People and the Pine Bush

People have been a part of the Albany Pine Bush for thousands of years. Homesteaders, travelers, entrepreneurs and refugees experienced the Pine Bush in ways unique to their time and place in history. Their stories enrich our understanding of this inland barrens today.

Muskrat swimming in water

Native Americans traveled and utilized the Pine Bush area, hunting game and collecting wild edibles.


Fire was intentionally set to the landscape, increasing fruit production in plants like blueberries and huckleberries and maintaining the open character of this ecosystem.

Signs of people in the Albany Pine Bush today are hard to miss. Highways, parking lots, shops and homes are constant reminders of our activities here. Much of the development of the Pine Bush has happened in recent history, within the past 150 years. The history of humans in the Pine Bush, however, dates back over 6,000 years.


For millenia, the wild game and edible plants of the Pine Bush sustained the people that visited this landscape. With the arrival of Dutch explorers in the early 1600s, outposts were established where trade with Native Americans was conducted. Pelts of mammals including beaver, weasel and fox were traded for European textiles, utensils, silver and other goods. Over time, trading outposts grew into cities and footpaths were widened into roadways, including the historic King's Highway (for a brochure on the history of the King's Highway, click here) and Palatine Road.


The Pine Bush grew in importance as a transportation corridor gaining national attention in the 1830s with the establishment of the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad, the first railroad in New York State. The sandy nutrient-poor soil and frequent fires likely discouraged early widespread settlement of the Albany Pine Bush.


historic photo of an unpaved Old State Road and the surrounding pine barrens
Old State Road

Development in the Albany Pine Bush began in earnest in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s a local grassroots organization known today as "Save the Pine Bush" had mobilized and brought the need to conserve the Pine Bush to the forefront of the public's attention. In 1988 the NYS Legislature created the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, a public authority, to protect and manage the unique and endangered natural communities of the Albany Pine Bush. This commission continues its work today as additional lands are protected and restored to pine barrens. For more information on the work of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission visit Our Work.


Did you know?

George Washington traveled through the Albany Pine Bush in 1786.


Author and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov first named the Karner blue butterfly in the 1940s based on his observations of the Karner blue in the Albany Pine Bush.


Internationally renowned scientist and Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson visited the Albany Pine Bush Preserve in 1998.


Scenes from the movie "The Place Beyond the Pines" starring Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes were filmed in the Albany Pine Bush.