers the opportunity to enjoy the variety of nature, including some unique flora, in a beautiful setting.
What makes a visit to Moss Lake so enjoyable is its isolation and the trail that allows even the most novice hiker to experience the sense of accomplishment of having walked around the whole lake - in approximately 45 minutes. Just keep the lake in view so you don't get lost. The parking lot would be full with 4 or 5 cars, but we've never seen more than 3 in the 4 or 5 visits we've made since discovering this gem.
If you walk clockwise around the lake, you will soon come to a small foot bridge that crosses the edge of a small connected pond. Take the trail to the left just before the bridge and you can walk around this picturesque little extension of the lake. You'll see lily pads and an occasional turtle sunning itself on a log. Shortly thereafter, on the east side of the lake, you'll come to a boardwalk that will enable you to get a close-up look at the bog and some of its unique plants, like the insect-eating pitcher plant.
The remainder ot the trail is mostly through mature forest, with many opportunities to look out over the scenic lake. The trail ends at another small pond covered with lily pads and flowers. On our most recent visit, the unusually wet summer in Western New York provided us with a bonus in the form of the largest number and greatest variety of mushrooms we have ever seen. (See accompanying photos).
On the one hand, we wished we knew which mushrooms were edible. On the other hand, we feel strongly that Moss Lake is a place to be left undisturbed. If you visit, we hope you will feel the same way.
Bonus side trip: If you go north from Houghton on Route 19, then Route 19A, take a small detour to the village of Wiscoy, where you can see scenic Wiscoy Falls and an old water mill.