On June 22, 2011, Historic Saranac Lake will unveil a new John Black Room Exhibit, “The Little City in the Adirondacks: Historic Photographs of Saranac Lake.” Created in collaboration with the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library, the exhibit features almost fifty framed historic photographs of Saranac Lake residents and buildings during the early part of the twentieth century.
The exhibit portrays a vibrant little city with a prospering and diverse economy. Saranac Lake grew quickly in the early 1900s to accommodate thousands of health seekers that came to the village seeking the fresh air cure for tuberculosis, made famous by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau. The exhibit features the unique architecture of the village as well as photos of local residents at play and at work. The photographs represent only small portion of the rich photo collection of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library. Library curator, Michele Tucker graciously loaned the photos to Historic Saranac Lake, and a team of dedicated volunteers has worked to install the exhibit. Many of the photos were originally printed and framed by the late Barbara Parnass, who was one of the founding Board Members of Historic Saranac Lake in 1980.
The photograph exhibit replaces an earlier exhibit on World War I in Saranac Lake. The exhibit will be on display for twelve months. Plans are underway for a new, comprehensive exhibit on Saranac Lake history to be installed in the John Black Room in 2012.
The Saranac Laboratory Museum opens June 22. The public is invited to visit the new photo exhibit and the laboratory museum space during regular hours through October 7, Wednesday through Friday from 10:00 to 2:00, or any time by appointment. Admission is $5 per person, members and children free of charge.
Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Room, Saranac Lake Free Library.
It’s difficult to review an establishment this familiar. With no first impression with which to develop a theme, a last impression will have to do.
George Henry’s in Warrensburg has come a long way from its heyday as the Warren Inn, where we were occasionally allowed to sit at the bar and have a soda with our mom when we were kids. It’s as much a restaurant as a bar now and seems to invite tourists as well as locals. Originally called the Warren Inn after an actual inn that once occupied the corner of Schroon River Road and Main Street, it changed hands some time in the 1980s and was renamed the Brew & Stew (the Brew & Stew sign now hangs inside), and finally George Henry’s, named after the current owners’ father and grandfather, George Henry McFarland. The interior of George Henry’s dining room is spacious, with tables comfortably distanced from one another. Wide plank floors and pine walls in the dining area create a somewhat rustic, no-frills appearance. The restaurant area is sufficiently separate to drown out the noise and to protect your children from the barside banter.
The bar seats about 20 people, with ample room for standing too, with a few bar height tables for overflow. Blackboards advertising food and drink specials hang in both the dining and bar areas, and several TV’s featured a variety of programming including Jeopardy, news, and a Yankees game. The tavern area was partially filled, maybe 15 people, when we visited on a Wednesday evening. We had expected more bikers because of Warrensburg Bike Week and Americade in Lake George, but a sudden storm, preceded by high winds and an ominous yellow glow in the sky sent them scattering.
Fortunately, we missed the “All-You-Can-Eat” Wings special and believe we were too late for Happy Hour (4:30 to 6:30). We donated some money to NY State by playing Quick Draw and shared the normal portion of their crispy “All-We-Can-Eat” wings. Open seven days a week, starting at 11 a.m., except on Sunday when they open at noon, George Henry’s serves food until 9 p.m. in the summer months. The kitchen closes earlier in other seasons, and are known to close the establishment for private parties on rare occasions, but are generally open year round. George Henry’s offers live music on Friday and Saturday nights and there is a small, designated area for the band or soloist, but don’t expect to do any dancing there.
The beer selection is pretty decent with domestics from the Coors, Budweiser, and Miller brands, and good old Genny as well. Import and premium bottled beers include Corona, Heineken, Labatt, Long Trail, Guinness and Twisted Tea. Six draft beers are available, including choices from Lake Placid Brewery, Adirondack Brewery and Davidson Brothers. Specialty drinks aren’t promoted, but George Henry’s is equipped to provide the basics and sometimes more elaborate drinks when staffing permits.
George Henry’s has been under current ownership for 25 years and seems to want to expand beyond the local pub. Improvements have been made, though nothing lavish or radical, more aptly living within their means while keeping costs down to appeal to the masses. A deck on the side, for example, has yet to be seen by us in all of its intended splendor.
George Henry’s is on Main Street which is sometimes heavily traveled, so the added seclusion of low fencing on the Main Street side of the deck offers privacy and noise reduction, but still allows a nice view of the Schroon River. The deck is accented with flower boxes and beds of hostas, pansies, and petunias, which Pam deadheaded for them that evening while reviewing the surroundings. Several tables, some with umbrellas, looked inviting, were it not for the rain.
Stop at George Henry’s for dinner on your way to points further north and expect a welcoming staff and patrons and good food. When looking for a good burger in the ‘Burg, George Henry’s is the place to go. Or go on a Friday or Saturday night for live music and an even livelier crowd.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog.
With the New York State Legislature wrapping up another session, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some of the bills making their way through the process. This list is not complete, but contains those items that are important in one way or another to the Adirondack Park.
There are two online systems that provide information about latest legislative actions and the status of bills. The NYS Senate’s Open Legislation system is still in Beta, but is apparently up to date, includes the latest Assembly info as well, and has the easiest user interface. The older system, the Legislative Research Service system, claims to offer “up to the minute” information.
Prohibiting NYS From Purchasing Land for Forest Preserve Betty Little’s bill to prohibit the state from purchasing forest land in fee title and to only allow purchases by conservation easement. Killed just after 4 p.m. today in the Senate Rules Committee, a final stop on the way to a floor vote. (S. 1501 Little)
National Grid Land Exchange This legislation will complete the Constitutional Amendment authorizing land swap that was approved by voters in 2009, allowing the New York Power Authority and National Grid to complete the Route 56 Tri-Lakes power line project. In exchange for receiving six acres of State Forest Preserve, National Grid is buying and giving to the public 20 acres that will be included in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The bill is in the Ways and Means Committee in the Assembly and on the floor in the Senate. (A. 8214 Sweeney / S. 4861-A Griffo)
EPF Revenue Enhancer This bill would, over the next four years, add the unclaimed nickel deposits from “bottle bill” revenues as an additional source of money for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The EPF provides grants for land acquisition, invasive species control, smart growth projects and water quality improvements. This legislation is currently in the Ways and Means Committee in the Assembly and Finance Committee in the Senate. (A. 7137 Latimer / S. 5403 Grisanti)
Defines Adirondack ‘Community Housing’ Defines “community housing” for purposes of the Adirondack Park to mean four dwelling units not exceeding 1500 square feet of floor space each, located on one contiguous parcel within a moderate intensity use or low intensity use land use area, and meeting certain other defined land use criteria. Advanced to Third Reading in both the Senate and Assembly on Tuesday; Senate vote expected today. (S. 4165-A LITTLE / A. 8303 Sweeney)
Restricting APA Powers Over Campgrounds Prohibits the Adirondack Park Agency from promulgating or implementing any rule, regulation or land use and development plan, related to campgrounds, which is inconsistent with the provisions of any rule or regulation of the department of health relating thereto. Third reading in the Senate; Environmental Conservation Committee in the the Assembly. (S. 343 LITTLE / A. 149 Sayward)
Re-defining ‘Campground’ in the Adirondack Park Redefines “campground” for the purposes of the Adirondack Park and regulation by the Adirondack Park Agency; defines such term as a parcel of land with 5 or more campsites, including buildings and accessory structures; provides that recreational vehicles may be kept at a campground or campsite, with the consent of the owner of the campground, during periods of time when they are not in use, so long as they are not used in a manner which violates the campground permit. Passed Senate, referred to Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee on Monday. (S.345 LITTLE / A. 151 Sayward)
Requiring APA Appointments from Approved List Requires the governor to appoint the five members of the Adirondack park agency who reside in the park, from a list established by the legislative bodies of the counties in the Adirondack park and the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages. Referred to Finance in Senate; Environmental Conservation in Assembly. (S.822 LITTLE / A. 511 Sayward)
Removing Land Use Planning Power of APA Makes state lands within the Adirondack Park subject to the local land use plan of the municipality in which the land is located. Betty Little Senate bill sent to Senate Finance Committee in May; there is no Assembly bill. (S. 5188 LITTLE)
10 Year APA Enforcement Statute of Limitations Establishes a ten year statute of limitations to enforce violations of rules and regulations of Adirondack Park Agency committed within the Adirondack park. senate bill moved to Finance committee in May; Assembly bill in Codes committee since January. (S. 823 LITTLE / A. 512 Sayward)
“Adirondack Sportsmen’s Club Preservation Act” Requires that state acquisition of open space shall remain subject to the leases of sportsmen’s clubs thereon. “Sportsmen’s clubs shall be deemed to retain exclusive access to and usage rights for hunting and fishing, while allowing public access to the land for other recreational activities.” In Senate Finance Committee. Betty Little bill in the Senate (S. 2487); no corresponding Assembly bill.
Opening Backcountry Waters to Disabled Veterans on Floatplanes Directs the development of a permit system to provide disabled veterans access to certain restricted bodies of water in the Adirondack park through the use of float planes. Passed the Senate; in Assembly Environmental Conservation committee (S.824 LITTLE / A. 518 Sayward).
Public Right of Passage on Navigable Waters Codifies the public right of passage upon navigable waterways of the state for purposes of commerce or recreation. Referred to the Assembly Codes Committee in May; no bill in the Senate since February, 2002 in deference to Senator Betty Little. (A370-2011 HOYT)
Boat Launch Preservation Act Requires that one percent of the 4 cents per gallon gasoline surcharge on gasoline which is used on waterways but not more than 5 million dollars per fiscal year is to be deposited in the dedicated boat launch site fund; moneys of such fund shall be disbursed for design, construction, maintenance and improvement of boat launches and boat access sites. Referred to Assembly Ways and Means Committee in February; no sponsor in the Senate. (A5546 ENGLEBRIGHT)
Requiring Large Water Withdrawal Permits Would grant DEC permitting abilities for withdrawals of large amounts of water (over 100,000 gallons per day) from lakes, rivers, streams or underground sources. Exemptions exist for agricultural water sources. The bill has passed the Assembly and is currently awaiting action on the Senate floor. (A. 5318-A Sweeney / S. 3798 Grisanti)
Creating ‘Non-Trail Snowmobile’ Registration Establishes a non-trail snowmobile registration for snowmobiles which shall be used solely for the purpose of gaining access to hunting and fishing areas. Referred to Transportation Committee in both the Senate and Assembly in January. (S1206 GRIFFO / A 1141 Magee)
Requiring A DEC Wildlife Economic Impact Report Requires the Department of Environmental Conservation to prepare a report on the economic impact of hunting, fishing, and wildlife-associated activities in New York. In Senate Finance Committee since January; no Assembly sponsor. (S653 VALESKY)
Extending DEC Northern Zone Special Muzzle-Loading Powers This bill would extend DEC’s authority to establish, by regulation, management measures for muzzle-loading firearm big game special season in the Northern Zone until October 1, 2015. In the Adirondacks, concern about lower deer numbers might result in a short, early muzzle-loading season. Passed Assembly but modified in Senate; returned to Assembly June 6. (S4967 GRISANTI / A 6953 Gunther)
Allowing Fishing With Three Lines Environmental Conservation Law would authorize an individual to angle for fish with up to 3 lines in freshwater until December 31, 2013. Currently one person may operate not more than two lines on any waters. Passed by Senate, amended and now at Third Reading. Codes committee in the Assembly. (S.2462-B LIBOUS / A.3480-B Russell)
Gift Cards for Hunting and Fishing Licenses Directs the commissioner of environmental conservation to create gift cards for hunting and fishing licenses. Ordered to Third Reading in the Senate yesterday and on today’s Senate Floor calendar; Referred to Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee in May. (S. 5161 RITCHIE / A. 7576 Gunther)
Extending Coyote Season from March 28 to May 31 Establishes the open season for hunting coyotes as October 1 through May 31 (currently march 28). Sent to Environmental Conservation committee in January; currently no Assembly sponsor. (S2486 LITTLE)
Bear Gall Bladders Senate version at third reading: “Prohibits the possession, sale, barter, offer, purchase, transportation, delivery, or receipt of bear gallbladder, bile, or any product, item, or substance containing, or labeled or advertised as containing, bear gallbladders or bile; exempts federal and state government and individuals with a valid hunting license from transporting one bear gallbladder.” In several committees in the Assembly.
Sacandaga Inland Waterway This bill would add the Sacandaga River to a list of inland waterways which are eligible to receive funding through the Department of State’s Waterfront Revitalization Program (part of the Environmental Protection Fund). It was already passed in the Assembly and waiting for consideration on the Senate floor. (A. 7241 Sayward / S. 4763 Farley)
Commemorate Adirondack Medical Center 100th What is known today as the Adirondack Medical Center began as two separate hospitals, the General Hospital of Saranac Lake, and the Placid Memorial Hospital of Lake Placid. Built at the top of Winona Avenue, the General Hospital of Saranac Lake was founded in 1911; The Placid Memorial Hospital Fund, was organized in 1947, and plans for construction of a new hospital to be located on a Church Street parcel were developed. Doors were opened at the Placid Memorial Hospital of Lake Placid on February 4, 1951. Referred to Finance yesterday. (J. 2567 LITTLE)
Creates A Constitutional Right to Hunt, Fish, and Trap Prohibits counties and other local municipalities from regulating hunting, fishing, and trapping. Both referred to Attorney general for Opinion in May. (S2382-A SEWARD / A 6864-A Gunther)
Soil & Water Conserv Dist Invasive Species Program Authorizes a public information and education program for soil and water conservation districts and relates to the spread of invasive species. Passed Senate in May; Sent to Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee the same day. (S2839-A YOUNG / A 3555 Magee)
Establishes Invasive Species Stewards, Paddling Fee Establishes the aquatic invasive species volunteer steward program within the office of parks, recreation and historic preservation; such program shall use volunteers to collect information on alien plants and animals in state water, and educate boaters thereon; imposes an annual $6 permit fee upon non-motorized vessels and requires the revenue to be deposited into the I love NY waterways vessel access account. Referre to Senate Finance Committee in February; no assembly sponsor. (S3519 JOHNSON)
Repeals Defunct Water Quality Compacts Repeals the Champlain Basin Compact, the Mid-Atlantic States Air Pollution Control Compact and the Delaware River Basin Water Commission Compact. To clean up and clarify the Environmental Conservation Law by repealing certain outdated sections which relate to proposed interstate compacts that were never established. These include: a 1966 law which proposed a Champlain Basin Compact; a 1967 law which proposed a Mid-Atlantic States Air pollution Control Compact; and a 1952 law which proposed a Delaware River Basin Water Commission Compact (not to he confused with the existing Delaware River Basin Compact). Refereed to Senate Environmental Conservation Committee in May; no Assembly sponsor. (S5139 FARLEY)
If you ever climbed Mount Marcy from Lake Colden, you probably drove up the narrow road from Newcomb to the Upper Works trailhead, past an odd but massive stone structure near the southern entrance to the High Peaks. You might have wondered about this relic from the American industrial revolution, how it worked, and when it was built. In a few months, the Open Space Institute (OSI), which bought the site from NL Industries in 2003, will install illustrated interpretive panels explaining the fascinating history of this important Adirondack site. I’ve been working on the team preparing these panels, and I’ve learned far more about 19th-century iron smelting than I ever thought was possible. » Continue Reading.
Writers, editors, publishers, and book lovers gathered at the Blue Mountain Center in Blue Mountain Lake on Sunday to hear the announcements of the Adirondack Center for Writing’s (ACW’s) annual Adirondack Literary Award winners. Among the authors recognized was regular Adirondack Almanack contributor Tom Kalinowski. The avid outdoor enthusiast who taught field biology and ecology at Saranac Lake High School for 33 years won the Best Book of Nonfiction award for Adirondack Nature Notes: An Adirondack Almanac Sequel.
Kalinowski was one of three Almanack contributors considered for the nonfiction award, including Caperton Tissot for Adirondack Ice: A Cultural and Natural History and History of Churubusco and the Town of Clinton, Clinton County, NY by Lawrence Gooley. Gooley’s book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. The Adirondack Literary Awards celebrates and acknowledge books that were written by Adirondack authors or published in the region in the previous year.
The complete list of winners for 2011 includes:
Best Children’s Book: The Rock Singer by Betsey Thomas-Train, published by Shaggy Dog Press.
Best Book of Fiction: Jeffrey G. Kelly for Tailings published by Creative Bloc Press.
Best Memoir: Green Fields by Bob Cowser, publisher, UNO Press (University of New Orleans) with an honorable mention to Kristin Kimballs’ The Dirty Life.
Best Book of Nonfiction: Adirondack Nature Notes: An Adirondack Almanac Sequel by Tom Kalinowski, published by North Country Books, with an honorable mention going to the collection, Why We Are Here edited by Bob Cowser and published by Colgate University Press.
Best Book of Poetry: went for a record third time to the three Adirondack poets: Elaine Handley, Marilyn McCabe, Mary Sanders Shartle for their collection, Winterberry Pine: Three Poets on Adirondack Winter (30 Acre Wood Publishing). This is the third time (a record) they have won the Poetry prize.
The People’s Choice Award went to Karma in the High Peaks, a poetry collection with contributions by David Parkinson, Charles Watts, Mary Randall, Mary Anne Johnson, Judith Dow Moore, and Chuck Gibson, published by RA Press.
Judges for the Adirondack Literary Award were:
Nonfiction and memoir: Linda Cohen and Jerry McGovern
Fiction: Ellen Rocco and Joseph
Poetry: Stephanie Coyne-DeGhett and Maurice Kenny
Children’s Literature: Danielle Hoepfl and Nancy Beattie
A complete list of the books considered this year can be found online.
The Adirondack Folk School in Lake Luzerne will be showcasing its new pavilion and blacksmith forge this weekend with free blacksmithing demonstrations on June 18th.
The school is located at the former Town of Lake Luzerne town hall building. Classes in traditional Adirondack arts such as basketry and twig/rustic furniture building are available as well as other folk art traditions such as weaving, ceramics, quilting and fly tying. For families, one popular course is the “stick and hike” workshop. Parents and children can come create a walking stick and then go take their stick for a hike around the beautiful 6.8-acre Adirondack Folk School property that borders the Hudson River.
Adirondack Folk School Founder and Acting Director Jim Mandle says, “We recently had a group of high schoolers use the same techniques for the ‘stick and hike’ but instead of a walking stick created a memory stick with markings and carvings to highlight events that have influenced their lives.”
Mandle explains that a true “folk school” is based on a Danish principle in which people learn for the sake of learning, not to earn course credit. Some classes are set over a specific time frame but most classes are for a day to appeal to locals as well as visitors.
“The property is located on one of the most beautiful spots on the Hudson,” says Mandle. “It is the last free-flowing spot where the Hudson is untouched. Rockwell Falls is where we hold some of our painting classes.”
“The core idea of the Adirondack Folk School is to keep the Adirondack crafts alive,” says Mandle. “We just celebrated our one year anniversary on June 5th. We have a course catalog available. In the beginning I made a list of ideas for classes and sought out those instructors. Other people have since come to us and asked if they could teach a class. I am amazed what has happened in the past year.”
Mandle encourages people to just drop by and see the new blacksmith forge and maybe even get an opportunity to become a blacksmith for the day. With the addition of the outdoor pavilion the event will happen rain or shine.
The Adirondack Folk School is located on Main Street in Lake Luzerne. Offering over a hundred classes in traditional Adirondack folk art, there is bound to be something for everyone. Make sure to check their schedule of events for free summer events such as Saturday Evening Campfire-Sing-Along and July 2nd Anniversary Party.
photo: students participating in Adirondack Folk School blacksmithing class photo credit: Jim Mandle, Adirondack Folk School
For more than a month, millions of tons of earth and millions of dollars in property value have been inching down a Keene Valley mountainside. As 82 acres of trees and homes continue to break loose, a state geologist says other Adirondack slopes could fail.
The slow-moving landslide on the side of Little Porter Mountain is unnerving residents in the town of Keene, which includes the hamlets of Keene and Keene Valley. The year-round population of 1,000 is nearly doubled in summer by wealthy seasonal residents, many who live upslope for the lofty views of the High Peaks. Four half-million-dollar houses at the top of the slide have been affected—pried wholly from their foundations or partially destabilized—and at least one vacation home appears to be in its path below. The value of the land in motion is expected to be reduced from about $3 million to zero, while sales of similar properties are thrown into limbo. Supervisor Bill Ferebee said the town has begun to seek emergency state reimbursement to help make up anticipated losses in property tax.
Andrew Kozlowski, associate state geologist with the New York State Museum, says the slide is the largest in state history. It’s nothing like the quick tumble of trees and thin humus familiar on high Adirondack terrain. This one started as a subtle shift below 2,000 feet on a 25–35 degree slope. It was triggered by the melting of deep snowpack compounded by more than a foot of rain in April and May. The slide does not seem to pose a risk to human life, but it is reactivated when new rains slip into soil cracks that are growing wider every day. Because it’s logistically difficult to drill borings in shifting soils to measure their depth, Kozlowski can’t estimate when the mass will stop moving; he says it could be months or years.
A dirt road runs parallel to the top of the landslide. Keene residents are questioning whether mountainside building is responsible for altering drainage patterns. “Does the development help? Probably not. Was it the actual cause? Probably not,” Kozlowski said.
There were pre-existing conditions, he explained. He detected on the site signs of a landslide hundreds or thousands of years ago. At the end of the last ice age, Keene Valley was submerged by a glacial lake, and deep sand on the hillsides is evidence of 12,000-year-old beaches.
LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) imagery collected by aerial survey can provide high-resolution digital images and help identify shifty soils, he said. Eight New York counties have collected LiDAR data but none in northern New York, which has the state’s steepest topography. Keene Supervisor Ferebee said aerial images could be useful to all towns in Essex County, and he is exploring how the county might cover the $150,000 cost.
Residents are also concerned about the future of homes on other Keene mountainsides. “There is danger of this happening elsewhere,” Kozlowski told a group of two dozen citizens who gathered at the community’s K–12 school earlier this month. “Will it happen on this scale? We don’t know.”
Real Estate and Rain
Annual rainfall in the Lake Champlain watershed is three inches greater on average than it was during the mid 20th century, when the first houses were built on the side of Little Porter Mountain, according to United States Historical Climatology Network data. A range of climate models predict the Champlain Basin could receive 4 to 6 inches more precipitation a year by the end of this century, with heavy storms becoming more frequent, according to a 2010 report by The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack and Vermont chapters.
The Little Porter slide has suddenly become an unforeseen example of something other Adirondack mountain communities must consider in a potentially wetter future.
“Throughout the Adirondacks there is going to be a lot more concern about this now,” said Martha Lee Owen, who owns vacant land on the failed slope. She is a real-estate broker whose father, Adrian Edmonds, lived at the base of Little Porter and pioneered homebuilding on Keene’s mountainsides. “He’d be just heartbroken,” she said. “It’s just terrible that it’s affected so many homeowners.”
Owen said it never occurred to her to recommend that potential buyers hire a geologist to evaluate slope stability, but she will recommend it now. She would also like to see LiDAR data collected for Essex County. “Of course it’s a huge concern to me in terms of selling properties, not just my own but selling any properties,” she said. “So far buyers aren’t asking a lot of questions, although everyone is just sort of shocked by this. You have to get used to it before you take it all in.”
Jane Bickford, a Saranac Lake resident who has a summer home beneath and — she hopes — outside the projected path of the slide, said the mountain-climbing mecca of Keene Valley is more than an investment to people who own property there. “The piece that’s important is, Can we keep living there?” she said. “The financials are pretty terrible but Keene Valley represents to people a touchstone. It’s where my kids grew up and where they are bringing their own kids up. This is where children’s values are developed. To the people who go to Keene Valley it’s not just a house. It’s a place where families get together and where bonding happens.”
For those people familiar with nature, the uniquely-shaped silhouette of a large bird in flight with a set of thin legs jutting well beyond its tail, and a neck that coils back into a compressed “S” creates an unmistakable image.
Additionally, the slow and methodical manner in which this lanky giant beats its sizeable wings helps make the great blue heron one of the easiest birds to recognize as it flies, even from a distance of well over a half mile. The great blue heron is a wading bird and uses its stilt-like legs to stand and walk through aquatic areas, some of which may be covered with up to a foot of water. It is in places like these that this predator waits quietly for small fish, frogs, salamanders, and other similar size animals to stray within striking distance. Once a victim is spotted close by, the heron draws its head back, simultaneously stepping forward while thrusting its long and pointed bill directly at the target. Rather than spear its prey, the great blue heron attempts to grab hold of the potential meal and swallow it quickly before it can wriggle free.
From late spring through mid August the amount of time an adult heron spends hunting increases significantly. Not only must the adult heron satisfy its own appetite, but toward the end of May, when the 3 or 4 eggs in its nest hatch, the bird must also meet the demands of the young for a steady diet of animal protein.
For the first several weeks after the eggs hatch, one of the parents remains either in the nest or very close to it in order to protect the babies from being attacked by a forest predator, like a raccoon, or eagle. The other parent travels to a favored feeding site, such as a section of marsh, the edge of a slow moving river, or the weedy shoreline of a lake or pond. There it tries to kill enough creatures to fill its crop for transport back to its nest. Once there, the parent regurgitates chunks of the previously swallowed material into the open mouth of its babies. The constant demand for food by the developing nestlings causes the great blue heron to hunt for prey even during the night, especially when a full moon provides adequate illumination for it to see.
After the first month, the young herons become large enough to prevent a parent from spending more than a few minutes in the nest. At this stage in their development, the nestlings require so much food that both parents are forced to hunt for the majority of the day leaving their babies unattended. As the nestlings get older the parents no longer feed them from their mouth, but rather drop the catch off into the nest and let the young birds fight over it.
Because there is safety in numbers, a pair of great blue heron makes its nest close to the nest of other great blue herons. A colony, also known as a heronry, may contain from a dozen nests to over a hundred. The number is highly dependent on the suitability of hunting areas in the surrounding region. For example, a heronry near Lake Champlain is able to support many more pairs of herons than ones located in sections of the Park where favorable aquatic areas are scattered over much greater distances.
In order to minimize the chance of predation from climbing creatures, the great blue heron prefers to construct it stick platform as high as possible in the tallest deciduous trees at the site in which a heronry becomes established. Since a heron nest is around three feet in diameter, the mass of sticks used in its construction can become quite substantial, and the supporting limbs beneath it must be large enough to hold the weight. Additionally, the nest must be tightly woven into the framework of the twigs from the supporting limbs to prevent this structure from being torn loose during periods of high wind, such as those that accompany strong thunderstorms. In most instances, a pair of herons will refurbish the nest that they occupied the previous year if it was able to withstand the fierce gales that battered it during the preceding winter season.
It takes the nestlings almost two full months before they fledge, and even then these young birds depend on their parents for frequent meals until they can get the knack of hunting for themselves.
There are many creatures that prey on the bounty of animal life that exists in and around wetlands; however, few of these stand out against the background as does the great blue heron here in the Adirondacks.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia.
Tom Kalinowski has written several books on nature in the Adirondacks.
If Warren County permits snowmobiles to use the Warren County Bikeway where it traverses land owned by the Magic Forest theme park, the trail could be barricaded, severing the trail link between Lake George and Glens Falls. That, at any rate, is one option available to Magic Forest’s owner, Jack Gillette, said Gillette’s attorney, Mike Stafford.
Whereas Warren County owns outright or by easement most of the 17-mile trail, Magic Forest owns the 350 feet of trail over the park’s land, Gillette said. » Continue Reading.
A tornado in the northeastern states, as happened recently in Massachusetts, is a comparatively rare event, but it’s by no means anything new. Many similar storms in the past have wreaked devastation in New York and New England, but few have had the incredible impact of the tornado that struck northern Franklin County on June 30, 1856.
The storm system caused chaos across the North Country, and in lower Quebec and northern Vermont as well, but the villages of Burke and Chateaugay bore the brunt of the damage when a tornado touched down, causing destruction of historic proportions. In the 1850s, northern Franklin County was mostly a vast, wooded wilderness. The arrival of the railroad had led to accelerated growth and the development of several population centers, including Burke and Chateaugay, just five miles apart in the county’s northeast corner.
Farming and lumbering were the chief occupations, and until sections of forest were cleared, most of the farms were located near the villages and along the Old Military Turnpike (modern-day Route 11). About the only way a storm’s effect could be truly devastating was for it to strike the population centers—and that’s exactly what happened.
Not that it would have made much difference, but this storm also had an extra element of surprise—it struck shortly before mid-morning. The great majority of tornadoes strike in the late afternoon after the sun has had plenty of time to heat things up.
Farmer Lucas Wyman of Constable watched as two dark, threatening cloud systems moved towards each other, one from the southwest and one from the northwest. He described their meeting as a thunderous collision, after which the storm began devouring everything in its path. Taking a northeastern track, it flattened trees and fences as it sped ominously towards Burke.
Arriving at the village, it tore the roofs off several buildings, sending their contents high in the air to parts unknown. As the storm raged, only pieces of some homes were left standing, and all barns, less sturdily built by nature, were leveled.
At the hamlet of Thayer’s Corners, the store of Daniel Mitchell was completely destroyed. Thirty-six-year-old Jeremiah Thomas, father of two young children, had recently sold his farm and gone to work for Mitchell. Thomas became the storm’s only fatality.
The storm’s route from Burke to Chateaugay suffered near-universal destruction, with reports indicating that “… one hundred and eighty-five buildings, either unroofed, blown down, or moved from the foundations can be counted as you ride along the road.”
At Chateaugay, the twister still had more than enough energy to lay nearly the entire community to waste. One reporter stated it plainly: “The village of Chateaugay is a complete desolation. Not a building escaped injury, and a great number—we do not know how many—are completely destroyed. The scene is one which baffles description. Stores, churches, dwellings, barns, sheds, outbuildings, all present a sad spectacle —they are awfully shattered and broken to pieces.”
Perhaps as important were other losses—gardens and fruit trees destroyed; farm crops flattened; cows, pigs, horses, sheep, and chickens killed. With all fencing destroyed, any animals that did survive were left wandering the countryside.
Though only one person died, many suffered serious injuries. Dozens were struck by flying roof shingles and shards of glass. One survivor was said to have lost his scalp to airborne debris.
The power of the storm yielded the usual stories of extreme occurrences. Entire sections of forest were flattened. A stone schoolhouse, one of the more solid buildings, was demolished. A lumber yard was completely devoid of lumber, all of which had been lifted high in the air and strewn across nearby fields.
A railroad handcar, weighing about a ton, was destroyed when it was carried aloft and dropped into the nearby woods. The tornado’s power was such that rubble from Mitchell’s Store at Thayer’s Corners was later found ten miles east in the town of Clinton.
In the days following the catastrophe, a traveler from Springfield, Massachusetts (coincidentally the site of recent tornadic destruction in 2011) rode the train across northern New York. After encountering the Chateaugay area, his report on the damage was published in the Springfield Daily Journal, including the following excerpts.
“The railroad track for some thirty or forty miles lies directly in the path of the tornado, and I never saw such a scene of destruction before. … it is in fact quite impossible to picture the scene on paper as it really appears. The villages of Chateaugay and Burke have sustained such serious damage that long years will come and go before its traces can be effaced.
“… Acres of forest trees are upturned, broken, twisted, and shattered; fences are torn to pieces, and the fencing timber scattered miles away from whence it was taken; piles of lumber, with which that section abounds, are nowhere to be found; barns are entirely blown to pieces; dwelling houses blown down, unroofed, and shattered. The eye rests on nothing else but such sights as these for miles and miles.”
The storm system caused considerable damage elsewhere, but the extent of destruction along the eight-mile path through the towns of Burke and Chateaugay was of near-biblical proportions. In the final tally, 364 buildings were damaged or destroyed.
Few North Country disasters can compare in scope and intensity with the tornado of 1856. For decades into the future it was used as a reference point for comparing other tragic events.
Photo Top: Tornado headlines, 1856.
Photo Middle: St. Lawrence County opportunistic ad after a tornado, 1914.
Photo Bottom: Hammond Insurance ad for routine needs, 1935.
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.
Participants in the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program’s 10th annual aquatic invasive plant training program will learn aquatic plant identification tips and survey techniques for both native and aquatic invasive plants.
The training is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP by June 17 to [email protected] and provide your name, contact info, training location and lake of interest.
Sessions are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
June 28, Darrin Fresh Water Institute, Bolton Landing or June 30, Wanakena Ranger School on Cranberry Lake » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Museum is introducing two new programs for year-round Adirondack Park residents. The Adirondack Museum invites year-round residents of the Adirondack Park to visit free of charge every Sunday, and on all open days in October. Proof of residency such as a driver’s license, passport, or voter registration card is required.
The Adirondack Museum has also introduced a new “Friends and Neighbors” Adirondack Park Resident Membership Program. Year-round Park residents can now enjoy all the museum has to offer every day of the season through a very special program that makes museum membership more affordable than ever before – half the regular price at the Individual, Companion, and Family levels. Call the membership office for more information: (518) 352-7311 ext. 112 or email [email protected] Two new exhibits will open at the Adirondack Museum on May 27: “The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait” and “Night Vision: The Wildlife Photography of Hobart V. Roberts.”
The museum is open 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., 7 days a week, including holidays, through October 17, 2011. There will be an early closing on August 12, and adjusted hours on August 13; the museum will close for the day on September 9. Please visit www.adirondackmuseum.org for details. Photo: The Museum’s “Living with Wilderness” exhibit, photograph by Richard Walker.
Eating locally grown and raised foods is becoming increasing popular in the North Country. To help locavores shop for local products, plan meals, and prepare local vegetable dishes, the Cornell University Cooperative Extension associations of Northern New York have set the dates for the Northern New York Eating Local Yet? summer workshops.
A series of three hands-on classes will be held in Sackets Harbor at The Farm House Kitchen, in Canton at the First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, and in Plattsburgh at the CV-TEC Culinary Kitchen. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) four summer environmental education camps provide kids with opportunities to explore forests, swamps, lakes and fields and go fishing, hiking, canoeing, swimming, star gazing and meeting professionals in environmental fields.
DEC’s unique residential camp program currently has openings for youth ages 12 to 14. Each of the camps focuses on conservation education by immersing campers in outdoor activities and hands-on learning that teach the wise use of natural resources. Highly qualified staff ensure that campers enjoy their week-long outdoor adventure and help them develop outdoor skills such as hiking, fishing and canoeing that can last a lifetime. For those who are interested, hunter safety training is available from certified Sportsman Education instructors, with prior permission from parents/guardians. All four camps — Colby and Pack Forest in the Adirondacks, DeBruce in the Catskills and Rushford in Western New York — have openings for some weeks during the seven weeks of camp, which run from July 3 through August 20. Campers arrive on Sunday afternoon and are picked up Saturday morning. A week at one of these exceptional camps costs just $350 per week. Local organizations such as civic groups, garden and sportsmen clubs can also sponsor a camper. Applications are still being accepted and registration will continue until all spaces are filled.
Full information, including registration forms, available weeks and detailed program descriptions is available online or by writing to NYSDEC Camps, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4500. You may also e-mail the camps at [email protected], sign up for DEC’s camps listserve at or call 518-402-8014. Photo: Campfire at Camp Colby. Courtesy DEC.
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