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Taconic Foothills

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About the Taconic Foothills

The Taconic Foothills are a transitional region between the Hudson Valley and the Taconic Mountains, a mountain range that runs north-south close to the eastern border of New York State. This region is mostly located within New York State, with a small portion stretching into Vermont.

This region features rolling hills with rounded tops but steep side-slopes and narrow valleys. It is underlain by the same metamorphic rock that makes up the Taconic Mountains, but here all but the highest hilltops have been completely buried in glacial till. The till here is coarse and loamy, producing soils usable but not ideal for western agriculture. Elevations range from 500-1,400 ft, with local relief of 50-500 ft. There are some natural lakes and ponds, as well as some small artificially-constructed lakes and reservoirs. The climate is a humid continental climate but with considerable variability owing mainly to the large north-south distance that this region stretches over, but also affected by elevation changes. The frost-free growing season ranges from 120-180 days, and precipitation ranges from 30-50 inches annually.

Natural forest cover here is a transition between Appalachian oak-hickory forest, and northern hardwood forest, with sugar maple, American beech, and birch, in the north. Appalachian oak-hickory forest was more common at lower elevations, in the south of the region, and on sites with poorer soils, and featured white oak, black oak, pignut hickory, and American chestnut. Steeper slopes featured chestnut oak, northernd red oak, and American chestnut, with eastern hemlock on north-facing slopes. The original forests here were mostly cleared for agriculture, but the agriculture was largely abandoned in the late 19th century.

There are currently some small remaining areas of pasture and cropland, and some small towns and rural residential development, but most of the area has reverted to forest. the area is sparsely populated, but more populous than the higher-elevations. Remaining agriculture mostly produces small grains and forage crops for dairy farms. Recently-abandoned fields support early-successional forests of red maple, eastern white pine, and sugar maple. Unlike some areas with a more fine-textured arrangement of small farms interspersed with small, isolated fragments of forest, the landscape here tends to have the remaining cropland concentrated in larger groupings, interspered with larger tracts of forest. Although driven more by topography than ecological considerations, the result is that the larger sections of forest have greater value for preserving biodiversity.

Along most of its length, this region is bordered to the west by the lower, flatter, more populous and agricultural Hudson Valley. In the north and parts of the central part of this region, it directly borders the higher-elevation Taconic Mountains to the east. However, farther south it is bordered to the east by the Western New England Marble Valleys, a lowland region with a different geology and soil type, and does not directly border the mountains. There is also one spot where it partly surrounds the Rensselaer Plateau to the east. At its very southern end, there is a small bordered with the Glaciated Reading Prong/Hudson Highlands, and at its northernmost end, there is a larger border to the northwest with the Champlain Lowlands.

References

1. Bryce, S.A., Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., Edinger, G., Indrick, S., Vargas, O., and Carlson, D. "Ecoregions of New York (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey (2010) Web.