The gates open at the former Seneca Army Depot, unlocking mysteries of the past.

The question as they set off: Would they see the famous Seneca white deer living inside the vast preserve now known as Deer Haven Park?

Answer: Yes. Long before the conclusion of the first public tour of the year Thursday at the former Seneca Army Depot, a busload of visitors got more than a glimpse of nearly a dozen snowy white deer.

Known as Ghost Deer, these members of the world’s largest herd of white, white-tailed deer moved in small groups or were seen as a single deer tucked in shadows. The barren trees made their shiny white coats vibrant and easy to spot against the gray and brown late-fall forest. There were does, very young deer, and more than one buck, including a six-point buck, in full view of tourists.

Even an eagle was spotted.

Dennis Money, president of Seneca White Deer Inc., led the tour inside the fence of the former depot.

The Canandaigua-based nonprofit was instrumental in reopening the site for public tours, as had taken place in the past. Under new ownership, 7,000 acres of the original 10,500-acre depot is in private hands. Property owner Earl Martin and Seneca White Deer are working together to maintain a vast portion of the site for public access and historic and wildlife preservation. Martin has planted crops and fruit trees to provide plenty of food and foliage for the deer, which are now the focal point of Deer Haven Park.

The lease Seneca White Deer has with Martin has no end date. With year-round tours planned, Deer Haven Park will stimulate the economy, Money said.

But there is more to the site than wildlife.

Stops along the tour include a visit to an abandoned personal bomb shelter and one of the 519 concrete “igloo” bunkers where the U.S. Army once stored ammunition — everything from bombs to rockets to grenades. The Army’s weapons storage and disposal operated there from 1941 until the 1990s.

During Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, the Army stored some 40,000 tons of bombs at the depot, Money said. The Army officially shuttered the site in 2000.

Inside the former depot, 100 miles of road and 40 miles of railroad tracks remain from the decades when thousands of people worked there. All the bombs and ammunition were removed from the site, to a place in Nevada, Money said. The Army Corps of Engineers has been working on cleanup efforts in a section deemed highly sensitive, cordoned off with layers of fencing in a section where atomic weapons were once stored.

Visitors can walk inside one of the site’s 26 personal bomb shelters and inside, as well as on top of, one of the 519 earth-covered igloos that each stored thousands of pounds of ammunition.

During the 90-minute tour visitors see relics of 60 years of secret weapons storage, including ammunition boxes, as well as foundations of buildings that were once homes and farm structures for the people who lived there before the Army took over.

Money said people can request special tours, which emphasize various aspects of the property pertaining to its history and wildlife, or tours that are geared for certain groups. The depot has already entertained bicycling groups, and long-range plans call for special attractions such as overnight rental in an igloo — at a “bed and bunker.”

For more information, visit or call 585-944-3015.