This fall the Lake George Association will begin a project to stabilize a long section of streambank in the village of Lake George, on West Brook, which was severely eroded during last August’s Tropical Storm Irene. A $10,000 grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program is making the project possible. The project will also restore some of natural sinuosity of the stream to protect the streambanks in that section of the brook. Once complete, the project is expected to keep exposed sediment from further eroding into West Brook, and ultimately into Lake George.
“Because West Brook is one of the major tributaries to Lake George,” said LGA Project Manager Randy Rath, “it is a very high priority for us. In the last 30 plus years, the delta in Lake George at the end of West Brook is estimated to have grown to over 7000 square meters. We would like to limit as much additional growth as possible,” he continued. » Continue Reading.
The Wild Center will host climate experts and authors of a recent New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) report on the State’s adaptation recommendations regarding “Responding to Climate Change in New York State” or “ClimAID” on Thursday, March 29, 2012.
Scientists will highlight pertinent findings of the ClimAID report and then Adirondack region scientists and members of the Adirondack Climate and Energy Action Plan (ADKCAP) network will discuss local efforts to prepare for and slow the changing climate. The event coincides with the Association of Science and Technology Center’s (ASTC) participation in the international “Planet under Pressure” conference in London, where The Wild Center’s Executive Director, Stephanie Ratcliffe, a member of the ASTC board, will join the ClimAID event by Skype or phone to share the international perspective. The event will be streamed live on the Internet and light refreshments will be provided by The Wild Center.
NYSERDA’s new ClimAID report on responding to climate change in New York State says we’re likely to see more intense rainstorms that could flood roads and wastewater treatment plants, cause power outages, and disrupt telecommunications, inflicting the kinds of severe damage that Irene did last year. Repairs could be costly. So could business interruptions.
Protecting key features of the environment that contribute to flood control can help build resilience to future floods.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
You can learn more about how climate change may affect our region at The Wild Center’s March 29 ClimAID presentation on Thursday, March 29, 2012 from 10:00 am to noon and other upcoming ADKCAP/NYSERDA ClimAID discussions.
The ClimAID presentation will be held in the Flammer Theater, The Wild Center, 45 Museum Drive, in Tupper Lake.
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have announced that they have secured funding to prevent the imminent shutdown of 18 United States Geological Survey (USGS) river and lake gauges in the Lake Champlain basin. Those gauges – nine in Vermont and nine in New York – were seen as vital to communities impacted by last year’s spring floods and during Tropical Storm Irene. The funding has been secured through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC). » Continue Reading.
The Special and Urgent Needs (SUN) Fund at the Adirondack Community Trust (ACT) is now offering grants of up to $2,500 to nonprofit organizations serving the needs of victims of Tropical Storm Irene.
Immediately following the disaster on August 28, generous and caring people from across the country began sending gifts and holding events to raise funds for people in the Adirondacks who suffered damages. Donations to the Keene Flood Recovery Fund and the Jay Irene Flood Relief Fund at ACT have already been transformed into more than 120 grants averaging $3,000 that went directly to people, businesses and nonprofits. The flow of donated funds to people in need continues, especially important as cold weather sets in. “The SUN Fund expands our ability to help and gives donors a way to contribute more broadly, across the entire Adirondack range of the storm,” said ACT Board Member Nancy Keet. “We hope nonprofits will apply for these funds right away, so we can turn donor contributions into grants that do the work they were meant to do.” The difference between the SUN Fund and the Keene and Jay funds at ACT is that the SUN Fund makes grants to charitable nonprofits and the Keene and Jay funds make grants to individuals. This grant offer from the SUN Fund includes nonprofits in Keene and Jay.
Any 501c3 nonprofit working to address the ongoing needs of people in the areas hit by the storm is encouraged to apply for funds. Applications from nonprofits that suffered damages to their facilities are also welcome. A grant application can be found on ACT’s website, generousact.org, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. ACT will respond to an application within three weeks.
“ACT has been able to get funds into the hands of those in need very quickly,” said Cali Brooks, ACT Executive Director. “Dedicated volunteers in Keene and Jay have bhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifeen reviewing individuals’ applications rapidly, so that ACT can move funds toward people without delay. Applications for SUN Fund grants to nonprofits will be reviewed with the same alacrity by the ACT Grants Committee.”
Giving to these flood relief funds continues. Many people are including flood recovery in their holiday and year-end giving plans. Visit generousact.org or call ACT’s office 518-523-9904 for information on how to give.
Burlington College students, under the direction of their instructor, Adirondack Almanack editor John Warren, will conduct Oral History interviews to record the Tropical Storm Irene stories of Jay and Keene residents on Saturday, December 3rd, at the Keene Community Center, (8 Church Street, in Keene), between 10 and 4 pm. The public is invited to share their stories; the resulting oral histories will be added to the collections of the Adirondack Museum. Participants can schedule a time on December 3, or walk-in anytime between 10 am and 4 pm. It will only be necessary to spend about 15-20 mins at the Community Center where participants will be asked a number of questions about their experiences with Irene and will be provided an opportunity to tell the stories they think are important to remember about the events of this past late-summer.
To schedule your participation contact John Warren via e-mail at email@example.com or call (518) 956-3830. The public is invited. Walk-ins are welcome.
One of the more amazing statistics to emerge from Tropical Storm Irene was that the East Branch of the Ausable crested at 18.43 feet in Ausable Forks—three feet higher than the previous record and more than eleven feet above flood stage. The river’s flow peaked at fifty thousand cubic feet per second, a hundred times greater than normal.
Just a few months after the record storm, the U.S. Geological Survey is warning that it will be forced to discontinue most of the streamgages in the Lake Champlain basin on March 1 unless funding can be found to keep them going.
Throughout New York State, the USGS plans to discontinue thirty-one gages, including nine in or near the Adirondack Park. (The USGS uses the spelling “gages” rather than “gauges.”)
The gage that measured the record crest on the East Branch of the Ausable is not on the chopping block, not yet anyway. However, one nearby that is at risk has been in operation for more than eighty years, longer than any of other gages scheduled to be discontinued.
“We’ve got eighty-two years of records at this site. It is important for determining how flows are changing over time,” said Ward Freeman, director of the USGS New York Water Science Center in Troy. The center’s website contains real-time data from rivers throughout the state.
Streamgages measure the height and flow of rivers. Data are used to predict floods, calculate nutrient pollution, assess conditions for paddling, and determine when it’s appropriate to put lampricide in tributaries of Lake Champlain.
John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council, warned that without stream data, riverside communities will find it more difficult to protect themselves. “We won’t know what the changes in a river’s height and volume are, and as a result we can’t plan for flooding events,” he said.
In the past, many gages were funded through congressional earmarks, but lawmakers eliminated the earmarks a few years ago to save money, Freeman said. He added that the USGS needs $134,000 to keep the nine North Country gauges operational. (Each gage costs about $15,000 a year to operate and maintain.)
Eight of the gages are on rivers that feed Lake Champlain. Besides the Ausable, they are the Great Chazy, Little Ausable, Salmon, Boquet, Mettawee, and Putnam Creek. The ninth is on a narrow part of Lake Champlain itself near Whitehall.
Gages on another dozen rivers in Vermont that feed Lake Champlain also are scheduled to be shut down. Four others were discontinued in October.
This year, USGS was able to keep the gages on Lake Champlain tributaries running only after obtaining financial assistance from the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Freeman said he hopes the Lake Champlain organization and other interested parties can come up with money again.
“We’re going to do all we can to save these gages,” Freeman said.
Eric Howe, a technical coordinator for the basin program, said the non-profit organization will do everything it can to keep the gages operational, but it’s too early to tell if the group will have enough funds. Last year it spent about $150,000 to keep the gages running.
“The gages were extremely important during Tropical Storm Irene,” Howe said. “They helped us see what the tributaries were doing in the flooding.”
Thanks to a gage on the Winooski River, he said, farmers were able to round up volunteers to harvest crops in advance of floods.
Freeman is asking those willing to contribute funding for the gages to call him or Rob Breault at 518-285-5658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read the Adirondack Explorer’s comprehensive coverage of Tropical Storm Irene.
Photo by Ken Aaron: a high-water line near Ausable Forks.
How much rain fell during Tropical Storm Irene? Seems like an easy question, but it’s not.
The National Weather Service relies on volunteers to collect rainfall, and given the variance in rainfall and the finite number of volunteers, there are bound to be gaps in the data record.
For the current issue of the Adirondack Explorer, Nancy Bernstein created a rainfall map based on the Weather Service’s own maps. It shows that more than seven inches of rain fell in Keene, Jay, and Au Sable Forks. But how much more? The Explorer’s publisher, Tom Woodman, measured eleven inches at his home in Keene. » Continue Reading.
So asks the headline on AccuWeather’s website. And the answer appears to be yes.
AccuWeather says the La Nina effect means the Midwest and much of the Northeast can expect a cold and snowy winter. Paul Pastelok, a meteorologist with the weather-forecasting service, predicts that arctic air blowing across the Great Lakes will generate above-normal lake-effect snowfalls. “Overall, precipitation is expected to be above normal throughout most of the Northeast from January into February,” according to AccuWeather. “With the exception of northern parts of New York and New England, temperatures are forecast to average near normal for the winter season.”
So if you put any stock in long-range forecasts, this could be a great winter for backcountry skiing.
Even if they don’t believe the weatherman, backcountry skiers have something to look forward to this winter: new terrain.
In August, Tropical Storm Irene created or lengthened more than a dozen slides in the High Peaks, many of which should provide exciting skiing for those with the requisite skills and gear.
A big caveat: slides can and do avalanche. In 2000, a skier died in an avalanche on a slide on Wright Peak. Avalanches have occurred elsewhere in the Adirondacks as well, usually triggered by skiers, snowshoers, or ice climbers. Slide skiers should carry a beacon, probe, and shovel and know how to use them. And they should know how to gauge avalanche potential.
So far, I have climbed only five of the new slides, those on Wright, Cascade, Saddleback, Little Colden, and Colden. Click here to read about them in the new issue of the Adirondack Explorer.
Two slides that are likely to get skied a lot are on Wright Peak and Lower Wolf Jaw.
The one on Wright scoured a streambed that can be followed to a steep headwall. The streambed also will facilitate access to the nearby Angel Slides, where the skier died in 2000. Skiers will be able to bag the Angel Slides and the new slide in one outing. The streambed is reached by a short bushwhack from Marcy Dam. The new slide is a mile long.
Bennies Brook Slide on Lower Wolf Jaw has long been a popular ski destination. In the past, skiers followed a path through the woods to reach the slide. Irene extended the slide all the way to the Southside Trail and Johns Brook. With the easier access and additional terrain, Bennies will be more popular than ever.
Irene also has affected some popular trails used by backcountry skiers. Most noteworthy is that floods caused by the storm washed away the bridge at Marcy Dam.Skiers who started at Adirondak Loj used the bridge en route to Mount Marcy or Avalanche Lake. Thanks to Irene, they will have to cross the frozen pond (now largely a mudflat) or approach the dam via the Marcy Dam Truck Trail instead of the trail from the Loj.
The bridge at the start of the Klondike Notch Trail also was washed away. Skiers can still reach the trail by skiing up the Marcy Dam Truck Trail and turning left onto the Mr. Van Trail.
The Adirondack Ski Touring Council reports that Irene did minimal damage to the Jackrabbit and other ski trails maintained by the council. Repairs are scheduled to be made this fall.
Carl Schwartz, US Fish and Wildlife Service and John Braico, NYS Trout Unlimited will lead a walk of the Ausable River on October 24 focused on rebuilding and repairing streams effected by flooding. Funds recently secured by the Ausable River Association (AsRA) for restoring tributaries damaged during Irene flooding are being considered for allocation.
Both Schwartz and Braico have worked extensively throughout New York to repair rivers and restore aquatic habitat. Schwartz works actively on river restoration projects and operates an excavator to build natural channels. The Ausable River Association and the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District are inviting and encouraging Citizens, Town Council members, Town DPWs, County DPW, DOT, DEC, and NonGovernmental Organizations to attend.
Date: October 24, 10 AM; Meet at the mouth of John’s Brook at the Rt. 73 bridge in Keene Valley; 2 PM Meet at the Gazebo in Ausable Forks.
For more information, contact the Ausable River Association.
Trail work calls many a climber but with life getting in the way it’s only a lucky few who actually get to enjoy this dream job. One needs time and energy to spare to fully enjoy climbing a peak all the while trimming, chopping, and tossing. For us stalwarts, trail work is a kind of luxury. Year after year we observe the effects of weather and people on the mountains while marveling at the ever evolving beauty of wild flowers and other vegetation as our slow pace allows us to monitor the progress of spring and fall. Sometimes we get too close to a branch and drop blood on the trail, or suddenly become a delicious buffet for a hive of Yellow Jackets. Gushing head wounds are the best as patient and caregiver take a break from the trail to partake in murder mystery and general hospital all in one. Obviously the audience is limited but one day when retiring from trail work we will be more than ready for the big screen.
Repellent works nicely thank you against black flies and by the time deer and horse flies abound summer has arrived and trail work pauses. Anyway, we have to admit that but for a handful of spring days black flies do not harass volunteer trail workers since they much prefer “fresh” peak baggers!
Let’s mention the invaluable fringe benefits of a tree hugging job: mud caking, soaking dew showers, balsam needles coating, pitch smears, spruce scratches: all combined to keep one forever young and cute.
There are countless ways to participate in trail work depending on one’s availability. It’s all under DEC governance and rules but mostly via the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), Adirondack Trail Improvement Society (ATIS) and the 46ers. Volunteers can either register for one or several of the trail days organized every year by the ADK and the 46ers or become the steward of a particular section of trail, an agreement renewed on a yearly basis. Being a steward is more of a commitment but it gives the adopter schedule flexibility.
Luckily, as there is much more to do than volunteers can undertake, the DEC, ATIS and ADK have professional trail crews in the field every year for a certain number of weeks depending on projects and funding.
Tony Goodwin has been Director of ATIS (founded in 1897) for 25 years and never lacks for things to be done. As he is known to utter, “Trail work is never done”. In his capacity he takes care of 105 miles of public trails and walks most of them once every year! At the ADK (founded in 1922), from early spring to late fall, Wes Lampman, Director of Field Programs, does not have a minute to himself either. The ADK oversees close to 200 miles of trails.
As for the 46Rs (founded in 1948) volunteers clear 36 miles of trail every year. The toughest job for volunteers is no doubt adopting a herd path as some have been doing since 2004. The relatively high turnover in stewards testifies to the mental and physical fortitude it takes to actually do herd path maintenance. Most herd paths are far from trailheads and often consist of roots, mud and steep ledges galore. One volunteer in particular, Matt Clark, deserves our admiration for his unfailing commitment (8 years and counting) to the Redfield path.
Then the occasional hurricane re-routes trails and brooks not always for the best. Following Irene’s furry, the DEC sent a large and experienced trail crew composed from the various neighboring regions staff to clear trails during most of September allowing the re-opening of the High Peaks in record time.
As a result of Irene’s massive destruction, many a brook and a river found themselves occupied by heavy machinery trying to restore the past in an attempt to temper future flooding. The resulting uniform landscape seen from every bridge is not getting a round of applause and the jury is still out on the efficiency of the work. Below is a picture (A) of the new and improved Roaring Brook bed (New Russia side of the Giant Wilderness) as it goes under Route 9 to enter the Boquet. Photo B shows the same brook 20 yards upstream from the brook work where a house partially collapsed during the tropical storm. Photos C and D are views of the same brook 100 yards upstream!
Irene did have one positive impact. The Orebed Trail ladders had been in need of extensive repairs for years until finally thanks to Kris A. Alberga, District Forester (DEC), Wes Lampman (ADK), Ranger Jim Giglinto and a few generous climbers, rebuilding began in mid-August. The work progressed until Irene decided to take control of the situation. The newly built ladders (E) resisted Irene’s onslaught but the environment was drastically re-organized (F). Consequently, upon close inspection, Ranger Giglinto determined that the new gentle and stair-like slide above would make for an easy enough climb without any further manmade assistance. Unused funds earmarked for this work will be available for other projects.
The numerous bridges and dams which were crushed or pushed aside may make fall and winter travel tougher than usual as it will take time (and money) to re-position and rebuild them (if at all in certain cases). Duck Hole (photos G & H) will no doubt be an ongoing story for months if not years as the debate will rage about the pros and cons of rebuilding the historic dam. However, there seems to be a consensus about the urgency of rebuilding Marcy Dam.
In the meantime, we wish you and ourselves many more years of trail work and all joys and rewards that come with it. Photos (I & J) show Gary Koch and Pete Biesemeyer doing just that along the Upper Range Trail this past spring. Pete has been doing trail work every year since 1954 while Gary adopted his first lean-to in 1986 and became a trail steward in 1989. Both would easily convince any passer-by they are not a day over seventeen!
“It is unfortunate that dredging has proceeded without any guidance from river experts who could provide natural stream dimensions based on a rapid assessment of natural bankfull, pool depth and riffle spacing. Measurements that could be done in a few hours and eliminate years of lost habitat,” stated Carol Treadwell, Executive Director of the Ausable River Association (ARA).
Natural stream dimensions? Bankfull? Pool depth? Riffle spacing? What is this, a how-to manual? A certain amount of assembly required? Or a level of river awareness and fluency that any floodplain community had better strive for? It is understandable why the small streams and rivers in this heavily damaged region of the Adirondacks (twice this year) may be viewed as marauding aliens and enemies which require a serious “talking to” by backhoe. The human and community impacts of the flood are enormous and gut wrenching.
Yet, post World War Two we keep building in floodplains, whether we know we are or not. A favored textbook reads: “The average annual flood damage nationwide… has continued to increase… The use of flood-prone land continues to rise faster than the application of measures to reduce flood damages. This continues to be one of the foremost challenges to land planners – finding ways to control the use of flood-prone areas, and ways of requiring those who seek the advantages of use of floodable areas to assume a fair proportion of the financial risk involved in such use” (Water in Environmental Planning, by Thomas Dunne and Luna Leopold, 1978).
Carol’s quote was submitted for a news release issued this week by a coalition of concerned organizations and individuals who live in these communities, along with a letter to Governor Cuomo seeking an end to floodplain management by bulldozer, and a meeting to assess how best to respond to the altered nature of these waterways in ways that are mindful of people, property, stream health, aesthetics and tourism on which so many of these towns and Essex County depend.
Carol denotes an apparent lack of “river experts” and related oversight of the heavy earth moving equipment moving about our region’s streams during the Governor’s month-long emergency authorization. The Ausable River Association has spent years studying the Ausable. Similarly, the Boquet River Association on the Boquet. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency know something about the behavior and morphology of rivers and floodplains. NYS DOT has environmental experts who know how to manage highway rights of way without taking a proverbial two by four to the environment. So, where are they? It was good to read that the Essex County Board of Supervisors is calling on these experts to help them assess and, if necessary, adjust the in-stream work as may be necessary. Governor Cuomo should have had his environmental experts in the field overseeing any stream work a month ago.
Yet, our state agency experts and field managers at DEC, APA, DOT still seem unable to respond in a coordinated, effective fashion, despite the fact that the Emergency Authorization issued by NYS DEC on that fateful Sunday, August 29 states: “This Authorization hereby allows emergency work to occur in navigable waters, streams and wetlands regulated under Environmental Conservation Law Article 15 and Article 24. The work hereby allowed must be immediately necessary to address an imminent threat to life, health, property, the general welfare and natural resources. All work carried out under this Authorization must be conducted in a minimally invasive manner, consistent with the goals of the restoration work. Non‐critical work is not allowed by this Authorization. All work must be undertaken in compliance with the conditions below.”
The emergency authorization and all conditions for working in the rivers is found at the DEC website. Based on what Dan Plumley of Adirondack Wild has observed, many of these conditions are being violated every day, but this assumes that the equipment operators understand the conditions, and that DEC is on-site to explain them, which it appears not to be.
There is probably a strong difference of opinion whether the work to date has been “minimally invasive” and necessary to address imminent threat. At the same time, the workers in the streams and their supervisors are doing all they can with the information and resources at hand. Which gets me back to Carol Treadwell’s quote: “natural stream dimensions based on a rapid assessment of natural bankfull, pool depth and riffle spacing. Measurements that could be done in a few hours and eliminate years of lost habitat.”
What is she talking about? I return to and quote from Dunne and Leopold’s Water in Environmental Planning (1978). Rivers construct their own floodplains, laterally migrate, and deposit lots of sediment in the process. Over a very long process of movement the river occupies each and every position on the flat valley floor, with the river moving laterally by erosion on one bank and deposition on the other. That is the meander that rivers want to achieve as their way of expending energy most efficiently. In fact, really straight stretches of river (absent human channelization) are rare “and seldom does one see a straight reach of length exceeding 10 channel widths.”
Yet, the river does not construct a channel large enough to accommodate flood stages. The bankfull stage referred to by Carol “corresponds to the river discharge at which channel maintenance is most effective, that is the discharge at which moving sediment, forming or removing bars, forming or changing bends and meanders, and generally doing work that results in the average morphologic characteristics of (river) channels.”
The authors Dunne and Leopold continue: “It is human encroachment on the floodplains of rivers that accounts for the majority of flood damage. Because it is a natural attribute of rivers to produce flows that cannot be contained within the channel, the floodplain is indeed a part of the river during such events. It is therefore important that planners know something about these characteristic features, and thus possibly counteract to some degree the emphasis placed on flood-control protection works. More logical is flood damage prevention by the restriction of floodplain use.”
In short straight sections in between meanders, stream pools and riffles alternate in consistent ways due to the creation of gravel bars on the convex side of a meander. “The distance between successive bars averages five to seven channel widths.” The alteration of steep (over the riffles) and less steep water (over the pools) is characteristic of rivers, as is the fact that meanders are steeper than the average straight section. I think this is the “pool-riffle spacing” Carol is speaking of. She may be suggesting that in-stream work should seek to maintain this kind of pool-riffle spacing, and ensure that stream slopes are not severely altered.
The worst thing to do, according to Dunne and Leopold, is to severely shorten a river channel with consequent change in channel gradient. “An imposed change of river slope can cause an instability quite irreversible in any short period of time, and is the most difficult change to which a stream must adjust.” It appears this is exactly what heavy equipment operators did to Johns Brook, and may be doing to other stream sections.
The authors’ conclusions may be ones which Governor Cuomo, DOT, DEC, APA, and Essex County should pay particular attention to: “Among the potential costs or disadvantages accruing from channel modification are: 1. Channel instability or effects of channel readjustment to the imposed conditions; 2. Downstream effects especially increased bank erosion, bed degradation or aggradation; 3. Esthetic degradation, especially the change in stream biota and the visual alteration of riparian vegetation, and of stream banks and channel pattern or form.”
Photos: Johns Brook, Keene, before and after channel dredging and grading by state-funded heavy equipment, photos by Naj Wikoff.
Refrigerators can float. There are many things that can be learned from flooding, and that’s one tidbit that stuck with me from when my parents’ house took on about two feet of water more than a decade ago. When the water subsided enough to safely wade to their front door, I went there alone to assess the damage—but the door wouldn’t budge. Finally, it began to give an inch or two at a time. When I managed to squeeze in, I was more than a little surprised at what I found. » Continue Reading.
Earlier this summer close observers noticed a small white soul patch etched on the southern (Lake Placid) face of Whiteface Mountain. Tropical storm Irene embellished it into a brilliant, narrow v-shaped slide. Whiteface mountain today (and ever after) is showing a bit more of the anorthosite that gave it its name.
A few days after Hurricane Irene, I hiked to Duck Hole to see how the place looked after the breach of the old logging dam. Although the pond lost most of its water, there were streams running through the resultant mudflats and a pool remained at the base of the waterfall on east shore.
Earlier in the year, I had carried my canoe to Duck Hole and had a ball paddling around and admiring views of High Peaks. Now I wondered if anyone would ever want to bring a canoe to Duck Hole again.
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