Friday, November 6, 2009

Letterbox Planting at Great Bear Springs

Richard Drosse, member of the Oswego County Environmental Management Council and coordinator for Friends of Great Bear, contacted me after reading my previous letterboxing blog. He asked me to help him place a letterbox at Great Bear Springs in Fulton. Great Bear is a trail system in Oswego County made up of over 450 acres along the east side of the Oswego River; owned in part by the City of Fulton and the Town of Volney. (To learn more about Great Bear and see some gorgeous photos, read Kelly’s blog here)

I was honored and excited to help hide a letterbox! I met up with Richard and his wife, Naneen, early last week. It was a misty fall day but the trails were gorgeous nonetheless; blanketed with bright yellow and orange leaves.

You can get the clues on the national letterboxing website,, or you can get them directly from this post:

Great Bear Springs Information
Great Bear Springs is a NON-MOTORIZED multi-use recreational area located aprox. 3.6 miles south of Fulton, NY on the west side of Rt. 57 and the intersection of Hawthorn Rd. Great Bear features a network of nature trails connecting with the old Oswego River Canal Towpath. Great Bear Springs is comprised of over 450 acres.

A map of Great Bear is necessary to follow the clues. Information and a printable map can be found on the Great Bear pages located here: Great Bear Map . To contact, e-mail

The Legend of Great Bear
According to Native American Legend, a young brave, some say the father of Hiawatha, was attacked here by a large bear. Whether the brave was attacked while drinking from the springs or drank from the springs in thirst from his exhausting struggle, upon vanquishing the bear, the brave named the springs “Mishemokwa”, meaning great bear, in honor of his victory. The springs have been called “Great Bear” ever since.

Facts and History of Great Bear Springs
Great Bear Springs has been a source of spring water for over 150 years and became the primary source of water for the City of Fulton in the 1970’s. As early as 1885, several companies derived water from the Great Bear Springs for commercial purposes. Fulton Water Works Company (1885), Great Bear spring company (1888) bottled water from the springs for distribution throughout the northeast and Pure Water Supply Company (1890) distributed bottle water in Syracuse. Several ruins of former wells and pump houses can be seen in the southwest quadrant of the property. The name Great Bear brand still exists today, owned by Nestle, but the water is not drawn from Great Bear Springs property.

The property also contains the historical Hinmansville Lock #2 and old towpath that was part of the original Oswego River Canal.

Besides producing spring water, Great Bear was a working farm with orchards. In 1930 the Civilian Conservation Corps planted red pine acreages. After the farm was sold, in the late 1970’s, Boy Scouts and civil service work crews made trails, built lean-tos, and bridges, which were not kept up and went into ruin. Friends of Great Bear is a group formed in 2007, at the invitation of the Town of Volney and the City of Fulton to help maintain their recreational properties. Friends has also joined with the NYS Canal Corporation’s Adopt A Trail Organization and has partnered with an adjacent landowner acting as land stewards for the combined Great Bear Springs properties. Since 2007, Friends has cleared and marked over 6 miles of trails and built 11 new bridges.


  1. Make no mistake, Yellow is the one to take.
  2. Leave the quarry to your right, then quick up hill and down with all your might.
  3. Over the bridge, up we go, make sure you pass blue, don’t you go.
  4. Continue on through Red Pine wood, this is where it does get good.
  5. You’re on track when you pass the rubble. Not much further, it’s no trouble.
  6. Rocks will pass under your shoes. Stop, you’ve crossed over, final clues.
  7. Try about 10 paces west, three sisters and big brother, stand tall, at their best.
  8. Turn your back to them and look below. Stones lay about, above the stream that may flow.
  9. The treasure is there, find it now, but go with care.
  10. If you come to Orange, no, no, no. Turn around and back you go.

If you search for this letterbox, please leave a comment and let me know!

The entrance to Great Bear has a fence in front of it. Don't let that discourage you. You can still get in through the walking entrance!

Naneen and Richard following the yellow trail to go plant the letterbox.

A beautiful day to hike!

Crossing over one of the many wooden bridges at Great Bear

When you're done finding the letterbox, take a different color trail back and you may stumble upon the historical Hinmansville Lock #2 and old towpath on the Oswego River Canal.

Naneen and Richard - the letterbox planters!

A misty fall day on the Oswego River.

The trails are stunning in the fall!