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 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.
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.
The other day as my wife and I, along with our dogs, walked River Road near Riparius on the Hudson River, my wife said to me in a folksy manner “just think all this water here, is on its way to New York City.”
It’s true the Hudson River has flowed out of the Adirondack Mountains for millennia, southward towards the Atlantic Ocean. And for the last two centuries or so there have been plans to dam the upper Hudson River for one reason or another and most of those plans have dealt with using the water resources for some down state endeavor. » Continue Reading.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 New York State voters will have an opportunity to vote on several state-wide propositions. Proposition #4 (Prop 4), is one of two Constitutional Amendments affecting the Adirondacks. It’s the result of long-standing title disputes between the State of New York and property owners on Raquette Lake in the old Township 40 of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase.
A positive vote will correct an injustice that has been perpetuated for over 100 years.
I write as an interested party, but I’m not directly involved in any aspect of the controversy that gives rise to Prop 4. I don’t own property on or near Raquette Lake. I’m not one of the contested property holders. But, for nearly 35 years I have paddled the waters of this lake starting with a group of high school students, canoeing, camping, and learning about the outdoors. I’ve paddled the lake with my wife, with friends, and with clients as an Adirondack guide. In 2005, I paddled Raquette Lake recreating the 1883 paddle of George Washington Sears (a.k.a. Nessmuk) and many times since as a trail steward for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. » Continue Reading.
Like many readers of the Adirondack Almanack, I have been closely following the public meetings, discussions, editorials, and position statements concerning the land use proposals for the former Finch-Pruyn lands encompassing the Essex Chain of Lakes and the Upper Hudson River. I do have my favored position, as does everyone who loves and appreciates the Adirondacks. But my intent here is to talk about the “near losses”. That is to say the geographic area of our concern, over the many years, would have been very different, if a few politicians, and engineers had their way.
Of course a near loss would have been if the State of New York had not purchased the land from the Nature Conservancy. Another near loss would have been if the Nature Conservancy had not purchased the property form the Finch-Pruyn Paper Company in the first place. The citizens of New York State could have lost it all.
But there was another potential loss, in the mid-to-late 1960’s that would have mooted all of the present discussions. There was a plan to dam the Upper Hudson in order to supply water and hydro-electric power to the parched, urban, metropolitan area of New York City. » Continue Reading.
I am often dwarfed by the vastness of the landforms which surround me. The glacial lake basin that forms part of the Raquette River Valley is one such formation. The old meandering Raquette River from Raquette Falls to Piercefield Falls is a good example. The river twist and turns, almost comes back upon itself for several miles, as it flows towards its mouth on the St. Lawrence River. At one point it flows into a lake area and makes a series of rather long graceful turns. The already slow moving water slows even more, and the current of the river is almost unnoticeable. Such is the glacial river basin that forms Simon Pond, Tupper Lake and Raquette Pond. Here the particulate matter, which once came from the surrounding mountains, falls out of suspension. The slowing of the river as it passes through these lakes, over centuries and centuries, over thousands and thousands of years, since the last glacier, allows for great deposits of earth (sand, mud and muck) to build up on the floor of the lakes.
Over the past several years I have been involved with the Raquette River Blueway Corridor (RRBC), which organizes Raquette River Awareness Week, a week of events along the river from its source at Blue Mountain Lake to the St. Lawrence River at Akewesasne.
The staff at The Wild Center have also been involved, by helping to educate the public about the natural history of river with a week of river-related activities, and a river clean-up from “The Crusher” boat launch on Route 30 between Tupper Lake and Upper Saranac Lake, to Simon(d) Pond. This section of the Raquette includes the Oxbow and “The Cut” (an area just north of Simon Pond). » Continue Reading.
The Raquette River, from Raquette Falls to the State Boat Launch on Tupper Lake, is one of the nicest stretches of flat-water anywhere in the Adirondacks. Paddling this river corridor under a clear cerulean blue sky, on a sunny autumn day with the riverbanks ablaze in orange and red, is exquisite. For me, though, the river’s history is as captivating as its natural beauty.
Countless people have traveled this section of river over the centuries. There were native peoples who hunted, fished, and trapped, the hinterlands of Long Lake and further into the Raquette Lake area, long before whites appeared on the Adirondack Plateau. There were the early farmers and families wanting to start a new livelihood. There were the guides and their wealthy “sports”, (and later the families of these sports) desiring adventure and recreation. There were people seeking better health and relief from the despair and disease of the cities. There were merchants, hotelkeepers, charwomen, day labors, ax-men, river drivers, and a host of others. There were the famous, the not so famous, and the down-and-out.
All of these people, and many others, used the Raquette ( Racket or Racquette ) River as a transportation highway. The number of footfalls on the carries at and around Raquette Falls is limited only to the imagination. In his book Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, Paul Jamieson refers to the nearby Indian Carry, at Corey’s separating the Raquette River system from the Sacanac River system, as the “Times Square of the woods.” ( Note: In the Adirondacks one “carries” around rapids and waterfalls, one does not “portage.” ) » Continue Reading.
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