- Local Wind Farm Market Dries Up
- Historic Sites Slated to Stay Closed
- Joe Bruno Gets 2 Yr Prison Term
- Moose River Plains Closed to Vehicles
- Lewis County Rail Trails Voted Down
- Stricter Bear Feeding Rules Proposed
- Area Chambers of Commerce to Join Forces
- Park to Become Own Statistical Area?
- Invasive Species Closer To Lake Champlain
- Essex County Considering Sales Tax Hike
This week you can check out some bluegrass, Beartracks and the Gibson Brothers are gigging. Mecca Bodega is a fun band to dance to – I really enjoyed them the last time the passed through the area. There’s also a good open mic to remember in Canton and if you didn’t get the chance Armida is being shown once again in Lake Placid. I’m also curious about the JUNO award winner playing in Lowville. Please let me know if you find out anything about the bands where there is no information to be found online.
Thursday, May 6th:
In Canton, Open Mic at the Blackbird Cafe with host Geoff Hayton. Sign up is at 6:30 and show starts at 7, it runs until 9 pm. Best performances are picked to be part of a CD released later this year. For more information email: email@example.com .
In Plattsburgh, Beartracks, which consists of Junior Barber, Tom Venne and Julie Venne Hogan will perform at the Universalist Unitarian Fellowship of Plattsburgh. The doors open at 7 pm and admission is $10. For more information,
Friday, May 7th:
In Ellenburg, the Gibson Brothers are in concert at The Northern Adirondack HIgh School. Doors open at 6 pm. For more information email:firstname.lastname@example.org or call (518) 497-6962.
Saturday, May 8th:
In Lowville, Stephen Fearing who is part of Blackie & The Rodeo Kings a JUNO winning trio from Canada. This is part of the Black River Valley Concert Series and will be held at the Lewis County Historical Society. The doors open at 7:45 and admission is $15/18.
In North Creek, Mud Party at Laura’s Tavern.
Sunday, May 9th:
In Glens Falls, The Glens Falls Symphony concert will begin at 4 pm in the Glens Falls High School. They will perform Mahler and J.S. Bach. Phone (518) 793-1348 or email email@example.com for more information.
In Stony Creek, The Von Bulows will play at the Stony Creek Inn. Music starts at 6 pm.
Tuesday, May 11th:
In Lake Placid, The Met Live in HD Encore Presentation of “Armida” will be shown at LPCA. The opera starts at 5:30 pm and runs 4 hours and 20 minutes with intermissions.
Wednesday, May 12th:
Every spring, at about this time, there is a day when I step outside and find my olfactory senses drowning in a spicy sweet aroma. The scent is so powerful that it blocks out all other senses, the brain focusing on this and this alone. The fragrance brings to mind dark rooms filled with incense, or images of the ancient orient, and yet its source is completely and wholly native: balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), an otherwise unassuming pioneer species of the boreal forest.
It took me several years to discover the source of this fragrance. I first encountered it while working in The Great Swamp in New Jersey. No one there knew what it was. I didn’t smell it again until I came to the Adirondacks, and that first spring, there it was. My head snapped up and I looked around. “I’ve smelled this before,” my nose was telling me. Scent is a powerful memory stimulant, and this scent is one of the strongest. My search for an answer began. » Continue Reading.
If you ever wanted to plan a multi-day paddling trip on some of the Adirondack’s best water routes, the next few weeks are a prime time. Only fall-foliage season beats early spring for sheer perfection.
You’ve got long, sunny days. Even the most popular lakes around, such as Long and Lower Saranac lakes, are mostly free of power boats. And the bugs won’t come out in earnest for another two to three weeks.
After multiple canoe trips this time of year, I’ve found the only thing I miss are the leaves, which had not yet budded during an early-May trip to Long Lake. Having done a trip a few weeks later, where we had leaves but also black flies, I think I’d take the bare trees. However, know that even if it’s the heart of black-fly season, if temperatures are cool enough the bugs will not be a problem. » Continue Reading.
I have always felt a few holidays were put on the calendar as a means to sell greeting cards or perhaps boost a lull in candy sales after Easter. Though I have a mother and am a mother, Mother’s Day used to fall in that category for me. It would seem that the mother in question either deserves to be treated well every day for being motherly or was the type of person that didn’t live up to the title. It should be up to the discretion of the child. I was pleased to note that the celebration is much more than cards and flowers.
Days dedicated to mothers have been traced back to a variety of sources. The ancient Greeks honored Rhea, the mother of the gods. Christians honor Mary, the mother of Christ. In the late 1500s, servants apprenticed away from home would be given the fourth Sunday of Lent to return to their “mother” church and gather again as a family. The holiday became a day reuniting mothers with their children.
In 1858, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis organized Mother’s Day Work Clubs to help improve sanitation and worker safety in Appalachian West Virginia. During the Civil War the clubs remained neutral to provide medical care for both Union and Confederate soldiers.
In 1872 Julia Ward Howe (author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic) organized a Mother’s Day of Peace. In her Mother’s Day Proclamation she encouraged a holiday where mothers rally for peace. Originally held on June 2, Howe envisioned a day of activism.
The current holiday occurred in 1907 when Anna Jarvis, a Philadelphia schoolteacher started the progress toward a national Mother’s Day, in honor of her mother. Jarvis petitioned influential businessmen and legislators to establish a day to honor mothers. It took Jarvis seven years, but finally in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May, the anniversary of her mother’s death, as a national holiday in celebration of mothers.
With the immediate commercialization of the holiday, Jarvis apparently attempted to lobby businesses to donate a percentage of the Mother’s Day profits back to women and children in need. She was unsuccessful. It is said that she regretted forming the holiday and even petitioned the courts to have it disbanded.
I am not suggesting that Mother’s Day be dissolved. I rather like the idea of breakfast in bed and all the niceties. I look forward to it. I also embrace the original concept to be a day of peace.
If you are looking for ways to celebrate together here are some events around the Adirondacks this weekend. Of course paddles, hikes and walks are always plentiful and readily available.
all content © Diane Chase. Diane Chase is of Adirondack Family Time:Tri-Lakes & High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activiities (with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. Diane’s next guidebook Adirondack Family Time: Lake Champlain from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga (2012), Adirondack Family Time: Long lake to Old Forge, Adirondack Family Time Schroon Lake to Lake George. (2013)
Last weekend, Josh Wilson led my friend Mike Virtanen and me up a historical rock-climbing route on Rooster Comb in Keene Valley. Fritz Wiessner, one of the best climbers and mountaineers of his era, pioneered the route in 1949 with Jim Goodwin, his frequent partner on Adirondack outings.
The Old Route, as it’s called, is rated 5.4 in the Yosemite Decimal System, which is easy by today’s standards, but Weissner availed himself of a variety of interesting features as he meandered up the cliff: a ramp, a narrow chimney, corners, ledges, and wide cracks.
Wiessner was involved in the first ascent of at least eighteen rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks. The hardest, on Noonmark Mountain, is rated 5.8. That’s considered moderately tough, but it doesn’t come close in difficulty to many routes put up since Wiessner’s heyday. Josh, for instance, has climbed 5.11 routes. III Fire, the hardest climb in the Adirondacks, is rated 5.14a—which once would have been thought impossible.
So are modern climbers that much better than Wiessner?
Not really. Changes in footwear have enabled climbers to ascend ever-harder routes. In the old days, climbers wore boots or sneakers. Today, they climb in lightweight shoes that resemble ballet slippers with sticky rubber soles. These shoes allow climbers to get a purchase on steep slabs and tiny nodules of rock.
Protective gear—“pro,” in the sport’s lingo—also has greatly improved. In Wiessner’s day, climbers hammered metal pitons into cracks to hold their rope in the event of a fall. Nowadays, climbers carry lightweight nuts and cams that can be wedged into almost any crack. The new technology makes climbing difficult routes safer.
On Rooster Comb, we saw three or four old pitons on the Old Route. We wondered if they had been pounded in by Wiessner himself. Although no longer needed, the pitons are artifacts of a bygone era and should be left in place.
Pitons may be relics of the past, but steel bolts are not. Like pitons or other pro, fixed bolts are used to hold the rope in a fall. They are usually found on blank faces where it’s impossible to place pro or at the top of a cliff or pitch where climbers clip in the rope to rappel.
Since they alter the natural environment, bolts are controversial. Don Mellor notes in his book American Rock that attitudes toward bolts vary among climbing communities in different parts of the country. Climbers can get quite worked up over the issue. Mellor once told me, after we climbed Wallface, of a guy who used to carry a hammer to destroy any bolt he encountered.
In the Adirondacks, climbers frown on the overuse of bolts. Dominic Eisinger writes in the guidebook Adirondack Rock: “For existing routes, no additional protection or fixed anchors should be added without the consent of the first-ascent party. Fixed anchors have been installed by the climbing community where necessary for safety and preservation of fragile terrain and trees” (since they obviate the need to wrap slings around trees during a rappel).
But the guideline is not always followed. Tom Rosecrans, a longtime climber, complains that routes he pioneered on Rogers Rock years ago have since been bolted.
Some might ask whether it’s ever appropriate to fix bolts to a cliff in the forever-wild Forest Preserve. It’s a legitimate question: state regulations forbid defacing “any tree, flower, shrub, fern, fungi or other plant like organisms, moss or other plant, rock, soil, fossil or mineral or object of archaeological or paleontological interest found or growing on State land.”
Nonetheless, bolts do happen. Of course, many forms of outdoor recreation—whether hiking, snowmobiling, or camping—leave an impact on the wilderness. The question is whether that impact is acceptable.
Eisinger says Adirondack climbers strive to minimize their impact in all respects, not just in their bolting practices. “Scrubbing lichen from holds, cleaning dirt from cracks for protection, breaking the occasional branch to squeeze by a tree, or removing a dangerous loose block are all accepted practices,” Eisinger writes. “Scrubbing an 8-foot wide swath and cutting trees are not only illegal but aren’t accepted by the climbing community.”
In truth, no one but climbers will see a bolt on a cliff. And most climbers don’t mind a well-placed bolt. So the aesthetic impact is negligible.
Bolts are to modern climbers what pitons were to early climbers: an occasional necessity. And what climber would not take delight in seeing a piton put in by the great Fritz Wiessner? It’s a reminder that the sport hasn’t changed that much.
Photo by Phil Brown: Josh Wilson on the Old Route on Rooster Comb.
The sixth annual Great Adirondack Trail Run will take place on June 19th, 2010 in Keene Valley, NY. Billed as a charity event supporting the Au Sable and Bouquet River Associations, the event includes two runs: an 11.5 mile strenuous run (2900′ of vertical gain and 3100′ of loss) up the back side of Hopkins Mountain and down to Keene Valley, and a 3.5 mile fun run from Baxter Mountain Tavern on Route 9N to Keene Valley.
According to the event’s organizers, registration is limited and runners will be staggered “out of respect for the public trail portion of the run.” The 3.5 mile fun run is entirely on private land. Neither run will include aid stations, and runners are responsible for staying on course and carrying what they need to complete the runs.
The 11.5 mile run will begin at 9 AM, with runners starting one at a time in a staggered format (one per minute). The 3.5 mile fun run will begin at 10 AM from the Baxter Mountain Tavern on Rte 9N between Keene and Elizabethtown, also with a staggered start. A shuttle will be available from the parking/finish area at Riverside in Keene Valley to the trailhead for both runs. There will be a celebration of Spring with music, food, beer and more starting at 11 AM, with awards at 2 PM.
Rules: This is a wilderness trail run. There will be no support–participants are on their own from start to finish, and will need their own water, food and all other supplies. Any volunteers stationed on the course will be there to make sure runners take the right trail–they will not have water, food, moleskin, etc. Anyone caught littering will be immediately disqualified.
Just a quick reminder that Adirondack region new media / social media writers and producers are invited to gather at the Adirondack Museum on Friday, May 7, 2010 from 5 until 7 pm for a networking event and backstage tour of the Adirondack Museum’s exhibit “Let’s Eat: Adirondack Food Traditions”.
Local bloggers, Twitter users, social media writers and producers and new media journalists, will be getting together in the Adirondack Museum’s “Living With Wilderness Gallery” for food, drink, and networking, before taking an early behind the scenes look at the Museum’s featured 2010 exhibit.
This event is sponsored by the Adirondack Pub and Brewery and the Adirondack Winery and Tasting Room (both in Lake George), the Adirondack Museum, and Adirondack Almanack.
Please RSVP as soon as possible to John Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nearly six billion people inhabit our planet and depend on trees for materials to build houses, produce paper, assemble furniture and to simply stay warm. This results in tremendous pressure on the world’s forests and has necessitated the establishment of sustainable forestry management practices.
Sustainable forestry management refers to the attempt to achieve balance between society’s increasing demands for forest products and benefits with the preservation of forest health and diversity. Sustainable forestry management is defined as the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfill, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that do not cause damage to other ecosystems.
Growing environmental awareness and consumer demand for more socially responsible businesses helped third-party forest certification emerge in the 1990s as a credible tool for communicating the environmental and social performance of forest operations. These independent organizations develop standards of good forest management, and through independent auditors issue certificates to forest operations that comply with standards. Certification verifies that forests are well-managed and ensures that certain wood and paper products come from responsibly managed forests.
Today more than 45 certification systems exist worldwide with the American Tree Farm System, Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) most active in New York State and the Adirondack Park. All three of these organizations require compliance with all applicable Federal, State and Local laws in order to receive certification.
The first step to complying with applicable laws is identification of those laws. While forest management activities are not generally regulated by the Adirondack Park Agency, certain forestry uses may trigger Park Agency jurisdiction. To assist forestry professionals and landowners identify applicable laws in their certification efforts, agency staff developed an educational program titled “Promoting Systematic Forest Management Environmental Compliance.”
This program reviews applicable Agency laws and regulations for jurisdictional activities such as: clear cutting, shoreline restrictions, wetlands and Forestry Uses on lands classified as Resource Management. It covers the Adirondack Park Agency Act, NYS Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act and the NYS Freshwater Wetlands Act.
The program is designed for a wide range of forestry professionals and landowners including loggers, foresters, private non-industrial and industrial forest landowners, auditing entities and raw material consumers. It contains valuable information not only for those seeking certification, but also anyone who may be undertaking forest management activities within the Adirondack Park.
To schedule a program presentation, please contact the Adirondack Park Agency at 518.891.4050.
The Adirondack Research Consortium’s 17th Annual Conference on the Adirondacks, “Leveraging Resources to Sustain Communities”, will be held at the High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid, NY, on May 19-20, 2010.
The conference will include Bob Catell, Chairman of the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center, and Richard Kessel, President of the New York Power Authority, as keynote presenters. Both are experts and leaders on energy issues and will share their vision of the future for both New York State and the Adirondacks.
Dr. Carol Brown, President of North Country Community College, and Dr. Anthony Collins, President of Clarkson University will present an update on current and ongoing
initiatives at these centers for education.
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward will moderate a panel discussion on “Reconnecting Children with Nature”, and there will be a panel presentation of ideas for identifying resources to protect special places with representatives from the Catskills and the Southern Appalachians.
Several other panels will be featured including those on Adirondack Health Care, Economic Climate Change, Ecological Connectivity, and the Smart Grid.
The complete program information is online.
The 15th running of the Black Fly Challenge will begin in Inlet, Hamilton County on Saturday June 12, 2010. Started in 1996 by a businessman looking to boost bike rentals, the Black Fly has grown to to some 300 racers. Over half the 40 mile race distance traverses the rugged Moose River Plains Wild Forest between Inlet and Indian Lake on gravel mountain roads with plenty of elevation changes. But it’s not all struggling up and screaming down hills. There are a few relatively flat sections on Cedar River Road and in the Moose River Plains.
For race information and registration info visit BlackFlyChallenge.com, or call Pedals & Petals Bike Shop, 315-357-3281.
Spring Outside! with The Wild Center on Saturday, May 15th from 10 am until 3pm. Join The Wild Center, author and angler James Prosek, and more than 20 organizations and businesses ready to offer ideas to families for getting outside during this special free community day.
Family activities throughout the 31-acre campus include fly-casting with the Tri-Lakes Chapter of Trout Unlimited, fly-tying demonstrations with Wiley’s Flies, spin casting with the DEC, wooden boat building with the Adirondack Museum, Camping 101 with the Adirondack Mountain Club, a rock climbing wall, nature scavenger hunts and fort building.
An afternoon talk, “Fishing the 41st Parallel”, by award winning author, artist and angler James Prosek will be part of this special day. Fly Fishing the 41st from Connecticut to Mongolia and Home Again: A Fisherman’s Odyssey begins with, “One day, I left in a straight line from home at 41 Kachele Street, east along the 41st Parallel, following my passion for fish. It was a journey not only away from home, but toward it; which is the beauty of traveling in a circle, and the irony of adventure.” The journey along 41 degrees North, contains visits to places like: Paris, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Mongolia, and Japan. It is as much about the fish he catches as the people he encounters who share a passion for fish; an eccentric cast of characters illuminated through Prosek’s colorful stories and vivid descriptions. A book signing will follow the talk.
Other talks during the day include, Bill Schoch, the regional fisheries manager from the DEC, Patrick Sisti who will talk about “Fishing Adirondack Ponds 101”, “Water Safety” with Sonny Young and author Jay O’Hern.
Throughout the day the Wild Center will have otter enrichments, animal encounters, and naturalist walks. There will be art projects, fish encounters, fish feedings and live music.
Organizations participating in the day include Cornell Cooperative Extension, Adirondack Explorer, Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters, Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Museum, Blueline Sports Shop, Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, Five Ponds Partners, Girl Scouts of Northern New York, High Peaks Cyclery, The Hungry Trout, Jones Outfitters, New York State Outdoor News, Northern Lights School, Northwoods and Langskib Wilderness Programs Deep Water Project, NYS DEC, PackBasket Adventures/Wanakena General Store, Pok-O-MacCready, Raquette River Corridor Group, Raquette River Outfitters, Tri-Lakes Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Tupper Lake Rod and Gun Club and Wiley’s Flies.
Artist, writer, activist, and naturalist James Prosek made his authorial debut at nineteen years of age with Trout: an Illustrated History (Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), which featured seventy of his watercolor paintings of the trout of North America. Prosek has shown his paintings of trout and other natural history subjects with the Gerald Peters Gallery, New York and Santa Fe; Meredith Long Gallery, Houston; as well as with Wajahat/Ingrao, New York, and the DUMBO Arts Center, Brooklyn. His first solo museum showing was at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in 2007-2008. Prosek is a regular contributor to The New York Times and won a Peabody Award in 2003 for his documentary about traveling through England in the footsteps of Izaak Walton, the seventeenth-century author of The Compleat Angler. In 2004 he co-founded a conservation initiative called World Trout with Yvon Chouinard, the owner of Patagonia clothing company, which raises money for coldwater habitat conservation through the sale of T-shirts featuring trout paintings. As of 2009, World Trout has raised over $350,000 for coldwater conservation.
Prosek’s current work is concerned with man’s changing relationship to Nature. In his writing and painting he is examining the human compulsion to order nature through naming. Prosek’s next book, about eels, is due out in summer/fall 2010 with HarperCollins Publishers. The book explores the life history, mystery and world cultural associations concerning the freshwater eel. His story about freshwater eels is scheduled to run in National Geographic Magazine in 2010.
Prosek is a curatorial affiliate of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale, and a member of the board of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies.
In today’s world, the word “honeysuckle” is bound to get mixed reactions. To some people, it brings back memories of childhood, when they would gather the flowers and suck out the sweet nectar. To others, it conjures up olfactory reminiscences of the air filled with a sweet, sweet scent. In these days of invasive species of awareness, a good number of us think of honeysuckle as an evil, aggressive invader, taking over yards, fields, wetlands and forests. And all of these opinions would be correct, for there are about 180 species of honeysuckle in the genus Lonicera worldwide (all within the northern hemisphere), and each has its rightful place on the planet and in our memories.
Here in the Adirondacks, we are lucky to have several species of native honeysuckle: American fly (Lonicera canadensis), wild/glaucous/smooth-leaved/limber/mountain (L. dioica), hairy (L. hirsuta), swamp fly (L. oblongifolia), trumpet/coral (L. sempervirens), and waterberry/mountain fly/northern fly (L. villosa). None are considered rare or of special concern, and yet how many of us have, knowingly, encountered them?
Personally, I can only claim having come face-to-face with one of these shrubs, and that is the American fly honeysuckle. Usually blooming in the central Adirondacks in May, this year it began putting forth its twin, pale trumpets in mid-April. These delicate yellow flowers, sometimes tending towards a greenish-yellow, dangle almost completely hidden beneath the plant’s leaves. As you can see in the photo, I lifted the leaves for a better view. Later in the summer, these flowers are replaced with bright red fruits, paired, looking kind of like miniature glossy red mustaches.
Like all good honeysuckles in the family Caprifoliaceae, the American fly sports opposite branching. The leaves, growing in pairs on opposites sides of the branch, are oval-shaped, and if you look very closely at the edge of a leaf (you need a good handlens), you will see a fringe of hairs. Do these help protect the plant in times of cold weather? I have my doubts, since they are not terribly thick and woolly, and they only occur on the margin of the leaf. Still, they must have some significance, even if the world of science hasn’t discovered it yet.
Last night I looked through all my plant books (and that’s a good number, with volumes dating from the late 1800s right up to modern times) for some nifty information about American fly honeysuckle, but found nothing. Eventually I decided I’d settle for any lore about any of the honeysuckles. The world of botanical literature has let me down. The most interesting thing I could find was that the genus (Lonicera) is named after a 16th-century German botanist: Adam Lonicer (1528-1586). Reading up further on this fellow, I found that he was rather quite accomplished. He received his Master’s degree by the time he was sixteen-years-old. He went on to become a medical doctor, a mathematics professor, and quite the herbalist. Apparently his passion was in plants. His is most noted for his revision of Eucharius Rosslin’s herbal (book) in 1557. He called his herbal the Kräuterbuch.
Many of the Eastern Woodland natives knew that honeysuckles had some medicinal properties, too, for Native American Ethnobotany lists several of our native species, American fly among them. While treatment for various venereal diseases was a biggie in the lists, it seems that an infusion of the bark was equally important for calming children who spent the night crying – it is a sedative.
American fly honeysuckle is listed as an important nectaring plant for hummingbirds. Hm. Looking at the state of the flowers in the woods here, I’m thinking those hummers had better show up pretty soon if they want to take advantage of this food source, for many of the blossoms are looking rather past their prime. This could be a side effect of the recent snow, however, for I also saw a number of flower buds. Even so, hummingbirds usually don’t arrive in Newcomb until almost the second week of May. It seems we have another example of seasonal shifts and their effect(s) on wildlife.
If you should decide that you want to plant honeysuckle around your property, please take advantage of our native species. Some can be quite lovely, with flowers of yellow, orange and even red. Believe it or not, the red trumpet, or coral, honeysuckle, which is a vine, is native. So go ahead and put this in your gardens – the hummingbirds will love you for it. And forget the Japanese and tartarian honeysuckles. While beautiful, sweet, and full of bees when their blossoms open, they are “vigorous growers,” a gardening euphemism for aggressive invaders. Instead, support your local wildlife by supporting your local native plants.
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“The French,” wrote Seneca Ray Stoddard in his 1873 guide to Lake George, “burned whatever they could not carry off. They could not steal or burn the ‘Old Fort Well’ however, and it still remains, partially filled with stones and rubbish.”
It was rumored that the British hid their gold and silver in the well during the seige of 1757. After the surrender of the fort to the Marquis de Montcalm, the officers’ wives who had been told that they would be granted safe passage to Fort Edward threw their jewelry into the well “having a premonition of disaster,” according to one account.
According to Stoddard’s tale, “On the night of August 9, 1757, as the Indians went about the fort, killing and scalping the sick and wounded, two women were thrown headlong down the well after having been scalped.”
Despite that rich history, the well has been excavated only twice; in the 1950s and again in 1997, under the supervision of archeologist David Starbuck.
The well was dug in late 1755, after Sir William Johnson defeated the French at the Battle of Lake George and began building Fort William Henry. Rogers’ Rangers, it is believed, actually dug and built the 40 ft deep stone well.
At least one source has it that the completion of the well was commemorated with a dance and a ration of rum for all.
Approximately one hundred years after the destruction of the fort, the first hotel was built on the site.
“Honeymoon couples would walk by the well and throw silver coins into it, believing that this offering to the legends of the ghosts which have been said to inhabit the walls of the old report, would bring them good luck, and future happiness,” the Lake George Mirror reported in 1955.
When reconstruction of the current replica fort began in 1953, the bottom was only 19 and 1/2 feet from the curb, indicating that that in the intervening years about 20 feet of of dirt and debris had accumulated.
According to David Starbuck, archaeologists were unable to dig deeper than 23 feet before hitting water when excavating the well in 1960. In 1997, Starbuck began a new archaeological dig at the fort, part of which was an excavation of the well. With the aid of sections of steel culvert with which to line the well and prevent it from collapsing, Starbuck himself was able to reach a depth of 30 feet.
“Since 1960 the well had been the center of attention for every school child who visited the fort,” Starbuck wrote in his “Massacre at Fort William Henry.” “They left us with a forty year legacy of tourist memorabilia.”
Starbuck and his assistants found toys, sunglasses and a lot of bubblegum.
At 27 feet from the surface, Starbuck made a discovery that completes our knowledge of the well’s construction. “The well had been lined at its bottom with vertical wood planks, creating a water tight barrel that prevented silt from washing in,” Starbuck reported. “(Each of the planks) was three inches thick, and twelve inches wide. Massive and tightly joined, the boards were waterlogged and swollen, and groundwater could seep into the well only by running over the tops of the planks through knotholes.”
Fort William Henry’s Archaeology Hall includes a full scale recreation of the well, enabling viewers to experience for themselves Starbuck’s sensations as he stood at the bottom of the well, sending up buckets of earth, debris, and the thousands of coins visitors have tossed into the well over the years. (The treasure, we assume, went elsewhere.)
Gerry Bradfield, the fort’s curator at the time, installed a video camera within the well’s shaft and taped the entire process.
The Archaeology Hall and other rooms throughout the Fort contain thousands of artifacts discovered on the grounds of Fort William Henry since the 1950’s, when the reconstruction of the fort began. Recent discoveries, such as pre-historic pottery shards as well as buttons from the uniforms of American soldiers in the War of Independence, suggest that the site was used before and after the fort was burned in 1757.
The exhibits are part of a larger “Living History Program” designed to enable visitors to better understand the history of the colonial era. The program includes tours led by guides in authentic costumes, the firing of 18th century muskets and cannons, recreated scenes of life at the fort and scenes from the events that took place there, as well as visits to dungeons, a powder magazine and a crypt of the victims of Montcalm’s 1757 massacre. Visitors can also view the 1936 film version of Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans,” believed by many to be the best and most graphic portrayal of Montcalm’s siege and the ensuing massacre.
The Fort William Henry Museum is open from May through October.
Photo of Old Fort Well, circa 1959, Lake George Mirror files
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