Story and photos by Dan Forbush
If you’re looking for a short, scenic hike you can do with the kids, you can’t beat the Hooper Garnet Mine. Even better if you have a keen interest in Adirondack history, given the substantial role that the mining of garnet has played in it.
To get there, drive first to Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, and check in with the receptionist, who will even give you a map if you ask for one. You’ll be advised to drive a half-mile or so back down the road and take the first significant left. You’ll ultimately come to a lodge-like building and tennis courts to your right. The trail to Hooper Mine begins to the left of the courts as you walk toward them. It’s well-marked. You can’t miss it so long as you get to those courts.
You have the option of hiking directly into the bowl of the mine where pines now freely grow, or to the overlook, where you may look down into the tree-filled bowl but outward toward a great vista of 13th Lake and surrounding peaks.
I had the good fortune to hike it after a three-inch snowfall that probably was the last I’ll see of winter.
It always helps to know the history of the land you’re hiking, especially the great stories and characters that are associated with them. North Creek has a special allure, because this was the end of the line, the frontier, the Adirondack equivalent of Deadwood. Thomas Durant was the railroad magnate and Henry Hudson Barton was the mining baron.
Garnet mining in New York State dates back to the late 19th century when the Barton Mine first opened in 1879. Henry Barton experimented with garnet as a harder and more durable abrasive than simple sand and after a fisherman friend told him about the prolific garnets in the Adirondacks he staked his claims and went into production.
Two decades later, in 1898, Frank Hooper started excavating garnets from a hill slope one mile east of Thirteenth Lake in North River. Unfortunately, his garnets were not as large and not as concentrated and he could not compete with the Barton Mine and Hooper would end up working at the Barton Mine. Although the Barton Mine area was moved to adjacent Ruby Mountain in 1982, Barton Mines Inc. has been continuously producing industrial-grade Adirondack garnet for over 130 years.
Through Civic Conversations with a wide range of subject experts, the Warren County Planning Department has teamed up with the Warren County Historian, Warren County Historical Society, and Cliff & Redfield Interactive in producing A Collaborative History of the First Wilderness. You’ll also find Trip Reports on their platform at StoriesfromOpenSpace.org.