A mountaineer near the peak of Basin
Adirondack Mountains are a mountain range located in the northeastern
part of New
York, that runs through Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Saint Lawrence, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties.
mountains are often included by geographers in the Appalachian
Mountains, but they are geologically more similar to the
Mountains of Canada.
bordered on the east by Lake Champlain and Lake George, which separate them from the Green Mountains in Vermont.
Mill Pond, Long Lake Road
are bordered to the south by the Mohawk
, and to the west by the Tug
, separated by the Black River
. This region is south
of the Saint Lawrence
The Adirondack Mountains are contained within the 6.1 million acres
(25,000 km²) of the Adirondack
, which includes a constitutionally protected Forest Preserve
2.3 million acres (9,300 km²). About 43% of the land is owned
by the state, with 57% private inholdings
heavily regulated by the Adirondack Park Agency
. The Adirondack Park
contains thousands of streams, brooks and lakes, most famously
Placid, adjacent to the village of Lake
Placid, two-time site of the Winter Olympic Games, the Saranac Lakes, favored by the sportsmen who
made the Adirondacks famous, and Raquette Lake, site of many of the first Great Camps.
The Adirondacks do not form a connected range, but is an eroded
dome consisting of many summits, isolated or in groups, often with
little apparent order. There are over one hundred summits, ranging
from under 1200 to over 5000 feet (370 m to 1500 m) in altitude;
the highest peak, Mount Marcy, at 5344 ft (1629 m), is near the eastern part of
Other noted High Peaks
Forty-six of the tallest mountains are considered "The 46" Adirondack High Peaks
— those over
4,000 ft (1,219 m), that were climbed by brothers
between 1918 and 1924. Since that time, better surveys have shown
that four of these peaks (Blake Peak, Cliff Mountain, Nye
Couchsachraga Peak) are in fact just under , and one peak just over
4,000 ft (MacNaughton Mountain) was overlooked.
There are many hikers who enjoy the Adirondack Mountains who make
an effort to climb all of the original 46 mountains (and many 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
following game trails to the top.
Climbing is also very popular in areas throughout Keene Valley,
including a site called Bark Eater, which is where the word
"Adirondack" comes from.
The Adirondack Park is a significant canoe and kayak destination.
Forest Canoe Trail starts in the Adirondacks at Old
Forge and runs 147 miles via the Raquette River, Forked Lake, Long Lake, the Saranac Lakes,
Flower, then via the Saranac
River to Lake
continuing to Maine via Vermont, Quebec and New Hampshire.
The Black River
tributaries drain the western slope of the range and flows north
while the Hudson River
tributaries drain the eastern slope and flows south.
The Saint Regis Canoe Area
the park's only wilderness Canoe Area, has a number of historic
canoe routes, such as the Seven
, as well as 18,000 acres containing 58 ponds and
Geology and physiography
Adirondack Mountains are a physiographic province of
the larger Appalachian physiographic division.
The mountains consist primarily of metamorphic rocks
, mainly gneiss
, surrounding a central core of intrusive igneous
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 million to 1 billion years in age that
covers most of eastern and northern Canada and all of
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
lap up on the sides of the underlying basement rocks.
The rate of uplift in the Adirondack dome is the subject of some
debate, but in order to have the rocks which constitute the
Adirondacks rise from the depth where they were formed to their
present height, within the last 20 million years, an uplift rate of
1-3mm a year is required. This rate is greater than the rate of
erosion in the region today and is considered a fairly high rate of
movement. Earthquakes in the region have exceeded 5 on the Richter
mountains form the drainage divide between the Hudson watershed and the Great Lakes Basin/St. Lawrence
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
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, Schroon
and Ausable rivers.
The region was once covered, with the exception of the higher
summits, by the Laurentian
, 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.
larger lakes are Lake George, 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
, embraces between 5000 and 6000 square miles
(13,000 km² and 16,000 km²) of mountain, lake, plateau
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
used as an
, wollastonite, and zinc
ore. There is also a great quantity of titanium
, which was mined extensively.
Naming, spelling and pronunciation
The mountains were given the name 'Adirondacks' in 1838 by Ebenezer Emmons
; the name is sometimes
, without a c
. Some of the
place names in the vicinity of Lake Placid have peculiar phonetic
spellings attributed to Melvil Dewey
who was a principal influence in developing that town and the
Lake Placid Club
. The Adirondak Loj (pronounced lodge), a popular hostel and
trailhead run by the Adirondack Mountain Club in the high peaks region, is one
The name "Adirondacks" is an Anglicized version of the Mohawk
, meaning "they eat trees", a derogatory name
which the Mohawk historically applied to neighboring
Algonquian-speaking tribes; when food was scarce, the Algonquians
would eat the buds and bark of trees. The word carries stress on
the third syllable: [ædɪˈrawndæks].
Tourism and recreation
Tupper Lake Country Club
The mountainous 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 many 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
Placid, Lake George, Saranac Lake, Schroon Lake and the St. Regis Lakes.
Although the climate during the winter months can be severe, with
absolute temperatures sometimes falling below −30 °F (−35 °C) pre
wind chill, a number of sanatoriums
located there in the early twentieth century because of the
positive effect the air had on tuberculosis
patients. The heavily forested
region is the most southerly distribution of the boreal forest or
in the North
continent. The forests of the Adirondacks include
broad-leafed trees. Lumbering, once an important industry, has been
much restricted since the establishment of the State Park in
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
260 species of birds have been recorded, of which over 170 breed
here. Because of its unique boreal forest habitat,
the park has many breeding birds not found in most areas of
York and other mid-Atlantic states, such as boreal chickadees, gray
jays, Bicknell's thrushes,
spruce grouse, Philadelphia vireos, rusty blackbirds, American Three-toed
warblers, mourning warblers,
common loons and the crossbills.
Flatwater and whitewater
are very popular. Hundreds of lakes,
ponds, and slow-moving streams link to provide routes ranging from
under a mile to weeklong treks.Motorboating
is restricted on many bodies of
water, but allowed on most of the larger lakes such as Lakes
George, Champlain, Raquette, Schroon, and Blue Mountain Lake, among
others. Personal Watercraft
a controversial subject in the Adirondack Park at this time.Cliffs
with rock climbing
and ice climbing
routes are scattered throughout
the park boundaries, most notably around Keene Valley, Wallface,
Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain, Moss Cliffs, and Rogers Rock.
Though restricted from much of the park, snowmobile
enthusiasts can ride on a large
network of trails centered mainly around the towns of Old Forge,
Speculator, and Saranac Lake.
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 abolitionist John Brown, which contains his
grave and is frequented by visitors. Lake Placid outflow
is a major contributor to the Ausable 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 between Algonquin and Wallface Mountains. The latter is
a majestic cliff rising several hundred feet from the pass. Keene
Valley, in the center of the High Peaks, is a notably picturesque
region, presenting a pleasing combination of peaceful valley and
History Museum of the Adirondacks in Tupper
Lake offers extensive exhibits about the natural
history of the region.
Many of the exhibits are live,
including otters, birds, fish and porcupines. The Museum has trails
to a river and pond on its campus.
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
(1754-1763) was played out on the edge of the Adirondacks.
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.
French General Montcalm,
captured Fort William
Adirondack guides (standing) and their
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
, and hemlock
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
an English map from 1761 labels it simply "Deer Hunting Country."
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
Prior to the 19th century, mountainous areas and wilderness were
viewed as desolate and forbidding. As Romanticism
developed in the United States, the
writing of James Fenimore
and later the transcendentalism
of Henry David Thoreau
and Ralph Waldo Emerson
began to transform
the popular view of wilderness in more positive terms, as a source
of spiritual renewal.Part of 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 Emerson, James Russell Lowell
, Louis Agassiz
, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Although sportsmen had always shown some interest in the
Adirondacks, the publication of clergyman 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
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
. About this time, the "Great
" of the Adirondacks evolved near Raquette Lake, where
William West Durant
, son of
Thomas C. Durant, built luxurious compounds. Two of them, Camp
Pine Knot and Sagamore
Camp, both near Raquette Lake, have been designated as National Historic
Landmarks, as has Santanoni Preserve, near Newcomb, NY.
Camps Sagamore and Santanoni are open
to the public seasonally.
In 1873 Verplanck Colvin
a report urging the creation of a state forest preserve
the entire Adirondack region, based on the need to preserve the
as a water source for the
, which was vital to New York's
economy at the time. In 1883 he was appointed superintendent of the
New York state land survey. In 1884, a commission chaired by
botanist Charles Sprague
recommended establishment of a forest preserve, to be
"forever kept as wild forest lands." In 1885 the Adirondack Forest
Preserve was created, followed in 1892 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
sought to amend the
State Constitution. In 1894, Article VII, Section 7, (renumbered in
1938 as Article XIV, Section 1) of the New York State Constitution
was adopted, which reads in part:
The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter
acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law,
shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not
be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation,
public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or
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
. As a result of the legal protections, many pieces of the
original forest of the Adirondacks have never been logged: they are
- 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
- Adirondack Park Agency
- Adirondack Enterprise
- Jamieson, Paul and Morris, Donald, Adirondack Canoe Waters,
North Flow, Lake George, NY: Adirondack Mountain Club, 1987.
- http://www.nygeo.org/ny_geo.html Physical Geography of New
- Adirondack 1995 GPS Results
- http://ees2.geo.rpi.edu/History/emmons.html Ebenezer Emmons
(1799-1863), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- Donaldson, Alfred L., A History of the Adirondacks,
New York: Century, 1921. ISBN 0-916346-26-8. (reprint), pp.
- Terrie, Phillip G., Forever Wild, Environmental Aesthetics
and the Adirondack Forest Preserve, Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1985, p. 98, ISBN 0-87722-380-7
- 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
- Haynes, Wesley. "Adirondack Camps National Historic Landmark
- McKibben, B. (1995), Hope, Human and Wild: true stories of
living lightly on the earth. Little, Brown, and Co., Boston,
- 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
- 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.
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