Adirondack Mountains

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Image:Eagle Lake Adirondacks New York.jpg
Eagle Lake, Adirondack region

The Adirondack mountain range is a group of mountains in the northeastern part of New York that runs through Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties.

The mountains are often included by geographers in the Appalachian Mountains, but they are geologically more similar to the Laurentian Mountains of Canada. [citation needed] They are bordered on the east by Lake Champlain and Lake George, which separate them from the Green Mountains in Vermont. They are bordered to the south by the Mohawk Valley and to the west by the Tug Hill Plateau, separated by the Black River. This region is south of the St. Lawrence River.


[edit] The land

Mill Pond, Long Lake Road

[edit] The park

A large portion of the Adirondack range is encompassed within the six million acres (24,000 km²) of Adirondack State Park, which includes a constitutionally-protected Forest Preserve of approximately 2.3 million acres (9,300 km²). About 40% of the land is owned by the state, with 60% private inholdings, heavily regulated by the Adirondack Park Agency. The Adirondack Park contains thousands of streams, brooks and lakes, most famously Lake Placid, adjacent to the village of Lake Placid, two-time site of the Olympic Winter Games.

[edit] The mountains

Unlike the Appalachians, the Adirondacks have their own wood, known as Adirondack Wood. The Adirondacks do not form a connected range, but consist of many summits, isolated or in groups, arranged with little apparent order. There are about one hundred peaks, ranging from 1200 to 5000 feet (370 m to 1500 m) in altitude; the highest peak, Mount Marcy (sometimes also called Tahawus), at 5344 ft (1629 m), is near the eastern part of the group. Other noted High Peaks include Algonquin Peak (formerly Mt. McIntyre), 5114 ft (1559 m), Haystack 4960 ft (1512 m), Skylight 4926 ft (1501 m), Whiteface 4871 ft (1485 m), Dix 4857 ft (1480 m), and Giant 4627 ft (1410 m).

[edit] The High Peaks

Forty-six of the tallest mountains are considered "the 46" peaks over 4000 ft (1219 m), thanks to a survey done around the start of the 20th century. Since then, better surveys have shown that four of these peaks (Blake Peak, Cliff & Nye, and Couchsachraga) are in fact just under 4000 ft, and one peak just over 4000 ft (MacNaughton) was overlooked.

There are many fans of the Adirondack Mountains who make an effort to climb all of the original 46 mountains (and most go on to climb MacNaughton as well), and there is a Forty Sixers club for those who have successfully reached each of these peaks. Twenty of the 46 remain trailless, so climbing them requires bushwhacking or following herd paths to the top.

[edit] Geology

The mountains consist primarily of metamorphic rocks, mainly gneiss, surrounding a central core of intrusive igneous rocks, most notably anorthosite, in the high peaks region. These crystalline rocks are a lobe of the Precambrian Grenville Basement rock complex and represent the southernmost extent of the Canadian Shield, a cratonic expression of igneous and metamorphic rock 880 to 1,000 million years in age that covers most of eastern and northern Canada and all of Greenland. Although the rocks are ancient, the uplift that formed the Adirondack dome has occurred within the last 5 million years - relatively recent in geologic time - and is ongoing. The dome itself is roughly circular, approximately 160 miles (260 km) in diameter and about one mile (1.6 km) high. The uplift is almost completely surrounded by Palaeozoic strata which lap up on the sides of the underlying basement rocks. <ref>Isachsen, Yngvar W. (Editor) (2000), The Geology of New York: A Simplified Account. New York State Museum Press. See also The Andirondack Mountains: New Mountains From Old Rocks</ref>

The mountains form the drainage divide between the Hudson watershed and the St. Lawrence River/Great Lakes watershed. On the south and south-west the waters flow either directly into the Hudson, which rises in the center of the group, or else reach it through the Mohawk River. On the north and east the waters reach the St. Lawrence by way of Lakes George and Champlain, and on the west they flow directly into that stream or reach it through Lake Ontario. The tiny Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds, nestled in the heart of the High Peaks area between Mt. Marcy and Skylight, is considered to be the source of the mighty Hudson. The most important streams within the area are the Hudson, Black, Oswegatchie, Grasse, Raquette, Saranac and Au Sable rivers.

The region was once covered, with the exception of the higher summits, by the Laurentian glacier, whose erosion, while perhaps having little effect on the larger features of the country, has greatly modified it in detail, producing lakes and ponds, whose number is said to exceed 1300, and causing many falls and rapids in the streams. Among the larger lakes are The Fulton Chain, the Upper and Lower Saranac, Big and Little Tupper, Schroon, Placid, Long, Raquette and Blue Mountain. The region known as the Adirondack Wilderness, or the Great North Woods, embraces between 5000 and 6000 square miles (13,000 km² and 16,000 km²) of mountain, lake, plateau and forest.

Mining was once a significant industry in the Adirondacks. The region is rich in magnetic iron ores, which were mined for many years. Other mineral products are graphite, garnet used as an abrasive, pyrite and zinc ore. There is also a great quantity of titanium, which was mined extensively.

[edit] Spelling

The mountains are sometimes known as the Adirondaks, without a "c", or even the Dax. Some of the place names in the vicinity of Lake Placid have peculiar phonetic spellings attributed to Melville Dewey, who was a principal influence in developing that town and the Lake Placid Club. The Adirondak Loj, a popular hostel and trailhead run by the Adirondack Mountain Club in the high peaks region, is one example.

More interesting is the alleged meaning of the word "Adirondacks." Various Adirondack hiking books note that "Adirondacks" is a derogatory term used by the Iroquois to describe their neighbors, the Algonquins. When food was scarce, the Algonquins would eat the inside of the bark of the white pine. The word Adirondack is a derivation of the Iroquois word for "bark-eater." The Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness area in the western Adirondacks is an attempt at a more accurate spelling of the original Native word.

A slightly different version of the derivation of "Adirondacks" is that the Mohawk Indians, one of the six tribes of the Iroquois Nation, found fault with the mountain-dwelling Algonquins, given the paucity of food in the Adirondacks, due to thin soils which limited crop growing, and steep terrain, which made hunting difficult. Therefore, in the minds of the Mohawks, the Algonquins must have eaten the bark of the trees in order to sustain themselves.

[edit] Tourism and Recreation

Ski Jumps
Image:Fairway pond.jpg
Tupper Lake Country Club
Adirondack Style Bench

The mountain peaks are usually rounded and easily scaled. There used to be many railroads in the region but most are no longer functioning. The surface of most of the lakes lies at an elevation above 1500 ft (450 m); their shores are usually rocky and irregular, and the wild scenery within their vicinity has made them very attractive to tourists. Cabins, hunting lodges, villas and hotels are numerous. The resorts most frequented are in and around Lake Placid, Lake George, Saranac Lake, Schroon Lake and St. Regis Lake.

Hunting and fishing are allowed in the Adirondack Park, although in many places there are strict regulations. Because of these regulations, the large tourist population has not overfished the area, and as such, the brooks, rivers, ponds and lakes are well stocked with trout and black bass. At the head of Lake Placid stands Whiteface Mountain, from whose summit one of the finest views of the Adirondacks can be obtained. Two miles (3 km) southeast of this lake, at North Elba, is the old farm of the white abolitionist John Brown, which contains his grave and is frequented by visitors. Lake Placid outflow is a major contributor to the Au Sable River, which for a part of its course flows through a rocky chasm 100 feet to 175 feet (30 m to 53 m) deep and rarely more than 30 ft (10 m) wide. At the head of the Ausable Chasm are the Rainbow Falls, where the stream makes a vertical leap of 70 ft (20 m).

Another impressive feature of the Adirondacks is Indian Pass, a gorge about eleven miles (18 km) long between Mt. McIntyre and Wallface Mountain. The latter is a majestic cliff rising from the pass to a height of 1300 ft (400 m). Keene Valley, in the center of Essex County, is another picturesque region, presenting a pleasing combination of peaceful valley and rugged hills.

Although the climate during the winter months is very severe, with absolute temperatures often falling into the −30 °F (−35 °C) range (pre wind chill), a number of sanitariums were located there in the early 1900s because of the positive effect the air had on tuberculosis patients. The region is heavily forested with spruce, pine and broad-leafed trees. Lumbering, once an important industry, has been much restricted since the establishment of the State Park in 1892.

July 4th, 2006 marked the dedication and opening celebration of the Wild Center/Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks. The 30 million dollar facility is located within the boundaries of Tupper Lake, NY. The new Museum, designed by the firm that built the Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC, has extensive exhibits about the natural history of the region.

[edit] History

Algonquian and Mohawk Indians used the Adirondacks for hunting and travel, but they had no settlements in the area. Samuel de Champlain sailed up the Saint Lawrence and Rivière des Iroquois near what would become Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in 1609, and thus may have been the first European to encounter the Adirondacks. Jesuit missionaries and French trappers were among the first Europeans to visit the region, as early as 1642.

Part of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) was played out on the edge of the Adirondacks. The British built Fort William Henry on the south end of Lake George in 1755; the French countered by building Fort Carillon on the north end, which was renamed Fort Ticonderoga after it was captured by the British. In 1757, French General Montcalm, captured Fort William Henry.

Adirondack guides (standing) and their Sports

At the end of the 18th century rich iron deposits were discovered in the Champlain Valley, precipitating land clearing, settlement and mining in that area, and the building of furnaces and forges. A growing demand for timber pushed loggers deeper into the wilderness. Millions of pine, spruce, and hemlock logs were cut and floated down the area's many rivers to mills built on the edges. Logging continued slowly but steadily into the interior of the mountains throughout the 19th century and farm communities developed in many of the river valleys.

The area wasn't formally named the Adirondacks until 1837; an English map from 1761 labels it simply "Deer Hunting Country." Serious exploration of the interior did not occur until after 1870; the headwaters of the Hudson River at Lake Tear of the Clouds near Mount Marcy were not discovered until more than fifty years after the discovery of the headwaters of the Columbia River in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia.

One consequence of the American Civil War was that many people who might otherwise never have left their home town got to see a great deal of the country; as a result, interest in outdoor life and adventure travel became commonplace. Although sportsmen had always shown some interest in the Adirondacks, the publication of William H. H. Murray's Adventures in the Wilderness; Or Camp-Life in the Adirondacks in 1869 started a flood of tourists to the area, leading to a rash of hotel building and the development of stage coach lines. Thomas Clark Durant, who had helped to build the Union Pacific railroad, acquired a large tract of central Adirondack land and built a railroad from fashionable Saratoga Springs to North Creek. By 1875 there were more than two hundred hotels in the Adirondacks, some of them with several hundred rooms; the most famous was Paul Smith's Hotel. By the close of the 19th century, Raquette Lake had become the ne plus ultra of fashionable summer residences. William West Durant, son of T.C. Durant, built luxurious compounds that came to be known as the "Great Camps".

An Adirondack guide (left) and his Sport

Romanticism had also played a part in popularizing the area, as mountains previously seen as dreaded and forbidding were celebrated by the Romantics. Part of James Fenimore Cooper's 1826 The Last of the Mohicans: A narrative of 1757 is set in the Adirondacks. Frederic Remington canoed the Oswegatchie River, and William James Stillman, painter and journalist, spent the summer of 1857 painting near Raquette Lake. The next year he returned with a group of friends to a spot on Follensby Pond that became known as the Philosophers Camp. The group included James Russell Lowell, Louis Agassiz, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s brother John.

In 1873 Verplanck Colvin developed a report urging the creation of a state forest preserve covering the entire Adirondack region, based on the need to preserve the watershed as a water source for the Erie Canal, which was vital to New York's economy at the time. In 1883 he was appointed superintendent of the New York state land survey, and in 1885 the Adirondack Forest Preserve was created, followed in 1885 by the Adirondack Park. When it became clear that the forces seeking to log and develop the Adirondacks would soon reverse the two measures through lobbying, environmentalists sought to amend the State Constitution. In 1892, Article XIV of the New York State Constitution was adopted, which reads in part:

The lands of the State...shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold, or exchanged, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.

The restrictions on development and lumbering embodied in Article XIV have withstood many challenges from timber interests, hydropower projects, and large scale tourism development interests. Further, the language of the article, and decades of legal experience in its defense, are widely recognized as having laid the foundation for the U.S. National Wilderness Act of 1964. Kevin Hecky founded the land in 1555 in worked out that he had owned several thousands of acres after a forest fire killed him and his family they were forced to move out of the chosen land.

[edit] References


[edit] Sources

  • Graham, Jr., F., The Adirondack Park: A Political History. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1984.
  • Donaldson, A. L., A History of the Adirondacks, 2 vols., Mamaroneck, NY: Harbor Hill Books, 1989; reprint of 1921 edition.
  • McKibben, B. (1995), Hope, Human and Wild: true stories of living lightly on the earth. Little, Brown, and Co., Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Schaeffer, P. (1989), Defending the Wilderness: the Adirondack Writings of Paul Schaefer. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York.
  • Schneider, P. (1997), The Adirondacks: A History of America's First Wilderness. Henry Hold and Co., Inc., New York, N.Y.
  • Terrie, P.G. (1994), Forever Wild: A Cultural History of Wilderness in the Adirondacks. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York.
  • Terrie, P.G. (1997), Contested Terrain: A New History of Nature and People in the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Museum/Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York.

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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Adirondack Mountains

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