The Zoar Valley Unit has a rich history. Two sites with archeological evidence of early
human use have been documented on private property near the Unit. Since much of the area
has been disturbed by farming and other activities, it is not known whether the Unit was
occupied by early Native Americans. However, the presence of archeologic findings on
nearby parcels indicates the Unit may have been used or inhabited by early people.
The surrounding area including the Unit was deeded to the Holland Land Company in the
early 1800s. It was surveyed, subdivided and sold in the 1820s. Historic records from 1842
reveal farming was practiced along both sides of Cattaraugus Creek near what is now Forty
Road. A cheese factory was located near the intersection of Forty and Wickham Roads, now
The shale of the Unit has apparently been mined. There are reports of two lime kilns in the
Unit area, one near Overlook Point which has not been located, and the other near the Forty
Bridge on the South Branch of Cattaraugus Creek. These lime kilns were probably operated in
the early 1800s.
At least two sawmills were located in the area. Reports indicate that logs and produce were
moved along Cattaraugus Creek. Trees of saw log quality near the river, or that could be easily
pulled to the river, would have been cut.
Oil and gas wells were drilled on the property in the late 1890s. One of these abandoned wells
was recently plugged near Overlook Point by a contractor to DEC.
Around 1865 the Atlantic and Great Western railroad was planned to cross the Unit near
North Otto Road. The approaches to the bridge were built and most of the grade work was
done up to Collins Center before the project was abandoned. Small parts of the grade still
remain. The rest was converted back to farmland.
For many years a Boy Scout Camp existed on the north side of the confluence of the
Cattaraugus Creek and its South Branch. A cable car was used to cross the main branch. The
foundations of the camp buildings remain visible today.
The current Valentine Flats area, at the confluence of Cattaraugus Creek with its South
Branch, was first deeded by the Holland Land Company to Elisha Derby (pronounce "Darby")
in 1837. The land became known as "Darby Flats." According to old maps, his house was
located just below Overlook Point. In 1900, the land was sold to Ernest and Caroline
Valentine and later became known as "Valentine Flats."
In 1926, the Valentine property was deeded to Niagara, Lockport and Ontario Power
Company. The power company purchased land from the Valentine Flats and downstream to
Overlook Point, to build a hydroelectric power dam. Test borings were made in the area just
above Overlook Point to determine if the rock would hold a dam. The brittleness of the shale,
however, made dam building impractical. The Valentine family stayed on the farm as tenants
for a time. After the house was no longer occupied, the field in the Flats area was rented out
for bean farming.
In 1952, Mr. Herbert Darling purchased land, including the Valentine Flats area, from theNiagara Mohawk Power Corporation, the successor to Niagara, Lockport and Ontario Power
Company. Mr. Darling gifted 1425 acres to the State of New York in 1961 and 1962. This
marks the beginning of the New York State ownership and stewardship of the Valentine
Flats area. Other parcels were added later using Bond Act funds.
The Valentine Flats area has always been a popular recreation area for hiking, swimming,
fishing, camping and picnicking. Irresponsible behavior on the part of some campers led to the
State's ban on overnight camping and motor vehicles in 1971. The Valentine Flats and the
Forty Road areas still remain popular spots for outdoor recreation. Public access to the
Valentine Flats area is limited by the fact that the Forty Bridge was closed and removed, the
road to the Flats was abandoned, and by erosion along the access road from the parking lot.
In April 1968, a black walnut plantation was established in the Valentine Flats area. About
7,300 black walnut trees were planted on approximately 12 acres in the center of the Flats.
Many of the other upland areas used as fields and pasture were planted with conifer trees by
the DEC. There is also an experimental American Chestnut plantation on the Unit. Many areas
once used as pasture have reverted to hardwood stands. Evidence of the old farms, fields,
fences, roads, and final resting places of those who were here before is still visible throughout
This page last updated
October 23, 2008