Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Historic Special Management Areas in The Adirondack Park

Yesterday, Almanack contributor (and Adirondack Explorer editor) Phil Brown pointed out the existence of Special Management Areas at the back of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (pdf). The areas are broken into Scenic, Geographical, Historic, and Natural “Illustrative Special Interest Areas”. The historic list includes a sometimes strange selection of 14 places of special historic interest on state forest lands.

Here they are:

Axton Plantation

In 1898, New York Governor Frank Black secured a 30,000 acre experimental forestry station to be run by the New York State College of Forestry at Cornell University, which was also established that same year. Under the leadership of Bernhard Eduard Fernow, a pioneer in the study of scientific forestry and forestry education, the State’s first tree nurseries and forest tree plantations were set up at Axton (formally Axe-Town). The Cornell forestry program closed its doors in 1907, and the year after the NYS Forest, Fish and Game Commission (forerunner of the DEC) took over the Axton Plantation – it was abandoned however, in 1908. The Cornell program was replaced by SUNY-ESF – now the oldest college in the US solely dedicated to the study of the environment (itself founded in 1911 as the College of Forestry at Syracuse).

Burnt Shanty Clearing

Burnt Shanty Clearing in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness is today nothing more than a widening of the trail and a few gnarly old apple and cherry trees, but it was once on the North Creek stagecoach route along the East Branch of the Sacandaga River. It served first as the location of a logging camp and then later, after the trees had been cleared, as a farmstead.

Fort George & Battleground

Fort George was built of stone on the site of the 1755 Battle of Lake George after William Johnson and his British, Colonial, and Indian forces defeated the French and their Indian allies. It was constructed in 1759 under orders from General Jeffery Amherst, but when Fort Carillon (now Fort Ticonderoga) was captured in 1760 Amherst began building the fort at Crown Point and abandoned work on Fort George. The partially completed fort served from 1775 to 1777 as a major supply depot and hospital for the Northern Continental Army in the American Revolution.

French Louie’s Camp

French Louie Seymour was the hermit featured in Harvey Dunham’s 1952 classic book, Adirondack French Louie. Seymour was a trapper and Adirondack guide who lived into his eighties in the West Canada Lakes region of Hamilton County; he died in 1915 and was buried in the Speculator cemetery. His old camp was located at West Lake, west of the Cedar Lakes, in what is now the West Canada Lake Wilderness Area.

Mother Johnson’s Boarding House

Mother Johnson’s Boarding House was an early hotel site at the carry around Raquette Falls (1860-1875) north of Long Lake. The building was a relatively small log structure that Adirondack Murray and his guide John Plumley visited (and praised the pancakes of) in 1868. Seneca Ray Stoddard wrote about and photographed Mother Johnson and the early hotel in about 1875. All that remains are the remnants of a cellar hole.

Round Pond Canal

Round Pond Canal is the remnant of a canal plan to connect Long Lake to the Hudson River. The old canal (about a quarter-mile long) is a strangely straight waterway north of Catlin Lake in the High Peaks Wilderness just north of the Huntington Wild Forest boundary, that was first proposed in 1836 by state geologist Ebenezer Emmons. Ferand N. Benedict surveyed the route twice, and was instrumental in building a dam on Round Pond. According to the folks at SUNY-ESF “Communities along the Raquette River opposed it because water from Long Lake would be diverted east to the Hudson, causing possible economic hardship for loggers and others along the Raquette north toward Potsdam.” In 1882 Thomas C. Durant started work on the canal by building a dam to raise the level of Long Lake and planned locks along the canal. When Durant’s steamboat The Buttercup was scuttled and the dam blown up, Durant abandoned the canal project.

Prospect Mountain Inclined R.R.

The Prospect Mountain Incline Railway (that’s its proper name) at Lake George was built in 1895 by the Horicon Improvement Company to carry tourists up Prospect Mountain. The cable car line was about a mile and half long and ended at the Prospect Mountain House on the summit. It was acquired by George Foster Peabody in 1904 (the railroad went out of business the year before) and donated to the State in 1923. In 1932 the Prospect Mountain House was destroyed by fire. A small ski hill was later located near the site, and in 1969 the Prospect Mountain State Parkway opened as a Memorial Highway in honor of America’s War Veterans.

Riparius Bridge

Presumabbly the SLMP means the first suspension bridge over the Hudson River in 1871 at Washburn’s Eddy near Rapairius (then called Riverside) and not the later bridge (what is today Route 8). Robert Codgell Gilchrist, a Confederate Major who came to the Adirondacks a year after the Civil War ended, built the short lived span. The bridge is the subject of Rosemary Miner Pelky’s Adirondack Bridgebuilder from Charleston.

Rondeau’s Hermitage

Plenty has been written about Noah John Roneau, considered (but not actually) the “Last Adirondack Hermit.” Almanack contributor Kevin MacKenzie described the site late last year: “The easiest way, among many, to Rondeau’s old stomping ground is via a ten and one half mile walk from Coreys Road located between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. A mixture of trail and old truck trails winds through hardwood forests, around the Seward Range, past Mountain Pond and over the Essex County Line as evidenced by a decaying wooden sign on the ground…. Once upon the Northville Placid Trail, regardless of direction, you’ll encounter a faded divergence. The quickly overgrowing old main route, leads straight. The current main route leads up to the height of land. Various relics such as stove parts, pails and unidentifiable metal objects adorn the base of one of the many beach trees growing on the peaceful site. A nearby plaque commemorates Rondeau’s life.”

Roosevelt Plaque

There are quite a few “Roosevelt Plaques” in the Adirondacks, but this one is presumably the granite and bronze monument on Route 28 about seven miles south of Newcomb that commemorates the moment (2:15 am on September 14th, 1901) when William McKinley died of an assassin’s bullet and Theodore Roosevelt, riding in a wagon toward North Creek, became President of teh Untied States. Aiden Lair, the hotel where Roosevelt changed horses, remains in abject abandonment and disrepair nearby.

Scott’s Pond Lumber Dam

Scott Pond is an acidic, 6-acre pond that lies to the east of the Wallface ponds between McNaughton Mountain and Street Mountain in the High Peaks Wilderness. Scott Pond was originally a man-made impoundment and the stone remains of a log driving dam are located on its outlet, although beavers maintain the pond’s depth. The pond averages about three feet deep but is six feet deep in some spots and is said to hold no fish.

Scott Clearing and Lumber Dam

Associated with Scott’s Pond Lumber Dam above, Scott’s Clearing was the location of an 1880’s lumber camp, dam and sluiceway located on Indian Pass Brook in the High Peaks Wilderness.

Lake Stevens Flume Route

Located in the Wilmington Wild Forest, Lake Stevens is a small pond at the head of Red Brook forms the start of one of the longest log flumes in the eastern United States. The flume ran for many miles down to the AuSable River and from there toward Keeseville.

Valcour Island

Valcour Island is about a two square mile island in Lake Champlain southeast of the City of Plattsburgh, that was the site of the October 11, 1776 naval battle known as the Battle of Valcour Island, which was fought in that strait between the island and the mainland between British and U.S. forces under Benedict Arnold. This battle is generally considered the first naval battle fought by the United States Navy.

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.

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