Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Phil Brown: Rename West Canada Lake Wilderness

The West Canada Lake Wilderness deserves our respect. It is the second-largest officially designated Wilderness Area in the Adirondack Park (after the High Peaks Wilderness). As such, it’s a place where you can wander for days without seeing another soul.

This magnificent region encompasses 171,308 acres, with elevations ranging from 1,390 to 3,899 feet (on Snowy Mountain). It boasts 163 lakes and ponds and is the source of three major rivers (Indian River, Cedar River, and, naturally, West Canada Creek). The Northville-Placid Trail cuts through the heart of tract. All told, there are sixty-seven miles of trails and sixteen lean-tos.

Here’s another fact: its name makes no sense.

There is no West Canada Lake. Presumably, the tract’s name is an errant reference to the West Canada Lakes (plural). These three neighbors, West Lake, Mud Lake, and South Lake, are the source of West Canada Creek.

The West Canada Lakes are clearly labeled on topographical maps, including the old one shown above.

So what must be done to correct this mistake?

Keith McKeever, spokesman for the Adirondack Park Agency, said the APA would have to amend the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. This is a long, costly process that would require public hearings, the approval of the APA board, and the governor’s signature.

Something tells me the governor has other priorities. However, it’s fairly common for the APA to amend the plan for more substantial reasons, and McKeever said a change in the name of the West Canada Lake Wilderness could piggyback on other amendments.

I hope the APA cares enough to correct the name. Frankly, I would think they would jump at the chance to make a decision that doesn’t result in a lawsuit or ignite a brouhaha.

Incidentally, for those interested in toponyms, McKeever passed along this excerpt from David Beetle’s book The West Canada Creek: “The West Canada Creek got its name from being the western boundary of Sir William Johnson’s Royal Land Grant, and because the Iroquois word for village is ‘Kanata’ or Canada.”

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

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