Pine Lake view through trees

Pine Lake Environmental Campus

Hartwick's Pine Lake Environmental Campus provides our students with opportunities for hands-on research, academic study, and self-discovery. It’s a place to learn about the natural environment, the history of human land use, and much more.

Living at Hartwick's Pine Lake Environmental Campus

Housing options at Pine Lake offers a residential alternative to our main campus residence halls. Students can live in and learn in a natural setting, with several rustic and sustainably-built lodging options.

Challenge, Reflection, and Recreation

Hartwick's Pine Lake Environmental Campus is a place where challenge, reflection, and recreation can lead to personal renewal and growth, an appreciation of nature, and responsible environmental stewardship.

What Hawks Say About Hartwick's Pine Lake Environmental Campus

"Pine Lake grounded my experience in a meaningful community. The beauty and peace of the lake provided a sanctuary for learning, creativity, and growth. Pine Lake changes lives — it certainly did mine."

Meleia Egger Rose ’04

Environmental Protection Specialist, EPA

"In addition to being an awesome outlet to appreciate nature, Pine Lake has provided me valuable experiences I never would have gotten elsewhere."

Will May ’22

Environment, Sustainability, and Society major

"It was really special to start college living at Pine Lake and immediately be immersed in an intentional community. We developed a strong group identity there and many who lived there have ‘Pine Lake friends’ to this day... Even if those friends came before you or after."

Casey Mullaney ’12

Theology PhD candidate, University of Notre Dame


Hartwick's Pine Lake Environmental Campus provides a living laboratory that teaches the college and the larger community how humans can sustain, rather than deplete, resources by demonstrating environmentally responsible stewardship.


Hartwick College’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus is a private facility for the use of the Hartwick College community.
Public access is available through our Friends of Pine Lake membership program.

Members take advantage of all that Pine Lake has to offer – hiking, biking, muscle-powered boating, nature trails, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and more!

Individual ($50) – entitles an individual use of Hartwick’s Pine Lake Campus for day use (sunrise-sunset) for recreational use such as hiking, boating (youth 15 and under must be accompanied by a parent/guardian), fishing, snowshoeing, etc. for 1 calendar year.

Family ($100) – entitles an individual and their immediate family use of Hartwick’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus for day use (sunrise-sunset) as stated above. Immediate family includes member, partner, and dependent children up to 18 yrs. old.

*All members (and guests) agree to follow all Hartwick College policies while onsite at Pine Lake Campus.


Seasons at Pine Lake

Fall Wagon Ride at Pine Lake


College students begin to return in Mid-August. Pine Lake resident students arrive to move into their cabins for the year. Around the first weekend in October, the fall colors reach their peak. Red maples, sugar maples and beech and oaks transform the woods. The hawk migration is underway, and migrating Canada geese are a daily sight.

Boats are available May 1st through October for Hartwick College students, faculty, and staff during daylight hours.

Hiking and biking continue all year; in the fall the changing leaves make a new world out of Pine Lake’s trails.

Pine Lake Starwbale cabin in winter


Snow! Sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Pine Lake has snowshoes to loan. The hill by the lodge is popular for sledding. Pine Lake doesn’t have skis or skates to loan; bring your own.

On the trails, look for tracks and signs of wildlife: snowshoe hare, deer, fox, bobcat, owl – predator and prey both write daily journals in the snow.

Hartwick College's Pine Lake in spring


The lake thaws, and open water brings evidence of beaver activity, returning migrating geese and fisher-people. Some students are at the lake every day after class to relax and unwind with rod and reel. Frisbees, shorts and tanktops appear when the weather breaks and the ground is dry and the air warm.

The boats are set out again. Students come explore around after or during class, watching returning songbirds.

The days get warmer as the turtles start laying eggs. Summer is coming!

Hartwick student in kayak at Pine Lake


Students and faculty are busy with summer research projects, internships, session 1-3 courses, and workshops are some of the academic focuses onsite. The trees are in full leaf, the birds are back, and day visits at the lake are at a peak. Rowboats, canoes and kayaks are available for use during daylight hours.

Fishing is permitted in the lake and the adjacent trout stream, the Charlotte Creek. Catch and release is encouraged for bass only. All New York State regulations apply.

Pine Lake’s trails and grounds are open sun rise to sun set for hiking and biking.

NO Swimming is allowed in Pine Lake.

Sustainability at Pine Lake

Hartwick College is a signatory of the Talloires Declaration, the first official statement made by university presidents, chancellors, and rectors of a commitment to environmental sustainability in higher education.

The declaration is a ten-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy into teaching, research, operations, and outreach at colleges and universities. It has been signed by over 400 university leaders in over 50 countries.

Buildings, Grounds & Facilities

Sustainability is a core value at Hartwick’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus.

  • A photovoltaic system produces about half the electricity used annually in the Robertson Lodge. The Vaudevillian, Pine Lake’s multi-use building, features composting toilets. Gardens and edible trees and plants surround the Lodge. A few compost bins are available for resident use.
  • Pine Lake features two natural buildings, the Cob House and the Strawbale House, both of which were designed and built by students in a course called Architecture of the Sacred.
  • Some cabins at Pine Lake use wood pellet stoves as a primary or secondary heat source. Wood pellets are made from compressed sawdust, a renewable resource generated as a waste product of wood manufacturing processes.
  • Pine Lake residents make their own maple syrup, practice recycling, community gardening, carpooling and composting.

The Robertson Lodge at Hartwick’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus boasts a 10-kW photovoltaic system which provides on average about half of the building’s electricity over the course of a year.

It is a net metering system, which means that when the PV system produces more electricity than the Lodge is currently consuming, the excess electricity is fed back into the grid and we receive a credit on our electrical bill.

The Lodge’s PV system was supported by an incentive from NYSERDA, and installed by ETM Solar Works, a NYSERDA-certified installed based in Endicott, New York.

The Strawbale House, completed in 2002, is one of two natural buildings located at Hartwick College’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus.

The Strawbale House was designed and constructed by students enrolled in Architecture of the Sacred, a Religious Studies course offered at Hartwick between 2000 and 2004. The course was co-taught by Professor of Religious Studies Sandy Huntington and natural builder Clark Sanders. Tjalling Heyning, Clark Sanders’ long-time building partner, also played a central role in the construction of the Strawbale House.

Architecture of the Sacred students designed the Strawbale House and began work on it in June 2000. The building was completed in 2002.

The Cob House, completed in 2010, is one of two natural buildings located at Hartwick College’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus. (The first, the Strawbale House, was completed in 2002.)

The Cob House was designed by students enrolled in Architecture of the Sacred, a Religious Studies course offered at Hartwick between 2000 and 2004. The course was co-taught by Professor of Religious Studies Sandy Huntington and natural builder Clark Sanders.

The building was constructed in two phases. In phase one (the beginning phase), students worked with Clark Sanders, Sandy Huntington, and Sanders’ long-time building partner, Tjalling Heyning, to construct the outer shell of the building.

In phase two (the finish phase), the building was finished by a team which included Hartwick College students, alumni, staff, and volunteers.

The finish phase team included Gerrit Gibbs ’05 and Peter Jackson Hussey ’05, former Architecture of the Sacred students now working as natural builders, returned to Pine Lake to work as lead builders for the finish phase of the project.

Dan Morse ’97, coordinated the College’s and Pine Lake’s efforts.

While green buildings are becoming common on college and university campuses, natural buildings are remain quite unusual. The Cob House – student housing designed and constructed by students – may well be the only be the only building of its kind in the United States. (If you’re aware of other such buildings, please let us know.)

Cob is an earthen building material made from sand, clay, and straw. Students mixed these material and hand-applied the cob to form the building’s thick walls. The building’s exterior was then covered with a natural earthen finish plaster made onsite.

Over the course of the project, a wide array of individuals – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and volunteers – worked alongside natural builders to complete the structure.

Local, natural, and salvaged materials were used wherever possible. When new building materials were purchased, a special emphasis was placed on supporting locally-owned, independent businesses.

Hemlock flooring in the Cob House’s living area and pine flooring in the sleeping nooks was locally grown and milled by Wightman Specialty Woods, an independent, family-owned wood products company located less than 12 miles from the building site.

The building’s main roof and three secondary roofs are covered with roofing slates salvaged from a Delaware County, N.Y. dairy barn. Most framing lumber and roof decking was salvaged material.

Two large picture windows and a smaller landscape window were salvaged. All remaining windows are energy-efficient thermopanes manufactured by Syron Windows, a company headquartered in upstate New York, less than 100 miles from the building site.

Many items originated in buildings on the Hartwick College campus. The bathroom sink came from a residence hall, and the kitchen’s deep soapstone sink from a science building.

The kitchen table (custom-made by Peter Jackson Hussey ’05) is topped with slate that started out life as a chalkboard from an academic building.

Despite a tiny footprint of just 505 square feet, the Cob House feels bright and spacious inside, thanks to high ceilings, an open floor plan, and large windows which admit lots of natural light. To further maximize living space, student-designed sleeping nooks take the place of full bedrooms. (Visitors commonly cite the cozy nooks as a favorite feature of the building.)

In 2010-2011, we worked with filmmaker Joe Stillman of La Paloma Films to create a short documentary film about the history and construction of the Cob House.

Pine Lake’s Vaudevillian – so named for its original use as a vaudeville-era theatre hall – received a significant upgrade in 2012: a new 480 square foot addition featuring public restrooms and an entrance lobby overlooking Pine Lake. The 2012 addition, greatly expands Pine Lake’s capacity to support academic classes, workshops, contra dances, other student activities and public events.

In keeping with Pine Lake’s goal of modeling sustainable technologies, the newer addition features a Clivus Multrum composting toilet system, funded by Friends of Pine Lake donations. In the self-contained Clivus system, solid wastes are composted with pine shavings and liquid wastes are stored. Given the building’s proximity to Pine Lake and ecologically sensitive wetland areas, the system provides an environmentally appropriate waste management solution.

Meet the Pine Lake Staff

Erin Baxter-Toal

Director of Pine Lake Environmental Campus & Challenge Education

Alex Sader

Caretaker of Pine Lake Campus

Hartwick College’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus is within the Charlotte Creek drainage system of the Susquehanna River Watershed. Water flows from Pine Lake to the Chesapeake Bay.

GPS Address: (Do not use “Pine Lake”)
1894 Charlotte Creek Road
Oneonta, NY 13820

From the Hartwick College Campus:

Turn right onto West Street as you leave campus.
Turn left at The Wall onto Center Street.
Go three traffic lights to Maple Street, turn right onto Maple.
Cross Main Street to Interstate 88.
Turn left onto I-88 toward Albany.
Go one exit to Exit 16 and turn right onto Otsego County Route 47 – which will become Delaware County Route 11 at the county line.
In the village of West Davenport, turn left onto Charlotte Creek Road. (If you reach State Route 23, at a traffic light, you’ve gone too far.)
Pine Lake will be on the right in about 2 miles – look for the big blue sign at our main entrance.
When you reach the Lake, please sign in at Robertson Lodge, the big white building on the right as you drive into the parking lot. Information on trails, facilities and programs is also available at the Lodge.

From the North and Northeast:

Take your best route to Interstate 88, exit 25A on the NYS Thruway.
Take I-88 to exit 16, turn left onto Otsego County Route 47 – which becomes Delaware County Route 11 at the county line.
Follow directions from #7, above ‘From the Hartwick College Campus’.

From the South and Southwest:

Take your best route to Interstate 88 in Binghamton NY.
Take I-88 to exit 16,
Follow directions from #6, above ‘From the Hartwick College Campus’.

From NYC and Southeast:

Take the NYS Thruway to the Kingston exit.
From the tollbooth, turn right off the circle onto NYS Route 28 West.
Take 28 West to Shandaken.
Turn right onto NYS route 42, toward Lexington
In Lexington, turn left.
At the “T” with NYS route 23A, turn left.
Stay on 23A until it joins NYS 23 just before Prattsville where 23A ends.
Continue west on NYS 23 (there is no turn, just go straight.)
Stay on NYS 23 West through Davenport Center to the traffic light in Pindars Corners.
Turn right in Pindars Corners onto Delaware County Route 11.
In the village of West Davenport, turn right onto Charlotte Creek Road.
Follow the directions from #8, above ‘From the Hartwick College Campus’.

By River

From the South: Start in Chesapeake Bay, head upstream on the Susquehanna River on the incoming tide. Follow the main current north, beginning at Havre de Grace, Delaware, past the confluence with the Juniata River, through Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Continue on through Sunbury where you’ll pass the confluence of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River on your left. Shortly after this city the river will bend east (right) and head towards Wilkes-Barre. Stay in the main current, passing numerous tributaries, and bending around to the west again through Towanda.

Pass the confluence of the Chemung River on the left. The river again curves east and heads to Binghamton New York. In Binghamton look for the Chenango River on the left, and get ready for a series of sharp curves in the river.

Pass the Unadilla River and Otego Creeks on the left. Go through Oneonta where you can see Hartwick on the hillside on your left.

The first creek on the right after the Southside dam (the last of many you’ll have to portage around) is Charlotte Creek. Make a right onto Charlotte Creek. Take Charlotte Creek about 3 miles. Go under County Route 11.

In another mile or so you will see a beaver dam on the left with water impounded behind it. Take the main channel through the swamp, go under (or carry over) the railroad bed, and through the open water to Pine Lake. The main campus is on your left, the swimming area directly ahead. If you reach railroad trestle for the former Ulster and Delaware Railroad on Charlotte Creek, you have gone too far, but just walk across the field to the lake.

From the North: Take your best overland route to Otsego Lake, head south to the dam in Cooperstown, New York. Carry around the dam and follow the current south through Milford and Portlandville, and past many small tributaries. Portage around the Goodyear Lake hydro-electric dam on the left. Continue downstream. Charlotte Creek will be on the left in about an hour after a couple of interstate over passes and a railroad bridge. Look for Fortin Park on the left a little past the NYS fishing access at Emmons. Follow the Charlotte as above.

Pine Lake Staff and Hartwick College Campus Safety Officers will communicate the Land Use Policy, enforce its following, and approve specific use request from Hartwick faculty, students, and staff , and the outside community.


Should a specific use request be denied and the applicant desires to appeal, the President of the College, after consulting with the Pine Lake Vested Users Group, will make the final decision on the matter.

Area Below Charlotte Creek Road
The area below the road is primarily considered a residential and recreational area, with the exception of certain areas (such as the Hemlock Swamp) that are considered ecologically sensitive. Existing research activities will continue and these, as well as identified ecologically sensitive areas and populations of endangered or protected species, will be protected from the impact of current and future recreational and residential activities. New research projects will not be initiated if they impose limits on the principal use of this section of the property, unless they have been reviewed and approved by the President of the College after consulting with the Pine Lake Vested Users Group.

Area Above Charlotte Creek Road – Riddell State Park

The area north of the road was sold to New York State in 2008, and is considered to be an ecological refuge, used primarily for teaching and research as well as low-impact recreational activity (such as hiking and bird watching). No activity is allowed that will negatively impact identified ecologically sensitive areas, or population of endangered or protected species without special permission and appropriate permits. Accordingly, activity will not take place there that will negatively impact current or future teaching and research work.

The principles of Pine Lake Land Use in the context of the two zones created follow:

  • -Hiking and non-motorized bicycling are allowed, so long as it is non-destructive.
  • -Trail building and maintenance are allowed (pre-approved permission required).
  • -Motorized vehicle use is allowed for maintenance but is otherwise limited to those areas adjacent to the residential cabins and the general parking lot.
  • -No buildings will be constructed or any timber harvesting activities undertaken without the specific approval of the President, who will consult with the Vested Users Group.
  • -No activities will be undertaken that have a negative impact on the water quality.
  • -Hunting and trapping except for research are not allowed anywhere on the Pine Lake property.
  • -Fishing is allowed with a NY State fishing license; catch and release only for large mouth bass.

Check out the following sites for information on local attractions:

Oneonta, N.Y.
Cooperstown, N.Y.

Pine Lake Maps

Make Your Gift to Pine Lake
Give Now

Hartwick College Pine Lake Environmental Campus

1894 Charlotte Creek Road
Oneonta, New York 13820

Follow us on Facebook