Not everyone who visits Boreas Ponds goes there to paddle. Some people just want to see the ponds and walk in the woods. But since the state has yet to create or mark any trails, what are hikers to do once they get there?
Last Sunday, my girlfriend Carol and I scouted out the old logging roads in the vicinity in the ponds. The next day I went back alone and hiked a loop around the ponds with side trips to White Lily Pond and the headwater pond of the Boreas River.
I rode my mountain bike to the dam on Boreas Ponds, as allowed under the interim-access plan, so I’ll use that as my starting point in the description of my itinerary. If you start your hike from the parking area on Gulf Brook Road, you’ll need to add 3.6 miles to the distances.
In early June, I enjoyed one of my most memorable canoe trips in the Adirondacks: I spent the morning paddling around lovely Boreas Ponds, taking in breathtaking views of the High Peaks.
I had the place all to myself. This might seem surprising, given that the state had only recently purchased Boreas Ponds from the Nature Conservancy. Usually, such a magnificent acquisition to the Forest Preserve will attract curiosity seekers. Yes, it was a weekday, but my guess is that the explanation lies in the difficulty of getting there — especially with a canoe. » Continue Reading.
A draft amendment to the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Unit Management Plan and a draft Unit Management Plan for the Horicon Boat Launch (known popularly as the Schroon Lake Boat Launch) are now available for public review and comment.
Both the draft UMP for the Horicon Boat Launch and the draft UMP amendment for the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest contain proposed management actions that are located within the Schroon Recreational River Area. Pursuant to Part 666 of Title 6 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York -also known as the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers regulations – a public hearing is required. » Continue Reading.
I noticed this in the June 29 edition of the Environmental Notice Bulletin, a weekly publication of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation:
“Newcomb to Minerva Multi-Use Trail; Application ID 5-1599-00019/00001; Permit(s) Applied for: Article 15 Title 27 Wild, Scenic & Recreational Rivers; Project is Located: Newcomb, Essex County;
Project Description: The Department of Environmental Conservation proposes to construct a multi-use recreational trail within one-half (1/2) mile of the Boreas River, which is designated as a Scenic River by Environmental Conservation Law Title 27, Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Systems. The total acreage of the trail within the River corridor is approximately 1.1 acres, or approximately one (1) mile of trail, located within the 92,000-acre Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.”
The notice is incomplete and misleading. Here we have the DEC applying for a permit from itself to build a 9-12 foot snowmobile route from Newcomb to Minerva through undeveloped forest preserve, a route which will intersect the Boreas River just upstream of the Route 28N bridge. At this location, the Boreas is a designated Scenic River under the state’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act. The DEC’s route requires a new steel bridge over the river here to safely accommodate two-way snowmobile traffic. The route also requires cutting 1,676 trees on the Forest Preserve from the river to private land in Minerva. Cutting across private lands will require landowner agreements which may or may not be in hand or forthcoming.
An incomplete, misleading notice is not the greatest problem – the project is illegal. » Continue Reading.
My first reaction to the announcement of the state’s acquisition of magnificent Boreas Ponds for the Forest Preserve is to celebrate, and to recall how long the Adirondack Nature Conservancy has owned this 21,000 acre tract – the last of the big Finch Pruyn tracts which the state committed to purchase. It was April 2007 when Finch Pruyn employees, then Governor Spitzer, and the rest of the world learned that Finch was selling everything – all 161,000 acres – to the Conservancy, with help from the Open Space Institute. And in the same announcement, that the mill in Glens Falls would continue operations and employment.
This news that April day nine years ago was breathtaking. Adirondack Wild’s mentor Paul Schaefer had dreamed and worked for such a result from the early 1960s until his death in 1996. That was the significance of the Finch forests even fifty years ago. George Davis of the Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks (1968-70) put Boreas Ponds on the cover of the Commission’s final report. » Continue Reading.
The Iowa-Pacific rail company took state officials and environmental activists by surprise in July when it unveiled a plan to store hundreds of drained oil-tanker cars on its tracks near Tahawus on the edge of the High Peaks Wilderness.
Ed Ellis, the president of Iowa Pacific, says revenue from storing the cars will help keep afloat its tourist train, the Saratoga & North Creek Railway, which has been losing money. Critics contend Iowa Pacific is creating a quasi-junkyard in the Adirondack Park. » Continue Reading.
The contradictory, disconnected, segmented, illegal and impractical ways that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (with full cooperation from the Adirondack Park Agency so far and support from Governor Andrew Cuomo) is going about the business of planning and building community connector snowmobile routes in the Adirondack Park continues apace. Work planning for the just approved community connector between Newcomb and Minerva, for example, will prove very interesting indeed and will be challenged in every sense of that word. » Continue Reading.
A new 40-mile snowmobile thoroughfare will be built by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), mostly on “forever wild” Forest Preserve lands between the towns of Minerva, Newcomb and North Hudson. Construction of the 9 to 11 feet wide route, which was approved by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) in July, is expected to begin immediately. » Continue Reading.
Owners of the Saratoga-North Creek Railway have big plans for a new use of the railroad line from North Creek into the High Peaks.
Last week, company President Ed Ellis made a presentation to the Warren County Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee about the company’s new plans. Ellis sees an exciting business opportunity for his rail lines with low traffic in the long-term storage of hundreds of oil-soaked tanker cars. » Continue Reading.
Like the Roman god Janus, the Boreas River has two faces. The lower part, from Lester Dam to its confluence with the Hudson, has some of the most exciting and difficult whitewater in the Adirondacks. During the spring runoff, when water levels are high, it provides a wild ride through Class 3 and 4 rapids while it makes its way to the Hudson.
But that’s not my destination for today. Instead, I’m headed for the Boreas’s other face: Lester Flow, the tranquil quietwater section that flows downstream of Cheney Pond. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Council is proposing a huge expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness Area once the state acquires lands formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company.
Under the council’s plan, the state would combine the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness Areas as well as twenty-three thousand acres of former Finch lands. If this were done, the High Peaks Wilderness—already the largest Wilderness Area in the Adirondack Park—would grow to 272,000 acres from 204,000 acres.
Council spokesman John Sheehan said enlarging the High Peaks Wilderness would simplify the state’s management and planning for the popular region.
The proposal also would require the state to close a long dirt road that leads to Boreas Ponds, which are among the former Finch holdings that the state intends purchase over the next five years. » Continue Reading.
Boreas Ponds lives up to expectations, but getting there is not easy, even by car. It would be much harder if the state decides to close the seven-and-a-half mile dirt road that leads to the mile-long lake, which affords stupendous views of the High Peaks.
This Sunday I visited Boreas Ponds for the first time as part of the band of reporters accompanying Governor Andrew Cuomo and other state officials. Boreas Ponds is not open to the public now, but it will be sometime in the next five years.
The state intends to buy Boreas Ponds and the surrounding timberlands—some twenty-two thousand acres in all—from the Nature Conservancy in the coming years. All told, the state will buy sixty-nine thousand acres from the conservancy, nearly all of it former Finch Pruyn land. » Continue Reading.
A June 14 decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) Director of Proceedings awarding common carrier status to the Saratoga and North Creek Railway (SNCR), owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings, for freight operations on the 30-mile Tahawus industrial rail spur was appealed June 25 to the full Board by Charles C. Morrison, Project Coordinator for the Adirondack Committee, Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club and Samuel H. Sage, President and Senior Scientist of the Atlantic States Legal Foundation (ASLF). » Continue Reading.
The 38,500 acre Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area in the towns of Minerva, Schroon, and North Hudson (Essex County) is part of a giant swath of mountain wilderness you see along the west side of the Northway between Schroon Lake and North Hudson. It’s the kind of land the state has traditionally owned in the Adirondacks, rocky and mountainous, with little development potential. Most of the area is located in the Town of Schroon (21,593 acres), and North Hudson (15,280).
Once slated to be New York’s third state run ski area (more on that later) Hoffman Notch lies between Boreas Road (Blue Ridge Road Scenic Byway) on the North and developed areas west of Schroon Lake on the South (Loch Muller). On the east lies the Northway and Route 9, on the west Minerva Stream and the motorized Vanderwacker Wild Forest. Although Hoffman Notch lies in the Upper Hudson Watershed, its primary waterways are the Boreas River (designated a scenic river) and the Schroon River (designated recreational). The Schroon was an important location for early native American travel and likely some small settlements. Minerva Stream flows into Trout Brook along with Rogers Brook, while Platt Brook and The Branch flow directly into the Schroon. There are about 3,000 acres of wetland and 155 acres of open water, including Big Pond (57 acres) in the south near North Pond (25 acres) and the smaller Marion (10 acres), and Bailey (18 acre) ponds to the west. Long-established camping areas and trails around these ponds get very little use and are almost never by promoted by local tourism efforts. One small pond, Big Marsh (13 acres), lies in Hoffman Notch itself, near the middle of the Wilderness Area.
Major mountains include those in the Blue Ridge Range: Hoffman Mountain, Blue Ridge Mountain, and the Peaked Hills to the east. Hayes Mountain lies in the southwest. Mount Severence (or Severence Hill), the most popular spot in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness is located in the southeast corner, accessed via a trail from Route 9 that travels under the Northway.
Thomas Cole painted Hoffman Mountain, then called Schroon Mountain, from a sheep field now covered by forest and later, Grace Hudolowski drew inspiration from the view of Hoffman from her east side of Schroon Lake camp, the Boulders.
There has been almost little historical development of the area beyond the late 1800s when the softwoods were logged along Minerva Stream, and the Boreas and Schroon rivers. Logging began with mostly pine, and then shifted to spruce and hemlock used in local tanneries. Because there was little market for hardwoods and they couldn’t be floated to mills, these trees were generally left behind.
The Hoffman Notch Wilderness was mostly (60%) acquired by the State from logging companies for back taxes before 1900. State law at the time, until the creation of the Forest Preserve, required the State to bid for lands at tax sale that had no other bidders. A smaller portion of Hoffman Notch (25%) was acquired between 1891 and 1900 by purchase. A section to the west was acquired in a settlement with George Finch that provided Finch Pruyn and Company the right to dam waters and flood land in order to drive logs to the Hudson, to cut some trees to build and repair dams and driving camps, a ten‐year logging easement (called then a “timber reservation”) and a right‐of way for an east‐west railroad, which was never built. The small balance of lands were acquired from timber companies and private citizens during the Great Depression. In 1959 Finch, Pruyn and Company gave the “People of State of New York” the last large piece located in the north central part of Hoffman Notch.
There were early tanneries nearby which likely drew hemlock bark from what is now the Wilderness Area. One was at Olmstedville, four were located a couple miles apart west of Schroon Lake, two on The Branch, and one west of North Hudson. These tanneries could consume 15,000 cords of bark per year, but most were out of business by the 1870s.
Jacob Parmeter built a forge in 1857 on the north bank of the West Branch (today The Branch) of the Schroon River and a sawmill and gristmill were also located there. The forge, sometimes called the Schroon River Forge, was owned by John Roth between 1861 and 1881, it was destroyed by fire in the very early 1880s. Roth’s Forge, was said to have had two or three fires, an 1,800 pound hammer and two wheels that produced blooms, billots and slabs and used ore brought from nearby Paradox Lake and Moriah. The tiny settlement of mostly workers was recreated as Roth’s Forge Village at Frontier Town in the 1950s.
Once most of the Hoffman Notch land had been acquired by the state, the Bailey Pond Inn was built in the late 1890’s in the hamlet of Loch Muller to the south by Paschal (Pasco) Warren. Begun as a simple boarding house, but later known as Warrens Inn, the location’s primary selling point was its access to the ponds, streams, and mountains in the Hoffman Notch area. The hotel was purchased by the Gadjo family in 1947. The Loch Muller white pine is located nearby, said to have been planted in 1845 by Paschal Warren, when he and the tree were both 12 years old. In 1920, Warren put a plaque on the tree with the inscription “Woodsman Spare That tree, Touch Not a Single Bough, In Youth It Protected Me, And I’ll Protect It Now.” Arthur Warren’s granddaughter, Marion is believed to have given her name to Marion Pond.
In 1967 there was a proposal to build a ski resort with lifts and 30 miles of trails on Hoffman Mountain and two of the Peaked Hills. The plan was sponsored by the Schroon – North Hudson Winter Sports Council . Among the local proponents were M. Leo Friedman, a Schroon Lake attorney and realtor; Arthur Douglas, Town of Jay Supervisor and Essex County Chair; members of the Essex County Fish and Game League; the Town Supervisors of Schroon, North Hudson and Ticonderoga; and several local newspaper editors. Despite opposition by the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Forest Preserve taking passed the state legislature, but was defeated by voters by a margin of nearly 3 to 1.
Today, Hoffman Notch is little used. The historic route through the Notch is the Hoffman Notch Trail, which was designated a snowmobile trail until the adoption of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan in 1972 made it a non‐conforming use and it became a foot trail, and perhaps more famously, a cross country ski trail. The Bailey Pond Trail was once a town road but was abandoned and Big Pond Trail (from Hoffman Road to junction of Hoffman Notch Trail) was once a logging road but now sees mostly cross country skiers.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the release of the draft unit management plan (UMP) for the Hoffman Notch Wilderness. The unit consists of 38,500 acres in the Towns of North Hudson, Minerva and Schroon Lake in Essex County.
“The release of the draft unit management plan for the Hoffman Notch Wilderness is another significant milestone in our efforts to improve public access and ensure the protection of the Adirondacks for future generations,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “The public’s participation has been extremely valuable throughout the planning process to date, providing the Department with important information and recommendations incorporated into the draft plan.” A public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26, at the Town of Schroon Town Hall in Schroon Lake. The meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to learn more on the proposed management actions in the draft UMP and to provide comment on the proposals. DEC will accept comments on the draft UMP until May 13, 2011. The meeting facility is wheelchair accessible. Please provide any requests for specific accommodation to 518-623-1200 at least two weeks in advance.
The Hoffman Notch Wilderness, southern Essex County, is situated near the communities of Newcomb, North Hudson, Schroon Lake, Minerva and Olmstedville. The unit is generally bounded on the north by the Boreas Road, on the east by the Adirondack Northway, on the south by Hoffman Road, and on the west by the boundary of Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.
The Hoffman Notch Wilderness offers many recreational opportunities, including but not limited to hiking, cross country skiing, camping, canoeing, hunting, trapping and fishing. With over 18 miles of marked trails available, the public can easily reach a variety of natural attractions such as Hoffman Notch and Mt. Severance, as well as popular fishing locations at Bailey Pond or Big Pond. Other scattered water bodies providing additional recreational uses include Big Marsh, North Pond, Sand Pond, and Marion Pond.
Recommended management actions in the draft UMP include:
• Designate and sign the herd path south of Big Pond as a DEC trail connected to the Big Pond Trail to create a loop hiking and cross country skiing trail system from Hoffman Road and connected to Loch Muller road.
• Construct foot bridges over Hoffman Notch Brook near north end of Hoffman Notch Trail and over East Branch on the Big Pond Trail.
• Reroute 1/4 mile portion of Hoffman Notch Trail north of Big Marsh to west side of Hoffman Notch Brook.
• Construct an improved parking lot along the Blue Ridge Road to serve as the northern trailhead for the Hoffman Notch Trail.
• Designate two primitive tent sites on Big Pond.
A UMP must be completed before significant new recreational facilities, such as trails, lean-tos, or parking areas, can be constructed. The plan includes an analysis of the natural features of the area and the ability of the land to accommodate public use. The planning process is designed to cover all environmental considerations for the unit and forms the basis for all proposed management activities for a five-year time period.
UMPs are required by the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan for each unit of State land in the Adirondack Park. The plans integrate the goals and objectives of the Master Plan, related legislation, and resource and visitor use information into a single document.
The draft UMP will be available for public review beginning next week at DEC headquarters in Albany, DEC Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook and the DEC Region 5 office in Warrensburg. CDs of the plan will be available at these same locations, as well as the offices for the Towns of North Hudson, Minerva and Schroon Lake, and the Schroon Lake Public Library. The complete document will be available on DEC’s Unit Management Plan website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/22600.html.
Public comments will be accepted until May 13, 2011, and may be sent to Ben Thomas, Senior Forester, NYSDEC, 232 Golf Course Road, Warrensburg, NY 12885 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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