The Adirondack Mountains from the top of Whiteface Mountain
|Elevation||5,344 ft (1,629 m)|
The Adirondack Mountains // are a geological formation in the northeast of Upstate New York in the United States. They are the southern extent of the Laurentian Upland of Canada. They are bordered on the east by Lake Champlain, which separates them from the Green Mountains. Unlike the Appalachians, the Adirondacks do not form a connected range, but consist of many summits, isolated or in groups, arranged with little appearance of system. There are about one hundred peaks, ranging from 1200 to 5000 ft. in height; the highest peak, Mount Marcy, attains an elevation of 5344 ft.
The Adirondack Mountains are within the 6.2 million acres (2.5 million hectares) of the Adirondack Park, which includes a constitutionally protected New York Forest Preserve. About 49 percent of the land is owned by the state, with the remaining private inholdings heavily regulated by the Adirondack Park Agency.
Origin of the name
The earliest definitive written use of the name, spelt Rontaks, was in 1724 by the Jesuit missionary Joseph-François Lafitau. He defined the word to mean tree eaters. According to John Dyneley Prince the Mohawks described the Algonquins as ratirontaks, meaning they eat trees. Adirondack is also the Mohawk word for porcupine whose diet may include bark in winter. Since the Mohawks had no written language at the time, Europeans have used various phonetic spellings. Possibly an earlier use of the name is Nicolaes van Wassenaer's 1627 Historisch Verhael in which he described the Orankokx and Achkokx.
People first arrived in the area following the Settlement of the Americas around 10,000 BC. Around 800 AD, Iroquois ancestors moved into the area from the Appalachian Mountains. The Algonquian and Mohawk nations used the Adirondacks for hunting and travel, but they had no settlements in the area. Samuel de Champlain sailed up the Saint Lawrence and Richelieu River near what would become Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in 1609, and may have been the first European in the Adirondacks. Jesuit missionary Isaac Jogues visited the region in 1642.
The number of disputes between the Iroquois and the Algonquian people, increased due to the establishment of the Native American-European fur trade. The constant fighting in conjunction with the short summers and harsh winters, resulted in very few permanent structures or settlements by any native group in the Adirondacks.
The vast majority of the Adirondack Mountains are within the bounds of the traditional territory of the Mohawks until at least 1720. A sedentary agrarian democratic society before European colonization of the Americas, they controlled the eastern part of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy or Six Nations. Although the Confederacy was divided, most of the Iroquois sided with the British during the American Revolution. After the war, most of the Iroquois land which fell within the American border was forcefully signed over through treaties or seized outright. During the 19th century, the U.S. Government forced most of the Iroquois off their traditional territory into reservations in the Midwest. Many escaped to Canada, where they were granted land in the British colony of Upper Canada, modern day Ontario.
The resulting land obtained by the U.S. Government was redistributed among investors from New York. Most of the land that makes up the park today was bought in one large purchase by a speculator group, who got the land for just eight cents an acre.
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.
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.
Mining was once a significant industry in the Adirondacks. The region is rich in magnetic iron ore, which were mined for many years. The Benson Mines was an open pit mine extracting magnetite and hematite ores from the Grenville orogeny in St. Lawrence County on the northwestern portion of the Adirondack uplift. Other mineral products are graphite, garnet used as an abrasive, pyrite, wollastonite, and zinc ore. The Balmat-Edwards district on the northwest flank of the massif also in St. Lawrence County was a major zinc ore deposit within Grenville age marbles worked during the mid twentieth century. There is also a great quantity of titanium, which was mined extensively. The Sanford Lake district was a significant titanium ore producer during the 20th century. It is in Essex County within the anorthosite bodies on the east flank of the range.
Serious exploration of the interior did not occur until after 1870; the headwaters of the Hudson River near Lake Tear of the Clouds on the slopes of 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.
For the history of the area since industrialization, see The History of Adirondack Park.
Development and industry
While the park does contain large areas of wilderness, some areas developed to a varying degree.
Census towns with over 5,000 inhabitants include:
- Tupper Lake
- Dannemora, site of the Clinton Correctional Facility.
- Harrietstown includes Saranac Lake.
- North Elba includes Lake Placid, the Adirondack Regional Airport, and the Lake Placid Olympic Sports Complex.
Interstate 87 or Northway, completed in the 1970s, runs north to south through the eastern edge of the park, connecting Montreal to Upstate New York. The park is traversed by military training routes of the Air National Guard.
There are six business parks in Essex County of which two have certified shovel ready sites. There is also two in Franklin County. There are many maple syrup producers, and their work is documented at the American Maple Museum at Croghan.
Educational institutions include the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Paul Smith's College.
Railways were used extensively from about 1871 to the 1930s for passenger transport and freight. Passenger transport was supplemented by stagecoaches. Rail operators included Chateauguay Railroad, The Adirondack Railway, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, Lake Champlain Transportation Company, The New York Central Railroad, Northern Adirondack Railroad Company, Ogdensburg and Lake Champlain Railroad, New York and Ottawa Railway, Mohawk and Malone Railway, Fulton Chain Railway. An early railway was which connected Saratoga Springs, North Creek, Plattsburgh, the Clinton Correctional Facility, Loon Lake, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Moira, St. Regis Falls, Santa Clara, Brandon, Tupper Lake, Thendara, Old Forge, and Lake Clear. In 1920 there were 10 scheduled passenger train stops in Big Moose.
Starting in the 1930s people began to use automobiles rather than the train. Freight service to and from the Adirondacks also declined after World War II. The Penn Central Transportation Company, successor to the New York Central, continued freight service between New York City and Lake Placid until 1972.
There is an Adirondack architectural style that relates to the rugged style associated with the Great Camps. The builders of these camps used native building materials and sited their buildings within an irregular wooded landscape. These camps for the wealthy were built to provide a primitive, rustic appearance while avoiding the problems of in-shipping materials from elsewhere.
In 1903 and 1908 fires consumed nearly 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) of forest. In 1909, the first Adirondack fire lookout tower, made of logs, was erected on Mount Morris and many others were built over the next several years. From 1916 steel towers were built. At one time or another, there have been fire towers at 57 locations in today’s Adirondack Park. The system worked for about 60 years, but has since been replaced by other technologies. Today 34 towers survive in the region and many have been restored and are accessible to the public. Some in the Adirondack Forest Preserve have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They include Arab Mountain Fire Observation Station, Azure Mountain Fire Observation Station, Blue Mountain Fire Observation Station, Hadley Mountain Fire Observation Station, Kane Mountain Fire Observation Station, Loon Lake Mountain Fire Observation Station, Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain Fire Observation Station, St. Regis Mountain Fire Observation Station, Snowy Mountain Fire Observation Station, and Wakely Mountain Fire Observation Station.
St. Regis Presbyterian church: designed by prolific Saranac Lake architect William L. Coulter and built on land donated by Paul Smith. Construction funds came from donations from the congregation, which was largely made up of summer residents. It served as a church from 1899 to 2010.
The Bow Bridge: The Bow Bridge in Hadley is one of only two parabolic or lenticular truss bridges in the region and one of only about 50 remaining in the country. It was built over the Sacandaga River by the Berlin Iron Bridge Co. in 1885.
The AuSable Chasm Bridge.
Residential & leisure
The Adirondack lean-to is a three sided log shelter.
Saranac Village at Will Rogers: a Tudor Revival style retirement community, was constructed in 1930 as a tuberculosis treatment facility for vaudeville performers. Due to the subsequent decline of vaudeville performers, and an eventual cure for tuberculosis, its doors closed in 1975. After sitting unused for twenty years, it was bought in 1998 by the Alpine Adirondack Association, LLC and reopened in January 2000 as a retirement community.
Camp Santanoni was once a private estate of approximately 13,000 acres (53 km²), and now is the property of the state, at Newcomb. It was a residential complex of about 45 buildings. Now a National Historic Landmark, this is one of the earliest examples of the Great Camps of the Adirondacks. At the time of completion in 1893, Camp Santanoni was regarded as the grandest of all such Adirondack camps.
Wellscroft, at Upper Jay, is a Tudor Revival–style summer estate home. It is a long, 2 1⁄2-story, building with several projecting bays, porches, gables and dormers, a porte cochere and a service wing. The rear facade features a large semi-circular projection. The first-story exterior is faced in native fieldstone. The interior features a number of Arts and Crafts style design features. Also on the property are a power house, fire house, gazebo, root cellar, reservoir, ruins of the caretaker's house and carriage house, and the remains of the landscaped grounds. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
Prospect Point Camp: a Great Camp notable for its unusual chalets inspired by European hunting lodges.
The Adirondack Mountains form the southernmost part of the Eastern forest-boreal transition ecoregion. They are heavily forested, and contain the southernmost distribution of the boreal forest, or taiga, in North America, with the exception of isolated mountains, such as Mount Greylock, located in the Northwest corner of Massachusetts. The forests of the Adirondacks include spruce, pine and deciduous trees. Lumbering, once an important industry, has been much restricted by the creation of the park.
Approximately 260 species of birds have been recorded, of which over 170 breed in the park. Many of these are not found in most areas of New York and other mid-Atlantic states, such as boreal chickadees, gray jays, Bicknell's thrushes, spruce grouse, Philadelphia vireos, rusty blackbirds, American Three-toed Woodpeckers, black-backed woodpeckers, ruby-crowned kinglets, bay-breasted warblers, mourning warblers, common loons and the crossbills.
Geology and physiography
The mountains form a roughly circular dome, about 160 miles (260 km) in diameter and about 1 mile (1,600 m) high. The uplift that formed the dome started within the last 5 million years and is continuing at about 2 millimetres per year, which is greater than the rate of erosion. Earthquakes in the region have exceeded 5 on the Richter scale.
The mountains were been formed by faulting but mainly by erosion. The current relief owes much to glaciation. The region was once covered by the Laurentide ice sheet, a massive ice sheet that covered most of Canada and a large part of the northern United States multiple times during Quaternary glacial epoch. It last covered most of northern North America between c. 95,000 and c. 20,000 years ago. Before the continental ice sheet arrived from the north to cover the area, small alpine glaciers formed in the mountains. These carved the upper slopes of the mountains for thousands of years before they became buried by the advance of the continental ice sheet. The cirques that characterize Whiteface Mountain were formed in this way.
Evidence of glaciation includes:
- Eskers: the Rainbow Lake esker bisects the eponymous lake and extends discontinuously for 85 miles. Another long discontinuous esker extends from from Mountain Pond through Keese Mill, passing between Upper St. Regis Lake and the Spectacle Ponds, and continuing to Ochre, Fish, and Lydia Ponds in the St. Regis Canoe Area. A 150 foot high esker bisects the Five Ponds Wilderness Area.
- Glacial erratics: there is a large one at the Newcomb Visitor Information Centre next to the Rich Lake Trail.
- Kettle holes
- Outwash plains
Soils in the area are young, having developed only since the glacial retreat. They are generally thin, sandy, acid, and infertile.
The mountains form the divide between the Hudson watershed and the Great Lakes Basin/Saint Lawrence River 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 Saint Lawrence via Lakes George and Champlain, and on the west they flow directly into that stream or reach it through Lake Ontario. The source of the Hudson is near Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds, in the heart of the High Peaks between Mount Marcy and Mount Skylight. The major streams within the area are the Hudson, Black, Oswegatchie, Grasse, Raquette, Saranac, Schroon and Ausable rivers.
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