Friday, September 2, 2011

6.1 Million Adirondack Acres Leave Plenty to Do

Although Hurricane Irene has wrought considerable destruction on the Eastern High Peaks area of the Adirondacks, aside from a few unfortunate communities, trails and campgrounds, the vast majority of the Adirondack Park was left unscathed and open for business. This Labor Day weekend and the coming months offer a great opportunity to explore the rest of the Adirondack Park’s 6.1 million acres.

The Adirondack Park has a land area larger than than Vermont. At 9,400 square miles, the Park is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined. Yet, many visitors rarely get out of the Lake Placid-High Peaks Region to explore places like the Fulton, Saranac or Raquette chains, the half-million acre Bob Marshall Wild Lands Complex in the southwest, the St. Regis Canoe Area, or the some three-quarter million acres of newly acquired easement lands.
“Labor Day travelers and early leaf-peepers looking to get away for rest and relaxation in the Adirondacks do not need to cancel their vacation plans,” Adirondack Regional Tourism Council Director Ron Ofner said. “Most Adirondack attractions are open, and special events and activities are continuing as scheduled.”

Phil Brown offered a few places that were open for hiking near the areas that are offically closed. Here are a few suggestions for places that remained virtually untouched by Irene in other parts of the Park:

Bob Marshall Wild Lands Complex

“The Bob”, as it is also known, is a mix of public and private land larger than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and almost as large as Yosemite. The Bob includes more than 100,000 acres of Old Growth forests; More than 1,400 lakes and ponds; hundreds of miles of flat and white-water paddling including portions of the Moose, Independence and Oswagacthie rivers; More than 400 miles of hiking trails; and blocks of private land, including remote interior communities like Big Moose, Conifer, Stillwater and Beaver River. The Bob encompasses a number of preexisting management ares, including the Five Ponds, Pepperbox, William C. Whitney, Round Lake, Pigeon Lake and Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness areas together with the Aldrich Pond, Watson’s East Triangle, Fulton Chain, Sargent Ponds, Independence River and Cranberry Lake Wild Forest areas. The only travel corridor that bisects the entire Bob is the former Adirondack Railroad line that stretches from Remsen (north of Utica) to Lake Placid. More information can be found online.

The St. Regis Canoe Area

The St. Regis Canoe Area includes 58 ponds (only two of which are reached without a carry) and the headwaters of the West and Middle Branch of the St. Regis and the Saranac rivers. At 19,000 acres, the St. Regis Canoe Area is the largest wilderness canoe area in the Northeast and the only designated canoe area in New York. Located about 18 miles northeast of Tupper Lake, it is closed to motor vehicles, motor boats and aircraft. One of the two mountains located in the area (which includes St. Regis Mountain – 2874 feet, Long Pond Mountain (2530 feet) is only reachable by water.

Santa Clara Tract

The 72,000-acre Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement Lands (the former Champion Lands) are located in the northwestern Adirondack Park. The majority of the tract is located in the Towns of Waverly, Santa Clara and Duane, in Franklin County, a portion of the tract is located in the Town of Hopkinton in St. Lawrence County. The area has a boreal character with a mix of gently rolling hills and low mountains. It includes the Deer River and Madwaska Flow/Quebec Brook Primitive Areas, The Pinnacle near the hamlet of Santa Clara, Azure and Debar mountains, Everton Falls, Santa Clara Flow, the Hayes Brook Truck Trail, and more.

Paul Smith College Conservation Easement Lands

The 7,700-acre Paul Smiths College Conservation Easement Lands comprise nine parcels owned by Paul Smiths College in south-central Franklin County. The easement lands are located in the Towns of Brighton, Harrietstown and Santa Clara, near the hamlets of Paul Smiths, Gabriels and Lake Clear. The forests, mountains, ponds and streams of the Paul Smiths Conservation Easement Lands offer numerous opportunities for recreational pleasure, nature appreciation and an escape from the urban world. Public recreational uses allowed on the easement parcels include hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, trapping, snowshoeing, ski touring, birding, nature study, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, picnicking and swimming.

Sable Highlands

The 84,000-acre Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands are located in northern Adirondack Park in the Towns of Bellmont (51,142 acres) and Franklin (21,504 acres) in eastern Franklin County and the Towns of Saranac (5,833 acres) and Ellenburg (5,693 acres) in western Clinton County. A significant amount of forest preserve and other State-owned lands are located adjacent or nearby to the Sable Highlands.

The northern and western portions of the park are somewhat more remote, but can be reached from Interstates 81 and 87 and one of the three Adirondack Scenic Byways. If you are still planning on traveling to Lake Placid or Saranac Lake from the south and east, a short re-route though Elizabethtown adds approximately 15 minutes to northbound traffic from I-87 at Exit 31, taking travelers around Keene. A complete list of up-to-date road closures in Essex County is available online. For wider area alternate travel routes and information visit 511NY.org.

And be sure to check the latest backcountry conditions wherever you go, here at the Almanack.

Adirondack events can be found here.

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