Almanack Contributor Tim Rowland

Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

How much salt?

road salt truck

An interesting nugget gleaned from the state’s recently released Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force report is the role that rock salt plays in the state economy.

“New York State ranks third in rock salt production, providing approximately 16% (~7.7 million tons) of the total national output,” the report states. “Today, rock salt is New York State’s third leading valued mineral product, behind crushed stone and cement respectively, contributing approximately $560 million to the state’s economy annually.”

Which is to say that for every green lobbyist in Albany on the salt issue, there is likely to be someone on the other side of the ball.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Repairs planned for Indian Lake dam

indian lake dam

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District has announced repairs to an aging stone dam that holds back the massive waters of Indian Lake, an impoundment that spans more than 4,000 acres.

The Explorer’s Gwendolyn Craig reports the cost is $11 million, with repairs to the leaking, “high hazard” dam to begin in October and take about two years to complete.

A high-hazard dam is one in which, according to the state, “failure may result in widespread or serious damage to home(s); damage to main highways, industrial or commercial buildings, railroads, and/or important utilities, including water supply, sewage treatment, fuel, power, cable or telephone infrastructure; or substantial environmental damage; such that the loss of human life or widespread substantial economic loss is likely.”

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Worldwide water stresses


Another week, another episode of Adirondack flooding, this time on the Adirondack Coast, where  flooding caused by heavy rains closed Route 22 in Westport, as well as several roads in Moriah and Schroon. The flood also overwhelmed a wastewater system in Port Henry.

But worldwide the situation is very different. According to the World Resources Institute, 25 countries with a quarter of the world’s population are facing perilous water shortages.

The institute says these nations “face extremely high water stress each year, regularly using up almost their entire available water supply. And at least 50% of the world’s population — around 4 billion people — live under highly water-stressed conditions for at least one month of the year.”

The water stress is driven by both surging demand and less reliable supply. Since 1960 demand for water has doubled around the world, while climate change and poor water-management policies, including a failure to invest in infrastructure or adopt sound management policies.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Wetlands protection

bloomingdale bog

In the protection of its wetlands, the Adirondack Park goes the extra mile, taking a hard look at any sort of activity involving bogs, marshes and swamps of one acre or more in size, or of any size if it happens to be located adjacent to a body of water in which there is a “free interchange of water at the surface.”

Jackie Bowen, director of conservation for the Adirondack Council, said these regulations became all the more critical in May, when the Supreme Court took a swipe at the Clean Water Act, ruling that it did not protect wetlands that were not obviously connected to permanent standing or flowing waters.

Speaking to an online gathering sponsored by Talking Rivers, an organization that promotes river health through science, art and storytelling, Bowen said the “weaker protections open (wetlands) up to fragmentation and water quality risks.”

» Continue Reading.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Destination: Valcour Island

valcour island

The Explorer’s Mike Lynch and Jak Krouse were on the water in June, paddling to the 970-acre Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, south of Plattsburgh.

The island with its historic lighthouse and scenic cliffs has 29 first-come, first-served campsites, and plenty of interesting diversions. It was here in 1776 the Benedict Arnold (before the “unpleasantness”) savers the day for the colonists by delaying a British advance down the lake.

» Continue Reading.

Friday, August 18, 2023

The potential, promise of condos

woman and two girls, one of which is holding a chicken

Might condos, Adirondack style, be at least a partial solution for the region’s housing crisis?

The Northern Forest Center posed that question during an online brainstorming session last week that included Adirondackers with first-hand experience with condos.

Adam Bailey, Adirondack program manager for the center, said the envisioned affordable housing condos are not the sprawling luxury developments associated with resort towns. Instead, condos can be fashioned a handful at a time out of older, sometimes historic properties, or be built at scale.

They are cheaper to build and maintain  and the costs are amortized.” That’s according to Adam Feldman, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Northern Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties.

But there are pitfalls.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Restoring river banks

Volunteers of the Ausable River Association planted dogwoods and willows along the East Branch of Ausable River in Jay in May. Photo by Mike Lynch

Work has begun in Upper Jay on a project that will help restore the East Branch of the Ausable River to its natural state.

The Ausable River Association (AsRA) has identified 13 sites in the town of Jay where the river, distended by industry over the last century and a half — is in poor ecological health, making it more prone to flooding and ice jams, and less friendly to aquatic life.

The current site, upstream of the Route 9N bridge, is the second of the sites to be remediated. It will narrow the river channel, speeding the flow and making it less conducive to the creation of great slabs of ice that can cause considerable damage and flooding downstream.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Speculator gets serious about water quality

High water levels in Lake Pleasant following the Halloween storm flooding in 2019. Explorer file photo by Mike Lynch

The village of Speculator, whose three lakes are its life blood, has passed septic-inspection regulations for properties that are being transferred.

Mayor Jeannette Barrett said the village has watched inspection programs in larger jurisdictions such as Lake George and Queensbury, and is taking “measured steps” to follow along.

“We’ve been very concerned about our lakes,” she said. “If we don’t have our lakes our communities will basically die.”
The regulations apply to Lake Pleasant, Whitaker Lake and Lewey Lake.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Taking Stock of Housing: A complicated relationship with STRs

STRs graphic

After talking with multiple people representing multiple sides of the short-term rental issue, it starts to become apparent that at least part of the problem is the phrase “short-term rental” itself.

While it can’t be said that no two STRs are alike, from a legal standpoint, “short-term-rental” is an inconveniently broad net that includes the elderly widow who is renting out a room of her home to quiet guests in order to pay the taxes, to what are basically small hotels run by LLCs filled with boisterous vacationers intent on partying. And everything in between.

Local STR ordinances try to differentiate between “good” STRs and “bad” STRs, discouraging them on one hand while not doing too much to damage their admitted economic benefits on the other.

» Continue Reading.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Rethinking 100 year storms


The Winooski River in Vermont seldom makes national headlines, and when it does it’s usually ungood. The Great Vermont Flood of 1927 wiped out more than 1,200 bridges and killed 84 people, including Lt. Gov. Hollister Jackson, who drowned trying to cross high water in his automobile.

An ice jam in 1992 and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 were other significant events for the Winooski (the name is a derivation of an Indigenous word for “onion,” reflective of the wild ramps or leeks that grew on its banks) a 90-mile tributary emptying into Lake Champlain near Burlington.

Recently, a single storm dumped two month’s worth of rain on parts of New England, turning Montpelier into a lake, but fortunately leaving all of the state’s politicians upright. In the Adirondacks, communities including Newcomb, Long Lake and Saranac were hit particularly hard, with road closures, flooded highways and crumpled pavement.

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Water, water, everywhere….is it safe to drink?!??


With water water everywhere, municipalities in the Adirondacks never gave it a second thought. To supply their people with tap water, they simply laid a pipe to the nearest lake or pond and never gave it another thought.

Today, governments fear these surface waters are vulnerable to contamination, believing drilled municipal wells are a safer alternative. But residents are complaining that safer doesn’t necessarily mean better. Adirondack geology is such that above-ground water tastes better and is easier on appliances than below-ground water.

The issue became contentious in Tupper Lake recently, where the Adirondack Enterprise reported that 80 people attended a public meeting frustrated with high concentrations of iron in their water.

» Continue Reading.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

A ‘wacky’ start to fishing season

sandy river beach

With the middle of June comes bass season, which, as dates go, is more meaningful than the opening day of trout season 10 weeks earlier. The opening of trout season often finds the weather too cold or the streams too high for productive angling (at least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).

Bass, of course, are always “in a mood,” and the weather is more commodious for fishermen and women as well. So on the opening weekend we were at the mouth of the Boquet where it flows into Lake Champlain. This is good fishing, but beyond that it has a rather exotic, almost beachy feel to it.

Seagulls called from the sandy spit that reaches far into the lake, and other shore birds popped in and out of the marsh across the river from Willsboro’s Noblewood Park. I started out fishing with a medium-sized blue and silver spoon for the scientific and carefully calculated reason that it was still on my rod from last fall.


As is typical, a mat of seaweed had accumulated near the shore, and something big was jumping just beyond. Unprepared, as usual, I didn’t have a weedless rig which might have been productive, so I walked further downstream to where the water opened up.

Worms and crankbaits weren’t working either, but a switch of a spinner did the trick, and the smallmouth began to hit. I’m not enough of a bass whisperer to know why one piece of glorified scrap metal works better than another on any particular day, but there you have it.

The Department of Environmental Conservation, in its Fishing Line newsletter for June, suggested a “wacky-style” soft stickbait, such as a plastic worm with a circle hook through the middle instead of the head.

“No one really knows what makes this rig so attractive to bass,” the DEC writes. “It might be the lifeless way it falls through the water. Or it could be simply that it annoys fish who can’t believe that anyone would attempt to catch them with something so ridiculous. One thing is certain, it catches fish when nothing else does.”

Photo at top: The mouth of the Boquet River is a good spot to hook a smallmouth bass. Tim Rowland photo

Editor’s note: Tim Rowland is taking over “Water Line” while Zach Matson is on family leave. Sign up for this free, weekly newsletter here.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Taking Stock of Housing: The promise of land banks

inside a tiny house

Affordable housing is a tough enough nut to crack as is, but events hundreds of miles removed from the Adirondacks can precipitate unexpected headwinds.

In 2015, Hennepin County in Minnesota seized a condominium for $15,000 worth of back taxes and associated costs. The county then sold the property at a tax sale for $40,000.

The previous owner sued, arguing that the county’s $25,000 profit constituted an illegal taking, and that the money rightfully belonged to her.

The case bounced along through the judicial system until on May 25, when in Tyler v. Hennepin County, the Supreme Court agreed that the profits indeed belonged to the former owner.

It was, said Nicole Justice Green, a heart-stopping moment for the Essex County Land Bank, which is counting on tax foreclosures to power a promising avenue of affordable housing.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

What’s next for Ausable River restoration

woman in a river bed

The Ausable River Association’s East Branch restoration project is coming to the town of Keene thanks to a share of a $2 million federal earmark.

Speaking at AsRA’s annual ‘friendraiser,’ Executive Director Kelley Tucker said restoration efforts to this point have been focused on the section of the river between the hamlets of Upper Jay and Au Sable Forks.

In that stretch, AsRA has identified 13 trouble spots that need repair — one has been completed, another is scheduled for this summer and two more are on the runway. But a portion of a $2 million grant earmarked by Rep. Elise Stefanik will extend the study area upriver to Keene.

Gary Henry, AsRA’s stream restoration manager said he hopes that by next summer he’ll be wading the river between Keene and Upper Jay, taking measurements and analyzing the riverbed.

» Continue Reading.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Taking Stock of Housing: Priced out

old houseThe Federal Reserve’s year-long trend on raising interest rates seemed to finally be having an effect on the national real estate market. An 11-year span of increasing home prices finally came to an end, according to data released in March by the National Association of Realtors.

But maybe not so much in the Adirondacks.

Jay Realtor Mike Straight said he hasn’t seen evidence yet that higher interest rates are taking a bite out of the market. Bidding wars are still happening every so often, and offers are still coming in above the asking price — although maybe not to the degree that this was happening at the height of the market in 2021. Further, many homebuyers from urban locations have been paying cash, which of course makes interest rates moot.

» Continue Reading.

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