Mike Prescott is a former history teacher and secondary school principal who found a new retirement avocation in paddling Adirondack waters and exploring their history.
Mike is a retired New York State Licensed Guide, and also volunteers with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the Raquette River Blueway Corridor, the New York State Trails Council and with the Adirondack Mountain Club.
Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
During the winter of 1884-85, Harper’s Weekly, A Journal of Civilization” ran two issues that contained articles dealing with the need for the State of New York to create a Forest Preserve to regulate the logging industry and protect water resources.The first article ( Harper’s Weekly, Saturday, December 6, 1884 ) was accompanied by seven (7) drawings ( engravings ) by the artist Julian Walbridge Rix.On the cover of that first issue were two (2) illustrations, titled “Destruction of the Adirondacks – Drawn by Julian Rix :1. Great Burned Tract on the Road to Indian Lake[and] 2. Ragged Mountain near Schroon River”.
Further into that issue there were five (5) additional drawings by Rix in which he illustrated forest destruction brought about by mining, lumbering, and forest fire. The article had an accompanying text.The actual author of that text is unknown but may have been C. S. Sargent.Professor Charles S. Sargent’s byline does appear in the companion issue of Harper’s Weekly, Saturday, January 24, 1885.Both articles are written in the same style and they both express the need for the State of New York to protect its mountainous forests.
My first opportunity to paddle on Jabe Pond was while I was doing some summer loon research, recording and observing loon behaviors. The pond was then, and is still, an interesting and rewarding paddle. The loons were quite cooperative. That summer I found their nesting site and observed them socializing, incubating their eggs, caring for their two chicks; teaching them to fish; to avoid predators; eventually fledge and fly south. At times fellow loons visited from Lake George (especially when the lake was well peopled). Over the duration of the summer I often saw ducks, osprey, deer, turtles, an occasional Bald Eagle and other wildlife. I even saw paw prints of a bear in the sand.
While researching an article on the Gilchrist bridge, I was asked about a river feature on the Hudson River, river left, just north ( up-river ) of the Washburn Eddy, or approximately 2 miles south of the Riparius Bridge. To some the feature appeared as a “C” shaped “dug way” that could have allowed water from the river to “circulate” (be diverted) into the “C’.To do what ?Might this be a “channel” for water to be diverted into a hydroelectric powerhouse ?A review of property / tax maps indicate that there was, across the river, an adjacent small piece of property approximately the same shape and size.After some deed history research I may have found a possible explanation.There was proposed (in 1911), several storage dams or containment dams with small power plants with penstocks or water pressure tunnels, planned along the Upper Hudson River in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. This led to my exploration of these various proposed dams.
Line drawing of the proposed Tumblehead Falls Dam (1895 )
I recently saw a Facebook post by singer/songwriter Dan Berggren in which he outlined the Rural Free Delivery route, of his Uncle Harry, in Minerva, N. Y. from 1915-1945. The song “When Harry Carried the Mail” reminded me of an article that I wrote for Adirondack Life, March/April, 2012 titled “Great Schroon Lake: The Dam Plan Would Have Altered the Park.”
In that article I wrote about the proposed dam that was to be constructed on the Schroon River at Tumblehead Falls, not far from Chestertown. (Great Schroon Lake: The Dam Plan Would Have Altered the Park) That dam was to be located at what has become to be known as Hello Mountain at mile marker 71 of the Northway. (On the mountain side across the Schroon River valley there are large white plywood letters spelling out the word “Hello” ) This was going to be the anchor of one side of a 70 foot-tall dam that would have impounded the Schroon River, all of Schroon Lake, Paradox Lake and Brant Lake. However there is more to the story than appeared in that article.
The First Suspension Bridge to Cross the Hudson River – 1871
Eight or ten years ago, when some of the last of the Finch-Pruyn lands were transferred from the Nature Conservancy to the State of New York, my wife and I hiked into Palmer Pond and then bushwhacked down to the Hudson River on the last of their logging roads. Almost at the edge of the riverbank there was a log-header and just behind he the header was what appeared to be the remains of an old roadway. We followed the overgrown roadway for approximately a quarter of a mile. We then turned around, not knowing if we had inadvertently hiked on to private lands. However that memory of the roadway lingered in my mind. Where did it go ??
A few years later a friend and I were paddling the Hudson River from Riparius to the Glen and after paddling through “Z rapids” and “Horse Race Rapids” we stopped to rest at the Washburn’s Eddy. There, my friend pointed out (river left) two iron cables that reached down the rock face and entered the water. What was this ? My friend told me that it was the remains of a bridge that had one time crossed the Hudson River.
One of the hikes of the Chester Challenge is the hike around Palmer Pond. This Palmer Pond is west of Chestertown, about a mile before the Hudson River, up a dirt road, called oddly enough, Palmer Pond Road. (Not to be confused with the Palmer Pond near exit 28 of the Northway near what was formerly Frontier Town.) The drive up Palmer Pond Road from Rt. 8 is approximately one mile on an increasingly narrower and rougher dirt road that ends in a DEC maintained parking lot.
Palmer Pond is part of the Lake George Wild Forest. This State owned property has increased in size over the years due to the addition of Finch – Pruyn lands acquired by the State in 2013. The enlarged parcel actually extends from Palmer Pond (westward) down to the Hudson River (Another story for a different time).
Near the end of every ski season there’s a party at Gore Mountain sponsored by the Backwoods Ski Club for all of the workers and volunteers who make the season happen. The Club provides a dinner buffet and beverages, and Club members mingle and merge with the lift operators, ski patrol members, ski instructors, snow makers, groomers, maintenance workers, concession and food service workers, office staff, and those who are constantly working to clean up the mess.
Club members, who have sponsored the party over the last 20 or 25 years, have come to call it “The Worker’s Party” and it’s reminiscent of the founding of the Club more than 50 years ago. » Continue Reading.
Many years ago my wife, our Newfoundland dog, and I paddled past what appeared to be many rather unnatural clearings on Long Pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area. Here and there, partially underwater, I saw a piece of plastic water pipe or an old rusty pipe that might have been a dock support. They are the remains of tent platform sites.
In the early 1970s, these camps on “forever wild” New York State Adirondack Forest Preserve Lands were built on leases to private individuals. There were somewhere in the vicinity of 600 individual leases throughout the Adirondacks at that time. Many tent platform leases were on Lower Saranac Lake, where there were 187 tent platforms leased in 1961, and on the various ponds that today comprise the St. Regis Canoe Area. There were also tent platform sites on such popular lakes as Forked, Seventh, Lewey, and Indian Lakes, along the Raquette River, and in many other areas. » Continue Reading.
The Sacandaga River valley has been used as a transportation and communication corridor since before Europeans arrived. It was a native trail, a military road, and a proposed canal and railroad route. Today it’s home to Route 30. The river is a provider of power and recreation, and a powerful force of nature.
Just after the Civil War, a N.Y. Canal Board report (known as the McElroy Report) noted the damage along the Hudson River caused from annual flooding and suggested reservoirs upstream for flood relief and water power. Proposals were made at that time to dam many of the tributaries of the Upper Hudson, including the Sacandaga, but the New York State Legislature took no action.
In 1874 Farrand N. Benedict and Verplanck Colvin issued the Adirondack Storage Report, detailing areas where storage or containment dams could be constructed to minimizing Hudson River flooding in the spring and retain water for late summer and early fall release and use when it was needed in the communities downriver. » Continue Reading.
Over the years I have put my canoe into the waters at Low’s Lower Dam (constructed 1907); and paddled the meandering Bog River Flow up to Hitchins Pond.
I have carried around Low’s Upper Dam (built in 1903*), many times. I usually choose to camp on Low’s Lake, so I keep on going. But occasionally a day paddle and a short hike around Hitchins Pond is in order. It’s on these day paddles that I often walk the road (actually the old Maple Valley Railroad bed), as part of the Horse Shoe Forestry Company, constructed by Abbot Augustus “Gus” Low in 1900. If you know where to look, there are “sidings” where A. A. Low’s sugarhouses were located. » Continue Reading.
In the summer of 2017 the League of Extraordinary Adirondack Gentlemen (LEAG) held their annual camp-out at Great Camp Santanoni on Newcomb Lake.
I met there, for the first time, a gentleman new to the group. As a result of this meeting, he and I decided to expand our friendship and paddle the Eckford Chain: Raquette, Utowana, Eagle, and Blue Mountain lakes.
We set out one fine August morning from Raquette Lake, crossed the lake, and proceeded up the Marion River, through the carry, putting back in at the Utowana dock, continuing through Utowana Lake into Eagle Lake, and then into Blue Mountain Lake and pulled-out at the Blue Mountain beach.
Our conversation (and questions) turned to the name Eckford Chain of Lakes. » Continue Reading.
Recently there was an article by Phil Brown on the Boreas Ponds in the Adirondack Alamanck outlining the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) support for a wilderness classification. After reading the article, I thought it best to visit the Boreas Ponds Tract, and research the letter written to Governor Andrew Cuomo by Mike Carr, who was then TNC’s Executive Director.
The visit to the Boreas Ponds was my first since TNC sold the property to the State of New York in April. In fact it was my first visit since Finch, Pruyn owned the property. I believe Finch was an excellent steward of the Boreas Ponds Tract, which they owned for over 100 years. It was a working forest and their show place for those doing business with Finch, Pruyn. To that end, the company built a lodge that also served as a kind of conference center with a beautiful stone fireplace and spacious accommodations. This was torn down according to the agreement between the owner (TNC) and the buyer (New York State). » Continue Reading.
Farrand Benedict, “Professor B,” surveyor and professor of mathematics and engineering at the University of Vermont in Burlington, wrote a proposal for a canal across the Adirondacks in 1846. His plan was to use the Black River Canal with its connection to the Erie Canal at Rome and build a railroad from Boonville, on the Black River Canal, to Old Forge. He was then going to utilize the Fulton Chain of Lakes, Raquette Lake, Long Lake, the Raquette River and the Saranac Lakes with various lock systems, dams, and inclines to the Saranac River for canal boat traffic. He also proposed another railroad to Keeseville and on to Port Kent on Lake Champlain. His objective was to stimulate commerce by using the canal to ship mining ores and logs out of the Adirondacks and to bring agricultural and finished goods in. These plans were stalled by the the expansion of railroads, which were faster and able to carry more goods, and the aftermath of the Panic of 1837.
In an 1846 report to the New York State Senate, Benedict fleetingly mentioned the possibility of another plan: “Extensive lines of small boat navigation… Thus the great mineral district of Newcomb may communicate with Long Lake, thro’ the Rich chain of lakes on the upper Hudson. ” Benedict did not expand on the possibility of a canal system to link the iron mines of Newcomb with the Long Lake, but the idea didn’t die there. » Continue Reading.
A few years ago I learned of a fascinating but rather forgotten individual in Adirondack history. Along with his slightly older mentor Ebenezer Emmons and his younger contemporary Verplanck Colvin, he was among the first to accurately survey much of the Adirondacks. His name was Farrand Benedict.
Farrand Northrop Benedict was born in New Jersey in 1803, the oldest of seven. His parents died in the early 1830s and he became something of a father figure for his younger siblings. Graduating from Hamilton College in 1823, Benedict studied law and engineering and taught surveying and mathematics in Virginia and in Western New York before taking a professorship at the University of Vermont in Burlington in 1833. Teaching mathematics and surveying, Professor Benedict was known affectionately as “Professor B” or “Little Ben”.
Farrand Benedict first arrived in the Adirondacks in 1835, exploring and working in the Adirondacks, often bringing his wife and his brothers. He visited every year, often several times a year, until 1855. » Continue Reading.
Over the course of the past several years I have frequently paddled in the Raquette River -Tupper Lake area. A few weeks ago I paddled from the boat launch known as “The Crusher”, past the several camps where there was once a set of rapids, past the “Oxbow”; through “the Cut” into Simon Pond, and on to the New York State boat launch at Moody’s along Route 30. The day was sunny, and warm, with a slight breeze, and my fellow paddlers were great companions. It had been all-in-all a very and enjoyable paddle. But the present day description of the route is not what one would have experienced back in the 1850s.
In 1854, Samuel H. Hammond, a prominent attorney, newspaper writer and editor, State Senator and sportsman, wrote in Hills, Lakes, and Forest Streams: or A Tramp in the Chateaugay Woods (1854) about a sporting trip with his guide to Tupper’s Lake from Upper Saranac Lake. Hammond described a river that was considerably different, thanks to logging, blasting, damming, and flooding, than what we see today. One change Hammond would never have dreamed possible. » Continue Reading.
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