A draft Recreation Management Plan (RMP) for the Oswegatchie Conservation Easement is now available for public review and comment. The Oswegatchie Conservation Easement encompasses approximately 16,929 acres in the towns of Croghan and Diana in Lewis County, including more than 14-thousand acres located within the Adirondack Park.
The property includes 3.5 miles of the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River, shares 9.6 miles of boundary with forest preserve lands, and less than one mile of boundary with state forest land. The Oswegatchie Conservation is primarily accessed from Bald Mountain Road, leading north from Long Pond Road in the Town of Croghan. » Continue Reading.
We all know that Thomas Jefferson gets credit for writing the Declaration Of Independence. As important as that historical document is however, it’s the Constitution that dictates how democracy works in the United States. But who was its author?
James Madison of Virginia has been called the “Father of the U.S. Constitution”. Some historians say no other delegate was better prepared for the Constitutional Convention, and no one contributed more to shaping the final document. It was Gouverneur Morris, the New York City native and Pennsylvania delegate (at 36, the youngest), who the Rutledge Committee asked to pull together the disparate ideas and thoughts of the convention and mold them into a single document. Morris immediately went to work – in four days he had a full draft ready. » Continue Reading.
Several nonprofits from across the Adirondack region have partnered to raise funds to rebuild the historic and iconic Wanakena Footbridge in the Clifton-Fine community. The suspension bridge was destroyed in January, 2014 when an ice jam on the Oswegatchie River broke and slammed into its side.
Built in 1902 by the Rich Lumber Company, the footbridge provided pedestrian access to residential and commercial areas of Wanakena. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Estimates put the full cost of construction at $250,000.
The Wanakena Historical Association has already raised nearly $38,000, but to extend the campaign’s, reach the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) has partnered with other local nonprofits to establish an online Adirondack Gives crowdfunding effort. The Wanakena Footbridge campaign can be found on the Adirondack Gives website. » Continue Reading.
People often ask me what exactly I do in the Adirondack backcountry during a bushwhacking trip, as if it involves engaging in some arcane art from long ago. I always find this line of questioning a little befuddling, and to this day, I still find myself lacking an adequate response. For the most part, my day remains much the same as any commuter’s, except for the excessive effort involved in struggling through blowdown, hobblebush or other natural impediments, instead of navigating traffic.
A day in the life of a bushwhacker is an interesting one indeed, but not that different from a typical commuter’s. We sleep, eat, defecate and work much like other people, but a bushwhacker’s commute is shorter and a lot more pleasant. Of course, any description of a typical day in the Adirondack backcountry fails to include a rain delay, a trail hike, or other out of the ordinary conditions, despite these happening much more often than we care to admit. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack backcountry contains a plethora of natural gems, such as ponds, lakes, mountains, bogs and beaver meadows. Although many are reachable by trail, the vast majority are islands of remoteness, surrounded by a sea of near-impenetrable forest, just waiting for a human bold enough to venture away from the marked trails to discover them. Few humans ever visit these gems, which undoubtedly suits both the gems themselves and the meager number of visitors just fine.
One of these gems is a small pond found in the southwest corner of the Five Ponds Wilderness. Sitz Pond is its name, and as attractive backcountry ponds go, it ranks up there with the best. » Continue Reading.
Earlier this winter, after several long days in the office, I went to bed dreaming of my first backcountry ski trip of the season, a jaunt to High Rock in the Five Ponds Wilderness. Conditions would be perfect. Over the last few days, we had received eight inches of fluffy powder.
Then I woke up. Outside, it was twenty-four below zero, according to my Weather Channel app. Like any sensible person, I immediately broadcast this fact to Facebook. A few people suggested I postpone my trip.
“I have skied at 20 below, but I was 14 and foolish. Stay home, for god’s sake,” posted a former colleague.
But most of my Facebook friends were surprisingly indifferent to the possibility of my freezing to death.
A pleasant hike in the Adirondack backcountry suddenly turns into a disaster. The heart quickens in the chest, the echo of the frequent beats drowning out the surrounding natural sounds. A thin sheen of sweat covers the skin, producing a clammy feeling and chills. Breathing becomes labored as if just summiting a faraway peak. A frantic feeling overcomes you, as if mortal danger is imminent.
What is going on? Is it a heart attack? A panic attack? Aliens?
Nope. It just means you made a terrifying discovery, as everything around you looks unfamiliar, and you no longer know where you are. You are lost. All the physical indications are there, the racing heart, the profuse sweating, the difficulty breathing, and the sense of impending doom. Every rock, tree, bird and chipmunk looks threatening. What choice do you have but panic, right? » Continue Reading.
This summer, a Canadian company called Scotia Investments has been auctioning off parts of the old Newton Falls Paper Mill in the northwestern Adirondacks. It’s the latest painful chapter for a region of the Adirondack Park that has fought for years to maintain its old industrial economy.“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” said Sherman Craig, an Adirondack Park Agency commissioner who owns a woodworking shop in Newton Falls and lives in nearby Wanakena. “After they cut up the paper-making equipment, it’s just a shell.”
Craig joined a half-dozen men in late July in the lobby of the mill’s mostly empty main headquarters for a public auction of roughly four thousand acres of timberland owned by Scotia. The company has declined to say whether the property found a buyer. That means more uncertainty for Terrance Roberts of Canton, president of the Trail’s End hunting club on paper-mill land for decades. “It’s a heartbreak,” he said. “My brother worked here for thirty-something years.” » Continue Reading.
A team of University of Texas at Arlington biologists working with the U.S. Geological Survey in the Black and Oswegatchie river basins has found that watershed wetlands can serve as a natural source for the improvement of streams polluted by acid rain.
The group, led by associate professor of biology Sophia Passy, also contends that recent increases in the level of organic matter in surface waters in regions of North America and Europe – also known as “brownification” – holds benefits for aquatic ecosystems. The research team’s work appears in the September issue of the journal Global Change Biology. » Continue Reading.
Trying something new is often rewarding, although potentially anxiety producing as well. Unfortunately, finding a new area to explore within the northwestern Adirondacks is swiftly becoming more difficult, forcing me further and further off the beaten track. Even months-long injuries have failed to slow this trend.
Although difficult, there remain a few places yet for me to explore. Recently, I narrowed the number of places when I explored a remote portion of the Five Ponds Wilderness where I only had limited experience. This overlooked backcountry gem is bordered by the South Ponds to the west, Riley Ponds to the north, the odd-shaped Crooked Lake to the east and the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River to the south. » Continue Reading.
On the Peavine Swamp trail system in the northwestern Adirondacks near Cranberry Lake I found a tranquil route through open forest, culminating on a knoll overlooking the Oswegatchie River. Removed from the more challenging terrain of the High Peaks backcountry, the trails allow the skier to settle into a soothing rhythm of kick and glide over level ground and rolling ridges. The occasional gully or steeper pitch is enough to rate the trail’s difficulty moderate or intermediate—but in a low-key way.
It’s a good trip for looking around and appreciating the forest, and on a clear day in early January, I was accompanied by two skiers who were well qualified to be guides through these woods: Jamie Savage, professor at the Ranger School in Wanakena, and John Wood, senior forester for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Jamie uses these lands as an outdoor classroom for his students. And John, working with Jamie and other partners in the area, has been developing plans for increasing hiking and skiing routes near Cranberry Lake. » Continue Reading.
As I described in last week’s Dispatch, the more I become engrossed in Adirondack history the more my interest has grown in Archibald Campbell’s incomplete survey of the northern line of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase.
Having possession of his field notes and maps plus a 1911 large-format map of the Adirondack Park as well as modern USGS maps, I did a bunch of digitizing, calibrating, measuring and finagling, virtually recreating his journey. This summer I plan to hike it to see it for real and compare my experiences to his. But the virtual trip was a most interesting project for me and I would like to take you along.
Beware! Unless you are a Class-One Adirondack Nerd this Dispatch might lead to narcolepsy. But if you have been following my surveying series with interest, then lace your boots, grab your gaiters, your Gunter’s chain and your rum and let’s hike together into the primeval forest. » Continue Reading.
Sept 7 – 9 there will be a congregation of artists, scholars, historians, and writers in Lake Placid for an exploration of Adirondack cultural heritage (more info). Free and open to the public, it should prove to be enjoyable and informative to all who love this place. I was thinking about this event as I paddled with a group of friends on the Oswegatchie River, in the Five Ponds Wilderness. Our objective was High Rock – not a terribly difficult or long paddle, although it was challenging in places because the water levels were pretty low and rocks were exposed. Having recently returned from almost four weeks in Glacier National Park – where the “big sky” glacier carved landscapes are truly magnificent – I couldn’t get over the fact that I was still moved by the scenery flowing past me along the Oswegatchie.
Orange brown rocks just beneath the surface, covered with colorful paint swatches from all the boats that have scraped across them for more than a century. Massive white pines that probably were too scrawny to harvest during the logging booms of the 1900’s, were now towering over the river. The tag alder filled flood plain that this wild river was meandering through. The Five Ponds Wilderness is a prime example of how this amazing place can inspire. » Continue Reading.
What is eight miles long, black as ink, wet all over, rarely seen and present in the northwestern Adirondacks? The Robinson River, of course!
This narrow river snakes its way through the middle of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area, stretching from Crooked Lake and flowing into the East Branch of the Oswegatchie River, well upstream from High Falls. It is rarely visited by people, due to its remote location and distance from any trail. Scattered pockets of blowdown, from the 1995 Microburst, guard much of the river, increasing the effort required to reach its border and appreciate its beauty.
The Robinson begins its life as a narrow, rocky stream, where it acts as the main outlet of Crooked Lake. From its headwaters, the river undulates north alternating between being surrounded by forests and beaver meadow for about half its length before making a sudden turn east. Eventually the river reaches its inevitable destination at the Oswegatchie River.
Along the river’s first half it flows through several features of interest. It flows just south of Toad Pond, through an open shrubby area where once a single engine plane crashed back in the 1940’s. Just north of Toad Pond the river flows through Sliding Falls, where near-impenetrable blowdowns surround on both sides. Between the falls and its sharp turn east, an extensive forested swamp straddles the river.
I feel fortunate to have encountered the Robinson River several times over the past couple years. Given my typical mode of transportation through this area, the river is often perceived as either an obstacle to cross or a feature of the landscape to follow to an eventual destination. Conveniently, the river flows through many narrow, rocky drainages allowing for some relatively easy crossings. The beaver dams, old and new, lies along its run when a rocky-hop is not available.
While traveling to Stillwater Reservoir during the summer of 2010, I rock-hopped what was just a stream, mere feet from its source at northern tip of Crooked Lake. The river is narrow and bordered by thick conifers on both sides here. The shallow, rocky stream near its headwaters fails to foreshadow the larger and darker river it becomes further north.
During the same trip, I again crossed the river on a shabby beaver dam a quarter of a mile downstream from its headwaters. From here, I intermittently followed the river upstream all the way to Toad Pond, as it alternated between flowing through forest and open, wet meadows. Often the open grown vegetation was so high and dense as to almost completely obscure the river.
The river flows through a large, open meadow surrounded by several towering, guardian white pines mere yards south of Toad Pond. An cursory search along the western and northern borders of this meadow for evidence of the crashed plane proved unsuccessful during my visit; undoubtedly it is overgrown by now and impossible to find without some knowledge of its general location.
During last summer, the northern portion of Robinson River provided a convenient route on my return trip from Cracker, Gal and West Ponds. A beaver dam acted as a timely bridge immediately upon my arrival where the river leaves a wide, wet and open floodplain and enters the forest for its final mile before flowing into the Oswegatchie. Aerial photographs suggests several beaver dams along its length as it undulates through its northern floodplain, but good luck locating them given the floodplains uneven and densely vegetated border.
Nothing but uninterrupted mature forest borders the Robinson as it follows the southern base of Partlow Mountain. The terrain varied greatly along the river’s northern shore. Along the eastern portion, the landscape rises only several feet from the floodplain before remaining flat for as far as the eye could see; covered in tall mature hardwoods with less understory than typically expected in the Adirondacks.
Along the middle portion there are numerous tendrils of the floodplain, winding their way into the surrounding uplands separated by a steep slope. The contrast between the large, lowland softwoods and the massive hardwoods upslope is striking. From the top of the slope, safely surrounded by hardwoods, it was possible to look directly into the canopy of the softwoods below; obtaining a view seldom seen except by red squirrels and pine martens. The regularly spaced softwoods were surrounded by a dark, green carpet of Sphagnum on the ground, interspersed with shallow open pools of water and clusters of tall ferns. A long-extinct dinosaur would barely look out of place in such a landscape.
The Robinson River offers a convenient avenue for journeying through some of the most remote portions of the northwestern Adirondacks, but if you plan on visiting the way is not easy by any means. The least arduous approach is via a canoe trip up the Oswegatchie River. The easiest route from trail is either from the south terminus of the Red Horse Trail or from the west via either the Sand Lake or Five Ponds Trails. Whichever route taken, bring plenty of bug repellant, plenty of supplies and a whole lot of patience, you will need every bit of it.
Has anyone else had encounters with the Robinson River worth noting? Has anyone ever been to Sliding Falls? Is it worth the effort of the struggling through the dense blowdowns? Have you ever searched the large swamp south of the river’s sudden turn east for boreal bird species? If so, share your observations in the comments below.
Photos: Robinson River’s northern portion, near headwaters and south of Toad Pond by Dan Crane.
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