The Jesse and Gayle Bontecou Wildlife Conservation Preserve is currently not available for public access. We are working on a management plan for the Preserve to prepare for its future use. Check back here for more information.

Sited in the heart of Dutchess County, the Jesse and Gayle Bontecou Wildlife Conservation Preserve is an iconic property that offers breathtaking views of Bontecou Lake and the surrounding fields and forests. The 1,258-acre Preserve provides important habitat for an inordinate number of animal species and is surround by more than 11,000 acres of contiguous conserved private land, offering movement and protection for the wildlife that abounds in the area.

Bontecou Lake and adjacent Tamarack Swamp attract a host of migratory waterfowl and nesting bird populations. Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Osprey, Canadian Geese, Mallards, Wood Ducks, and Mute Swans all make their homes here, while the calls of White-throated Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, Killdeer, Northern Mockingbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and countless other birds can be found in the fields, forests, and shores of the Preserve. Reptiles, such as Snapping Turtles, Painted Turtles, and Garter Snakes live within the Preserve’s boundaries, as do Beavers, Bears, Deer, Coyotes, and Bobcats. The Jesse and Gayle Bontecou Wildlife Conservation Preserve is, in short, an area of great biodiversity with a plenitude of ecological niches and habitats.

The abundant water resources of the Preserve include Bontecou Lake, Shaw Pond, Tamarack Swamp, the headwaters of the East Branch of the Wappinger Creek, and acres of wetlands. Additionally, the property straddles the drainage divides between the Wappinger Creek watershed to the west and the Wassaic Creek/Ten Mile River watershed to the east.

History of the Preserve

The property of the Preserve enjoys a long and storied history as agricultural land. Purchased by Olympian and New York State Senator Frederic Bontecou in 1926, Rally Farms became well known for its Aberdeen Angus herds. Over time, these herds would grow to become among the largest in the state and host numerous national Champions. Frederic’s son, Jesse, a founding Board Member of the DLC, cared deeply for the land. Often toiling from dawn to dusk, Jesse developed a bond with this property, the fields and forests, the hedgerows and marshes, and the stunning lake at the center of it all. He believed in resource conservation, the responsible ownership of land, and that all should do the right thing for the land. Jesse and his wife, Gayle, appreciated the abundant wildlife found here, and were phenomenal stewards of their property in a way that ensured the integrity of this special place.

Jesse and Gayle chose to gift 1,258 acres of Rally Farms to the DLC to own and steward the land as they had. Sadly, Jesse passed away in November of 2020, but as part of his and Gayle’s legacy they had begun the process of dedicating the land to become the Jesse and Gayle Bontecou Wildlife Conservation Preserve. The property now stands as a testimony to their wish that it be protected forever and open to the public to enjoy.