Explore Wild New York

Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area

The Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area is a 2,500-acre tract of man-made and natural wetlands. As with the adjacent Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, its primary function is to provide habitat to the thousands of waterfowl that stop in this region during their yearly migrations. This wildlife area provides opportunities for a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, birding (see eBird List under Links), hunting, cross-country skiing, photography, canoeing and kayaking, and fishing.

The area is drained by the upper section of Oak Orchard Creek, which has a good population of northern pike, carp, and panfish. The man-made impoundments on the refuge also provide fishing for carp, suckers, panfish, and possibly some largemouth bass and northern pike. Small boats (no motors) and canoes are also allowed on the impoundments, but they must be carried in; motor vehicles are not allowed to enter the area. (The map pin is located on the parking area for the picnic shelter off Knowlesville Road.) 

For additional information from the DEC, see Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas under Links.

Location Map


Great blue herons are abundant in this wildlife management area, often forming large heronries (heron rookeries). In 2006 this heronry, which was located on Windmill Marsh, contained over 100 nests. The birds began leaving the heronry in 2008, and it was completely abandoned in 2010 when a pair of osprey took up residence in one of the trees.
There are many miles of trails in this refuge, but few people seem to take advantage of them. They provide access to some of the best scenery in western New York. The group seen in the photo were part of a hike that I led in May 2010 for the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK). The ADK is a great organization to belong to if you're intersted in discovering the natural beauty of western (and all of) New York.
Woodpeckers are commonly seen in the stand of dead trees in the swamp immediately north of the picnic shelter off Knowlesville Road. Seen here is the aptly named red-headed woodpecker.
This large picnic shelter is located off Knowlesville Road, across the road from the Swallow Hollow parking area. This facility gets little use, which is unfortunate for it's in a beautiful setting. In addition to the nearby Swallow Hollow Trail, this picnic area provides immediate access to several short but interesting trails and a seldom-used boardwalk overlooking a beautiful marsh.
A snapping turtle busy digging a nest on a gravel trail in the Oak Orchard WMA. This is not a reptile you want to mess with; its powerful beak can easily remove a finger!
These ospreys established their nest in a former heronry (also known as a heron rookery). The osprey are standing next to the remnants of a heron nest, one of over 100 nests that were abandoned when the osprey took up residence here.
Green herons are commonly seen in the marshes and swamps of this wildlife management area.
Another look at the same green heron, this time with some attitude!
Backwater sloughs along the main drainages in the wildlife management area are among the most ecologically rich environments found here, and to my mind the most beautiful.
Windmill Marsh as seen from the observation tower on Albion Road (zoomed in).
Oxbow Marsh as seen from the observation tower on Albion Road (zoomed in).
The observation tower off Albion Road provides great views of much of the eastern portion of the wildlife management area, including Oxbow Marsh and Windmill Marsh.
Goose Pond as seen from the DEC parking area on the east side of Albion Road (zoomed in).
Eastern phoebes are commonly seen in the wildlife management area meadows in early July.
Many people don't take notice of the small, bright yellow flowers that grow in many shallow ponds in western New York. But they might take notice if they knew that these little beauties, known as bladderworts, are carnivorous and have the fastest movement in the plant kingdom.
A male (left) and female bobolink in a meadow near Goose Pond in the Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area. In early July, hundreds of these birds descend on the WMA.
In late May, many of the wetter areas of this refuge are a riot of colors as many wildflowers are in bloom. The most common flower, by far, is the yellow swamp iris. Always occurring near water, some areas are carpeted by these plants. Although beautiful, it is not native to North America (it came from Europe) and is rapidly replacing the even more beautiful and native blue flag iris in our swamps.
This very nice viewing platform is located on the north side of North Marsh, a short distance south of the large picnic shelter/pavilion located off Knowlesville Road. This is a great location for viewing the many birds that utilize the march for nesting and feeding. For a list of bird species observed in this marsh, see eBird List under Links.

Resource Map

See Location Map (above) and DEC map under Links.

Driving Directions


Road Access:

See map (under Links) and parking area links below.

Boat Launch Site(s):

Canoes and kayaks can be hand-launched onto Oak Orchard Creek at the crossing of Knowlesville Road. Most of the other waters on this property are usually too shallow for paddling.



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