Have you gone hiking recently in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness or canoed the Kunjamuk River? I’ve never met you, but I can guess a lot of things about you.
You probably live within fifty miles of the trailhead or put-in. You probably have a college degree. And you’re probably white.
These are statistical probabilities based on a survey of Forest Preserve users in the southeastern Adirondacks. For a year, researchers from the New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry staked out trailheads and put-ins and interviewed more than a thousand people. » Continue Reading.
Although the eastern cougar (a.ka. puma, panther, catamount) has been on the endangered species list since 1973, its existence has long been questioned (especially here in the Adirondacks). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a formal review of the available information and, in a report issued today, concludes the eastern cougar is extinct and recommends the subspecies be removed from the endangered species list.
New York State paid its last bounty on a mountain lion killed in Hamilton County in 1894; just over 150 state and county mountain lion bounties were paid between 1860 and 1894. Before he died in 1849, professional hunter Thomas Meacham is believed to have killed 77 mountain lions. Despite their being already nearly extinct, New York State established a mountain lion bounty in 1871 and over the next eleven years 46 mountain loin bounties were claimed. Adirondack mountain lion sightings reported to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation increased markedly in about 1980, jumping from 5 in the 1960s and 9 in the 1970s, to 44 in the 1980s. Some 90 sightings were reported in the 1990s. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack is pleased to offer this guest essay by Trudy Rosenblum, founder and editor of the Jay Community News. The Jay News is a free e-mail news service whose purpose is to bring folks around Jay closer together and to quickly spread local news and information. In addition to the email service there is also a Jay Community Services Directory that lists local products or services offered by the community. Trudy recently took a trip to the Caribbean island nation of Aruba, and brought back the following lessons for the Adirondacks.
We had a lovely vacation in the warmth and sunshine of Aruba. I feel compelled, however, to offer something about the conditions of that tourist spot that was once the gem of the Caribbean. Aruba can be a lesson to us here in the Adirondacks.
Like Aruba, the Adirondack Park is also a tourist area and like Aruba, much of our area receives its revenue from tourism. If we ruin it, not only will people not come and we will lose our jobs and revenue, but, and this is just as important, the land and animals will suffer and something beautiful will cease to exist on this planet. There are still very beautiful places in Aruba; clean beaches with white sand and lots of beautiful corral; blue-green water and wonderful sunsets. But sadly, much of the coastline is trashed. Locals there say it is Venezuela’s garbage taken by the currents to Aruba. They also blame ships dumping waste and tourists who don’t care, as well as locals. At present there is so much trash it seems unlikely it can be cleaned up.
Tourists want to recreate. They will hike, ride bicycles, motor cycles, ATV’s, jeeps and ride horses. If one doesn’t designate areas for these things to be done, the tourists will go anywhere they please destroying delicate eco systems along the way. These things should not be forbidden, just managed, maintained and policed.
We found Wendy’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza everywhere; and we were hard pressed to find local crafts as the kiosks sold the same things one can find in any market south of Florida.
We in the Adirondack Park could be like this. Thank God for those who went before us and had insight as to how to preserve the park as well as attract tourists. Thank you to every person who reaches down to pick up someone’s trash, even when no one is looking. Thanks to the DEC, APA and others who designate activity-specific areas, stock fish, care for our waters, limit development, maintain and police our precious park to keep it attractive and thriving. Thank you to those who kept the fast food chains at bay and to the many local craft people who provide unique keepsakes for visitors to buy. Thanks to the planners who understand that there is room for recreating with motorized vehicles as well as for primitive areas where no motors are permitted. People in our area have understood that if we provide areas for recreation and maintain and police them we can both attract revenue and preserve the park.
Thank you to all the quaint little shops where things cost a little more but where the culture of rural America thrives in such an attractive manner.
Thank God oil or natural gas has not been discovered in our area, and thank you to those who said no to the big corporations who do not care about fitting in to the environment. It is tempting in this terribly difficult economic period to lose sight of the long term effects of neglect of our park. I deeply hope preservation for its own sake and for the sake of attracting tourist revenue will not be sacrificed to the short-term gains such economic times tempt.
As Prince Charles has said, we will probably survive for some time if we destroy the wilderness, but the lives of our children will be a misery. This is as true in the Adirondacks as it is in Aruba.
The groundhog may not have seen its shadow but I’m still hoping to get a bit more winter activities in before all the snow melts away. One treat we seem to do each winter is an Adirondack sleigh ride. From the beautiful outdoor setting to the old-fashioned activity, it is something that lets us enjoy the mountains together without motors, phones or other media blaring. Each of the location below offers a different sleigh riding experience while sharing an opportunity for us to slow down and enjoy the scenery.
In the southern part of the Adirondacks is Circle B Ranch (518-494-4888) owned and operated by Chris Boggia. The former science teacher wears many hats in the day to day management of the Circle B. From farrier to trail guide, Chris provides a hands on approach to each experience. Chris even helped construct one of the three traditional sleigh with wood harvested from the ranch. Chris Circle B offers three options; two small sleighs for a more intimate setting or a larger sleigh for groups. Each ride is 30-40 minutes and travels through wooded trails and open fields on the Circle B’s 40-acre ranch. The Circle B has access to neighboring property and utilizes 850-acres for its sleigh and winter trail rides. Reservations are required.
“Visitors can take a sleigh ride through the wooded trails at the Lake Clear Lodge and then enjoy a cup of hot chocolate by the fire or people can stay for dinner or just have an appetizer,” Melissa says. “Recently a group came and did a wine tasting and then out for a sleigh ride.”
Each 30-minute sleigh ride is available on Friday and Saturday from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The team pulls an old-fashioned sleigh through a lantern lit trail through the woods of the Lake Clear Lodge property. They also offer private sleigh rides by appointment and travel off site, depending on the distance.
Once the Lake Placid Club’s golf course is covered with snow, The Equine Center (518-834-9933) moves in to operate its Adirondack sleigh rides. Located right on Route 86 in Lake Placid. Sleigh rides with The Equine Center are from afternoon to early evening.
Owner Travis DeValinger says he does extend hours for those special moments. Each 40-minute ride glides over snow-covered hills with a panoramic view of the High Peaks, Sentinel Range and even glimpses of the Olympic Ski Jump in the background.
Prices vary for each operation so please check each website or call to ask about any discounts.
“I pray that each year, as I age, I’ll have the rare opportunity to once more glide with the wind, be part of the ice and the winter breeze. It’s a crazy thing to dream of, pray for, or depend on…..ICE; black crystal clear ice. Wind, a whish of the skates, and off I go once more.” Peter White, dedicated skate-sailor, 2009
Rarely practiced today, skate-sailing was quite popular from the late 1800s through the 1940s. Eskill Berg, of Schenectady, a Swedish engineer at General Electric, introduced this wind-driven sport to the Lake George area in 1895. » Continue Reading.
Early March is the time of the year when the snow pack in the Adirondacks typically reaches its greatest depth, and winter gales are the most frequent and powerful. Yet, this period of wind and deep snow produces some of the most favorable conditions for the varying hare, also known as the snowshoe rabbit, a common denizen of our dense conifer forests.
For a creature that can easily remain on the surface of the snow, a thick blanket of powder provides the varying hare with the opportunity to access vegetation that is ordinarily out of its reach. Standing upright on its powerful hind legs, this herbivore is only able to gnaw on the buds and bark of twigs that occur up to a foot above the surface on which the animal is located. Should a snow pack that is three plus feet deep develop over an area, the hare will then be able to reach the edible parts of saplings and shrubs that exist nearly four feet above the forest floor. » Continue Reading.
John Warren, founder and editor of Adirondack Almanack, will present a talk entitled “Adirondack Media: History and Future” this Thursday, March 3, at noon in the Cantwell Community Room at the Saranac Lake Free Library.
John will discuss the history of media in the Adirondacks, the current media environment and its possible future. A lively discussion is expected to follow. Bring a lunch; enjoy dessert and coffee provided by the Hospitality Committee. For more information, call 891-4190. The event is free and open to the public. Over 25 years John’s work has ranged from traditional broadcast and print to new media. In addition to Adirondack Almanack, he is also the founding editor of New York History, the author of two books of regional history and a weekly contributor to North County Public Radio. John was the 2010 recipient of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Eleanor Brown Communications Award for “outstanding talent and journalistic achievement in building an online, independent news source about the Adirondacks.”
John has a Masters Degree in Public History, and holds credits on more than 100 hours of primetime television programming, including documentary projects that have aired on PBS, History Channel, A&E, Discovery, TLC, and Travel Channel. Since 2001 he has carried out documentary program development work for PBS affiliate Maryland Public Television.
He also manages an archival new media project for the New York State Writers Institute at the State University at Albany and teaches documentary studies and media production at Burlington College.
Recent acts of piracy on the high seas brought to mind stories of what some call “the Golden Age of Pirates” (like Blackbeard, or Henry Morgan). That conjured images of sunken treasure, which in turn reminded me of what might well be the shallowest sunken treasure ever recovered. And wouldn’t you know it? It happened right here in the North Country.
It occurred at the southern tip of Lake Champlain, near Whitehall, already the site of many historic lake-related treasures. Arnold’s Valcour fleet was built there, and it’s also the final resting place of the ships that survived the Battle of Plattsburgh. Most of them eventually sank in East Bay, which is a vast marshy area surrounding the mouth of the Poultney River. If you’ve never toured the lower part of Lake Champlain, you’re missing a great experience. Besides playing a critical role during centuries of regional history, the scenery is spectacular. South of Ticonderoga, the lake narrows into a 20-mile, river-like channel previously referred to as Wood Creek. It features cliffs, narrows, lush vegetation, and copious wildlife.
Just outside of Whitehall is South Bay, bound in places by high, steep, cliffs that once hosted a historic battle. It also hosts a healthy population of rattlesnakes. The long, high ridge to the west, from here to Ticonderoga, separates South Bay from Lake George. Of all the canoe trips I’ve taken, South Bay is one of the all-time best.
A little further east down the lake is a sharp bend known simply as the Elbow, a shortened form of Fiddler’s Elbow. It was here that a famed member of Roger’s Rangers, General Israel Putnam, led an attack against Marin’s forces in 1758. To the east, just past the Elbow, is the entrance to East Bay, less than a mile from downtown Whitehall, where Lock 12 provides access to the New York State Barge Canal. Like I said, this place is extremely rich in history.
The story of sunken treasure is tied to the possession of Fort Ticonderoga, about twenty miles north. In early July, 1777, General Arthur St. Clair was the US commander at Ticonderoga, but the American troops were far outmanned and outgunned by the forces of Sir Johnny Burgoyne, whose great show of strength prompted St. Clair’s decision to evacuate the fort.
Some of St. Clair’s men crossed Lake Champlain and retreated across Vermont territory. Others went south on the lake to Whitehall. Burgoyne pursued the latter group, taking control of Whitehall (known then as Skenesborough). As the patriots fled, they destroyed many boats and just about anything they couldn’t carry, lest it fall into enemy hands.
Burgoyne’s forces were involved in other battles before finally meeting defeat at Saratoga, but it’s his time at Whitehall that is a vital link to the treasure story. His men at Fort Ticonderoga and elsewhere frequently suffered the same problems as the Americans—exhaustion, hunger, and lack of pay. Many unpaid soldiers voiced their discontent, and mutiny could soon follow.
To alleviate the problem, British authorities in Quebec dispatched a sloop. Manned by a crew of ten, it carried sufficient gold to pay Burgoyne’s thousands of soldiers. After the long trip down Lake Champlain, the sloop reached Fort Ticonderoga, only to find that Burgoyne had traveled farther south. Captain Johnson (first name unknown), in charge of the gold-laden craft, decided to deliver his goods to Burgoyne at Whitehall.
Nearing the village, Johnson was informed that Burgoyne’s men had been victorious at Hubbardton, about 15 miles northeast of Whitehall. East Bay led directly towards Hubbardton, and about 8 miles upstream was a bridge the soldiers would cross as they made their way towards Albany. Johnson entered the bay, planning to intercept the troops at the bridge and give them the gold.
The sloop traveled as far as possible, anchoring just below Carver Falls, not far from the bridge. While waiting for Burgoyne’s men, the sloop came under attack by patriot forces, (possibly men retreating from the loss at Hubbardton). Captain Johnson scuttled his ship, but the men were killed trying to escape, and the Americans quickly left the area that would soon be crawling with British soldiers. The sloop lay on the river bottom.
Years later, it was learned that England’s military had offered a reward for the capture of Captain Johnson, for it was assumed he had made off with the booty, it having never been delivered.
Fast-forward 124 years to fall, 1901. Civil Engineer George B. West, who oversaw construction of the power dam at Carver Falls, learned that raging spring torrents had left part of a watercraft exposed in the riverbed below the falls. Aided by a crew of 30 men, he diverted the river temporarily to further explore the wreck and clear it from the channel. Using tools, and then a charge of dynamite, they managed to free the hull. Inside, they found various glass items, several muskets, and an interesting iron chest in the captain’s quarters.
Imagine the excitement of the moment, opening the lid to reveal 10,000 gold sovereigns, coins that today might fetch between $5 and $10 million!
As the spoils of a long-ago war, the coins were deposited in the Allen National Bank in nearby Fair Haven, Vermont. But ownership of the money was questioned by the New York Times, Boston newspapers, and many others across New England. Some said it should be returned to Great Britain as a gesture of good faith. Others said to keep it. After all, if the soldiers had recovered the gold when the boat sank, it surely wouldn’t have been returned to the Brits.
But it wasn’t that simple. The boat sank in 1777. Previous to that, the battle between New York and New Hampshire over land grants had led to the creation of the Republic of Vermont, located between the two litigants. Neither New York nor New Hampshire recognized Vermont independence, which led to an interesting scenario: in 1777, the site at Carver Falls could have been part of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, or British territory.
Further complicating matters, when statehood was finally settled (and before the gold was discovered), the NYS-Vermont border in that area was placed right down the center of the Poultney River. In the end, it is believed the money remained in Vermont coffers.
There is an interesting side story that was not included in published accounts about the recovered gold. It helps explain how the boat went undetected for more than a century. Above Carver Falls, seven years after the sloop sank, the river’s path was diverted, whether by natural means, man-made means, or a combination of the two. A supposed dispute over water rights may have played a role, or the river may have naturally chosen a new course through a widespread sandy area.
What’s most important is the result of the change in path. Up to 1783, East Bay was navigable by ships weighing up to 40 tons. The course diversion caused massive amounts of sand and sediment to wash over the falls, reducing the channel’s depth dramatically.
In subsequent years, though rumors of sunken treasure persisted, it hardly seemed plausible that a boat of any size could have made the journey to Carver Falls. Who could have known the river was once much deeper? It wasn’t until 124 years later that nature released a torrent strong enough to reveal the truth. And to clear the long-sullied name of Captain Johnson.
Photos: Top, map of key locations; below, sample of a British gold sovereign from the late 1700s.
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
It is noteworthy to read local supporters of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort expressing their full faith in the NYS Adirondack Park Agency’s ultimate review of that proposal. The Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce and ARISE (a Tupper Lake nonprofit) were quoted this week as saying “let the agency do its job.” Meanwhile, these organizations deride the efforts of others – “outsiders” – in the public hearing as obstructing the agency’s work.
Four years after it was ordered to adjudicatory public hearing by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), the proposed subdivision and second home development known as the Adirondack Club and Resort encompassing 6400 acres near Tupper Lake may finally get the close scrutiny it merits. The hearing, encompassing a dozen interrelated issues and over three dozen parties, should begin this spring. The group I work with, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, is one of those parties. The Chamber’s apparent embrace of the APA Act and its implementation through this public hearing is both interesting and gratifying: interesting because Tupper Lake rejected sharing local land use controls with the APA in the early 1990s because it might lend legitimacy to the APA legislation that the Chamber now apparently embraces; gratifying to hear because the APA Act mandates the very statewide concerns that “outsiders” can help to bring to the table.
The APA Act states “continuing public concern, coupled with the vast acreages of forest preserve holdings, clearly establishes a substantial state interest in the preservation and development of the park area. The state of New York has an obligation to insure that contemporary and projected future pressures on the park resources are provided for within a land use control framework which recognizes not only matters of local concern but also chose of regional and state concern” (Section 801, APA Act)
Reflecting as it does 150 years of statewide concern for the Adirondacks, the Act and its regulations anticipate statewide interest in the upcoming ACR public hearing, and mandate that the APA take those interests into account in its review. One of the biggest statewide concerns is that two thirds of the ACR proposal involves large second homes across Resource Management lands “where the need to protect, manage and enhance forest, agricultural, recreational and open space resources of paramount importance because of overriding natural resource and public considerations” (Section 805, APA Act)
That public can come from Tupper Lake and from anywhere else within the boundaries of the state, or beyond. Adirondack Council, Adirondack Wild, Protect the Adirondacks and others seek to help represent the broader public’s interests to “protect the delicate physical and biological resources, encourage proper and economic management of forest, agricultural and recreational resources and preserve the open spaces that are essential and basic to the unique character of the park” (Section 805).
There are still many others who want to focus on the local benefits and burdens of this proposal. The proposal if permitted and carried out to its full extent would carve out a new, sprawling development hub miles from current service providers in the village.
All need to bear in mind that whatever comes out of the hearing and agency review will have an effect on the entire Adirondack Park. This may be a precedent setting decision, and hundreds of thousands of people around the state will watch and examine its results carefully. The last time such a large subdivision and second home development was proposed in 1972, APA was a new and untested agency. I suspect the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce back in 1972 viewed the Agency as “outsiders.” Judging from the Chamber’s news release this week, the Agency and local perspective on the Agency from Tupper Lake has matured since then. The local and regional economy is rough today, but it was also rough in 1972. Second home subdivisions consume more of the environment, demand far more services and draw far more energy than they did in 1972. Meanwhile, one big thing hasn’t changed since that year – the APA Act, which has been amended just once in 38 years.
Photos: Hearing parties at the ACR field visit, May 2007; and visiting the beaver dam holding back Cranberry Pond.
When it comes to sheer number of routes one can take through the Adirondacks, rock climbing has got to have more opportunities than any other outdoor sport. Any guide that hopes to cover every single one is going to be a tome, and coming in at more than 670 pages, the newest edition of the seminal Adirondack climbing guide, Adirondack Rock, meets that description.
Adirondack Rock includes 242 cliff areas, many of which have never before been documented, and nearly 2,000 routes and variations. The guide’s authors, Jim Lawyer and Jeremy Hass, spent years visiting new and seldom visited climbs around the Adirondacks. Among the regions they turned their focus to was the Lake George basin, long neglected by regional climbing guides. » Continue Reading.
When it was reported in the summer of 1997 that the wreck of a Revolutionary War vessel had been discovered at the bottom of Lake Champlain, most newspaper accounts included some information about the battle in which she was lost – the Battle of Valcour –and how Benedict Arnold, in command of the remains of the New American Navy, eluded the British fleet and sailed up Lake Champlain toward Fort Ticonderoga. » Continue Reading.
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