Commission celebrates a quarter century as festival focuses on ancient history

Have you ever heard of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve? Better yet, have you ever visited it? Walked on the trails? Attended an educational program?

If you have never heard of the Pine Bush, I hope to help you come to know a bit more about it through this column. If you have visited before, I hope to point out something new to you, as I share what’s currently happening in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.

Spring is here, the days are longer, prairie willow is blooming in the preserve, and the woodcocks are displaying. Though this is the season of new life and new beginnings, I have been thinking a lot about history lately.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission and history is also the theme of this year’s Lupine Fest. History, like many things, is something that is in hiding almost everywhere once you start looking.

When people come to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, one of the first things they usually notice is the sand underneath their feet. The story of how this sand got here starts with a large sheet of ice (a glacier) 20,000 years ago.

The glacier was about a mile high and covered almost the entire state of New York. As the earth warmed, the glacier began to melt, forming what is known as Glacial Lake Albany. This lake was about 160 miles long and stretched from present-day Newburg to Glens Falls. Rivers flowed into the lake, bringing sand and other deposits with them and formed deltas at the edge of the lake. 

There are two main theories as to what happened to the lake. One theory is that, eventually, the land rebounded after the pressure of the glacier was gone and the lake drained.

The other is that a natural dam to the south broke and the lake drained out near Long Island Sound. The sand was left behind and the wind blew it into dunes. This sand is the foundation of the Pine Bush and the story of how this sand got here is history.

Today, the Pine Bush Preserve is a chopped-up patchwork of protected land surrounded by roads and development. You can hear the whir of traffic from the New York State Thruway and other roads from almost every trail here.

I often explain to visitors that this was not the first road to go through the Pine Bush. The Pine Bush was historically used as a footpath connecting Fort Orange (once located where Albany is today) to the hunting grounds in present-day Schenectady. This is history in hiding again.

History helps us to tell the story of this place, of how it came to look like it does now. History helps to connect people to this place by exploring human relationships to the natural world in the past and present.

History is definitely a part of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and a part of all of our programs though sometimes it may be in hiding. This year’s Lupine Fest is a great chance for you to come learn about and celebrate the history of the Pine Bush.

This is a free event on Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be hikes, storytelling, presentations on falconry and other historic topics, face-painting, games, crafts, and much more.

If you want more information about the Albany Pine Bush Preserve or the Lupine Fest, feel free to check the website:, give the commission a call at 456-0655, or stop into the Discovery Center at 195 New Karner Road in Albany.