Posts Tagged ‘Lake Champlain-Champlain Valley’

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Adirondack Lamprey: Monsters of the Deep?

Lampreys (petromyzontidae) are native to parts of the Adirondacks. They are among the most primitive fish in the world and can be distinguished from eels by their lack of jaws and paired fins. Most species of Lamprey have a parasitic life stage, where they will attach themselves to other fish like Lake Trout and “rasp” through the skin using their teeth and tongue. Within the Adirondacks three species can be found within Lake Champlain and some of its tributaries, these include: Silver lamprey, Sea lamprey, and the non-parasitic American Brook lamprey.

Lampreys have an elongate shape with seven pairs of round gill openings. They have a single nostril that is located in front of the eyes. All species have similar life histories; in the spring, they move into streams to spawn. Adults build nests by moving pebbles on the substrate to form a depression in which to lay their eggs. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Something Slimy: Adirondack Algae

Have you ever wondered what that slimy green/ brown stuff covering rocks or floating in the water was? What you were looking at was algae. Algae, like plants, use the sun to make energy (photosynthetic organisms), and are food for a variety of animals including fish, bugs, and birds. Algae differ from plants by not having true roots and leaves.

Also like plants, algae need light and a food source to grow. Algae loves phosphorus and nitrogen that enter the water. If these nutrients enter the water excessively, algae can bloom and become a nuisance and potential health hazard. When algae blooms it can become toxic, clog intake pipes and discourage swimming and other recreational activities.

Algal blooms have been found in bodies of water throughout the Adirondacks, some of the most noted in Lake Champlain where blue/green algae or cyanobacteria can be found. These algae can form toxic blooms that can harm humans, pets and wildlife. Not all algae produces toxins, in fact most algae does not.

Lake George has been also been experiencing algal blooms. Algae there is found in the littoral zone, or near shore and is mostly green algae with very little blue/green. Generally algal blooms within Lake George are caused by lawn fertilizers washing into the lake, faulty septic systems, and storm water.

Excessive amounts of algae can also cause a dead-zone within a lake, an area of the water that has no oxygen and thus no fish. If you see an algal bloom in Lake Champlain contact the Lake Champlain Committee at (802) 658-1414 and report time of day, location and a description. Algal bloom in Lake George should be reported to the Lake George Waterkeeper.

While excessive amounts of algae are bad, it is a natural part of the aquatic environment. Algae can also be used by a trained scientist to determine if a body of water is healthy.

There are a variety of types of algae that can be seen in almost any body of water, including your fish tank. One of the more interesting types, looks like a ribbon twisting in a glass bottle. This form is often found in Lake George.

Photos: Above, spirogyra; Middle, cladophora; Below, mixed diatoms. Courtesy of Corrina Parnapy.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Essex County Grange Hall Farm Mixer

The Greenhorns, a national nonprofit organization led by a self described “raucous posse of America’s new generation of farmers,” will host a grange hall mixer at the historic Whallonsburg Grange Hall on the shores of Lake Champlain this Saturday, June 25th beginning at 10 am and continuing into the night.

More than 150 aspiring, young, beginning and veteran farmers from the Hudson Valley, Champlain Valley, Capital Region, Adirondacks, and even some Vermonters are expected to attend this inaugural event. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Tahawus Blast Furnace Ruins

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.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Great Blue Heron

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.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Continued Impacts of Lake Champlain Flooding

Although water levels have finally dropped below flood stage on Lake Champlain this week, a Flood Warning remains in effect and facilities and businesses near low-lying shorelines continue to be heavily impacted by high waters.

The Ausable Point Campground remains closed, as is the campground access road. Many Valcour Island campsites and access points are still flooded and due to the high waters, floating docks have not been installed and bathrooms are closed at Peru Dock, Port Douglas, Willsboro Bay and other boat launches. Vermont closed all access to Lake Champlain except for Tabor Point, malletts Bay, Lamoille River, Converse Bay, and Larabee’s Point. Quebec closed all access and shut down boating to prevent further shoreline erosion due to wakes. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

June is Adirondack Birding Festival Month

Take the Teddy Roosevelt Birding Challenge this spring in the Adirondacks or join birders from across the country during June’s birding weekend celebrations in the Adirondacks. See boreal birds like the black-backed woodpecker, three-toed woodpecker, boreal chickadee, spruce grouse, Bicknell’s thrush and several migrating warblers.

Join friends and fellow birders at the 9th Annual Adirondack Birding Celebration June 3-5, 2011 at the Paul Smith’s College Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths. The Adirondack Park Institute will host birding trips, lectures, workshops and the popular Teddy Roosevelt Birding Challenge. A special keynote address will be given by noted bird expert, author and naturalist Scott Weidensaul. Registration opened May 1, 2011. For more information or to register, call (518) 327-3376 or log onto AdirondackParkInstitute.org.

The 7th Annual Birding Festival in Hamilton County is slated for June 10-12 in partnership with Audubon NY. Birders will travel through remote and wild forest areas of Hamilton County, including: Speculator, Lake Pleasant, Piseco & Morehouse, Blue Mountain Lake, Indian Lake, Long Lake, Raquette Lake and Inlet. See wood warblers and Boreal Birds like the Olive-sided and Yellow Bellied Fly Catchers, Gray Jays, three-toed woodpeckers and boreal chickadees. Guided walks, canoe excursions and evening presentations add to this weekend of birding in the Adirondacks. Be sure to check out National Historic Landmark Great Camp Sagamore, a vintage Vanderbilt Camp and 27 building complex. Guide walking and birding tours are available.

Can’t make the festivals? Check out the online.

Photo courtesy EPA.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Program on Crown Point Cannons Offered

Where, in the Lake Champlain region, was the richest trove of artillery pieces at the time of the outbreak of the Revolutionary War? Most published histories, including those used in the classroom, overlook the largest British fort ever built in North America – Crown Point. At 7:00 pm, May 12th, artillery expert Joseph M. Thatcher will present a free public lecture inside the museum auditorium at the Crown Point State Historic Site on the little-known but fascinating topic of “The Cannon From Crown Point.” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Aerial Photos Capture Champlain Sediment Plumes

A series of remarkable photographs issued by the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) shows shoreline erosion and sediment and nutrient loading of Lake Champlain as a result of the flooding that continues to occur around the region. The lake has reached historic levels that have accelerated shoreline erosion and sent dark plumes that likely contain contaminants into open water.

The filling of historic wetlands, channeling streams and development along watersheds that empty into the lake have increased storm water run-off and added what is considered an unprecedented about of contaminants – pollution, nutrients and sediment – into the Lake Champlain ecosystem according to the LCBP.

“While there will be time in the future for a careful assessment of the flooding of the many tributaries and of the Lake itself,” an LCBP press statement said, “it already is clear that the impact on water quality (in addition to the immediate human distress) will be very significant.”

Among water quality managers’ concerns is controlling run-off phosphorus pollution from household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers, believed critical to managing and reducing water pollution. Increased phosphorus pollution is linked to the growth of potentially toxic and economically disruptive algae blooms.

During unseasonably warm weather last July health warnings were issued in New York and Vermont for algae blooms in Lake Champlain (including some near Westport, Port Henry, and Crown Point). At the time health officials recommended avoiding all contact with the affected water including swimming, bathing, or drinking, or using it in cooking or washing, and to keep pets and livestock from algae-contaminated water.

The water quality issues come at a time when Plattsburgh is celebrating its 10th year of hosting professional fishing tournaments on Lake Champlain. According to Dan Heath, writing in the Press Republican, Plattsburgh has hosted more than 50 tournaments that included some 25,000 anglers since 2001. More than 3,000 bass anglers are expected for this year’s tournaments which together will offer $1,8 million in prizes. “Lake Champlain has earned a reputation as one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in North America,” Heath wrote.

The tournament season will kick off withe the American Bass Angler’s Weekend Series on June 11th.

The Lake Champlain Basin Program has posted the aerial photos (taken on April 29-30, 2011) online; the photos are also linked to Google Maps. It’s likely a similar situation is occurring on many of the Adirodnack region’s lakes and reservoirs.

Photos: Above, sediment plume from the Ausable River and Dead Creek; Below, headland erosion and suspended sediment north of Mooney Bay. Photos courtesy the Lake Champlain Basin Program.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Liberia Pioneer: Champlain’s Jehudi Ashmun

In 1822, three months after Champlain, New York native Jehudi Ashmun’s colony of freed slaves landed on Africa’s west coast, and two months after losing his wife, the group faced impending hostilities from surrounding tribes. The attack finally came on November 11th. Ashmun, a man of religious faith but deeply depressed at his wife’s death, was suddenly thrust into the position of impromptu military leader.

Approximately ten kings of local tribes sent 800 men to destroy the new settlement, which held only 35 residents, six of whom were younger than 16 years old. Many among them were very ill, leaving only about 20 fit enough to help defend the colony. By any measure, it was a slam dunk. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Books: War of 1812 in the Champlain Valley

As the 200th anniversary approaches, there will be a steady stream of new books about the War of 1812. But for readers interested in the effects of the war on the ground in the Champlain Valley, there remains just one foundational text, now available for the first time in paper by Syracuse University Press. Although first issued in 1981, Allan S. Everest’s The War of 1812 in the Champlain Valley is still required reading for those hoping to understand the Plattsburgh campaign, considered critical to the war.

The War of 1812, ranks with the often overlooked American conflicts of the 19th century, but unlike the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) or the Spanish-American War (1898-1902), the War of 1812 really was a Second War for Independence. America stood at the other side of Britain’s own Manifest Destiny, the homes, farms, property, and lives of Americans in the Champlain Valley stood in the middle.

The first months of 1814 spelled gloom for America, then only 35 years old. The war against England was stalled. The British continued to kidnap and impress American for service on their warships. They supported Native Americans who attacked outposts and settlements on the American frontier. American harbors were blockaded by the British and New England, never sympathetic with the narrow vote of Congress for war, had become openly hostile and was threatening to secede.

Still worse, Napoleon had been defeated in Europe and Britain could now devote more time and effort to America. The British saw an opportunity to split the new American republic and once again take control of sections of the young colonies. The bold plan called for a combined army and naval strike at Plattsburgh, followed by a drive down the lake and through the Hudson Valley to New York City, splitting the colonies in two. The Americans saw that opportunity too.

The Navy Department contracted Noah Brown, one of New York’s finest shipwrights, to build a fleet to protect the way south from Canada along Lake Champlain. In less than two months, Brown constructed, armed, and launched a total of six of war ships: Allen, Borer, Burrows, Centipede, Nettie, and Viper. With the help of the small Vermont town of Vergennes and its iron foundry that could supply spikes, bolts, and shot, and it’s water-powered sawmills, and surrounding forests filled with white oak and pine for ship timber, Brown built the 26-gun flagship Saratoga, in just 40 days, and commandeered the unfinished steamboat and completed it as the 17-gun schooner Ticonderoga.

Vastly out-manned and outgunned on both land and sea, a rag tag inexperienced group of 1,500 Americans commanded by Capt. Thomas Macdonough met the greatest army and naval power on earth. Because of a serious shortage of sailors for his fleet, he drafted U.S. Army soldiers, band musicians, and convicts serving on an army chain gang to man the ships.

Their leader Macdonough had some experience. He had served against the Barbary pirates in North Africa, but two decades of warfare had given the British considerably more experience. It had for instance, led to the promotion of officers by merit, rather than by purchase or birth. As a result the British forces were the best trained and most experienced in the world and they enjoyed the backing of the world’s greatest military power. Sir George Prevost led the large British army and its fleet into New York and down Lake Champlain to meet the Americans. But what happened that September 11th no one could have predicted.

By the end of the day, the U.S. had achieved the complete and unconditional surrender of the entire British fleet and the full retreat of all British land forces. More importantly, the American victory at Plattsburgh helped persuade the British to end the war.

That’s the bigger story, but the local story is the strength of Allan Everest’s history. As a professor of history at SUNY Plattsburgh, and the author of Moses Hazen and the Canadian Refugees in the American Revolution, Our North Country Heritage, and the seminal book on the region’s prohibition history drawn from local interviewees, Rum Across the Border, Everest had a grasp of the topography of the region’s political, social, and cultural history.

Over some two and a half years, the region saw armies raised, defeated, and disbanded, including their own militia, which was repeatedly called out to protect the border areas and to serve under regular army units. Everest catalogs the political and military rivalries, and the series of disheartening defeats, loss of life, and destruction of property and markets resiliently borne by local people, who were forced to flee when battle threatened, and returned to rebuild their lives.

2001’s The Final Invasion: Plattsburgh, the War of 1812’s Most Decisive Victory painted with a broader brush and suffered criticism for misunderstanding the Plattsburgh campaign. As a result, Everest’s 30-year-old work – despite its age – is still the definitive work on the impact of the War of 1812 on northern New York.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Local History: Liberian Pioneer Jehudi Ashmun

Thursday, April 21, marks the birthday of one of the most famous men you never heard of, and surely the least known of all North Country figures who once graced the world stage. It is also appropriate to recall his story at this time for two other reasons. It has ties to slavery and the Civil War during this, the year marking the 150th anniversary of America’s darkest period. And, in relation to current world news, it involves fighting for change in Africa.

If you’re well familiar with the work of Jehudi Ashmun, you’re in a very small minority. Even in his hometown, little has been done to mark his achievements other than a single roadside historical marker. And yet, if you look, you’ll find him in dozens of encyclopedias and reference books as an important part of African and Liberian history. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Adirondack Park Agency Meets This Week

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, April 14 and Friday April 15, 2011 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The meeting will be webcast live on the APA website.

Topics for this week’s meeting will include a shoreline structure setback variance from the Town of Moriah, after-the-fact hunting and fishing cabins on Heartwood Forestland Fund lands, an 85-unit housing development at Lake Placid, amendments to Agency approved Local Land Use Programs for the Town of Queensbury and the Town of Chester, a revised Civil Penalty Guidance, updates to the Agency’s Delegation Resolution, and more.

The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for Acting Executive Director James Connolly’s report where he will review monthly activities and introduce a resolution in support of Earth Day and the International Year of Forests 2011.

At 9:15 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider a proposed shoreline structure setback variance from the Town of Moriah for a series of structures within the mean high water mark of Lake Champlain, a proposed permit amendment to approve after-the-fact hunting and fishing cabins on lands now owned by the Heartwood Forestland Fund and an 85-unit multi-family housing development proposed by Rangeview at Lake Placid, LLC.

At 1:00, This month, Town of Schroon Lake, Essex County Supervisor Cathy Moses will provide the Community Spotlight with an overview of her Essex County community. Supervisor Moses will discuss town accomplishments, opportunities and challenges ahead.

At 1:45, the Enforcement Committee will hear a first reading of the revised Civil Penalty Guidance. The guidance is intended to assist Agency staff determine appropriate, fair civil penalties for violations.

At 2:30, the Administration Committee may take action on comprehensive updates to the Agency’s Delegation Resolution which delegates certain powers and responsibilities.

At 3:15, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will receive a staff briefing on the Agency’s Geographic Information System and detailed soil mapping.

At 4:00, the Regulatory Programs Committee will reconvene for a staff update on a recently issued permit for the control of the invasive Asian Clam in Lake George.

Friday morning at 9:00, the Local Government Services Committee will deliberate proposed amendments to Agency approved Local Land Use Programs for the Town of Queensbury and the Town of Chester. The committee will also host a presentation from Roger Trancik and Bill Johnston on the recently completed project, “Hamlets 3: Planning for Smart Growth and Expansion of Hamlets in the Adirondack Park.” “Hamlets 3” examines three case studies to illustrate ways to design residential and commercial growth areas by building on existing community centers.

At 10:45, the Full Agency will assemble to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.

Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.

The May Agency is scheduled for May 12-13, 2011 at Agency headquarters in Ray Brook.

June Agency Meeting: June 9-10 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


Monday, April 11, 2011

A Search for the ‘Missingest Man in New York’

After NYS Supreme Court Justice Joseph Crater went missing in New York City in 1930, the search led to Plattsburgh and then to the Meridian Hotel, a few feet across the border from Champlain.

Nothing concrete was found in New York’s northeastern corner, but a few days later, Crater was sighted at Fourth Lake in the Old Forge area. He was also “positively” identified as one of two men seen at a Raquette Lake hunting lodge in late August. Two detectives followed that trail, while others were summoned to confirm a sighting at the Ausable Club near Keene Valley.

As if that wasn’t enough, it was announced that Crater had spent a couple of days at Hulett’s Landing on the eastern shore of Lake George, and then at Brant Lake. Police and detectives pursued every lead, while headlines told the story from New York to Texas to Seattle. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Adirondack Ice: Iceboating, Hard-Water Sailing

The allure of iceboating (hard-water sailing or ice yachting) in the Adirondacks dates back to the mid-1800s, though its peak surge of popularity was the 1940s to the 1970s. While iceboats have scooted across a variety of lakes, Lake George, Lake Champlain and Great Sacandaga Lake allow for the longest trips while offering the advantage of strong winds which not only propel the boats along at a good clip but also sweep the ice clean of snow.

One can imagine that “flying” across the ice at high speeds is not for the faint of heart. Goggles prevent the eyes from tearing up and protect them from stray ice chips; warm clothing staves off the biting wind. Should the boom suddenly snap across the boat, or the craft capsize on the hard ice, operators will appreciate the advantage of wearing helmets. For an adrenaline rush, this sport rates high on the list.

These craft, riding on three steel blades and propelled by large wind-filled triangular sails plus the additional breeze created by the boat’s forward motion, can travel two to four times the velocity of the wind, some reaching speeds of 120 mph and higher.

Records reveal the names of some earlier Adirondack sailors: around 1900, Lee Palmer built and sailed a boat on Lake George, and Ernest Stowe built and sailed one on Upper Saranac Lake. Charles “Juddy” Peer of Bolton Landing built another one of these early boats in 1936; a bow-steerer which he claimed could reach 100 mph. By the late 1930s, numbers of them began to appear as the sport caught on in the region. Sometimes iceboats were even used for cargo transport.

A large variety of iceboat designs have been seen at one time or another on our Adirondack lakes. Some of these are as follows:

– One Offs: small homemade, mostly rear-steering iceboats built and sailed at the north end of Lake George from 1935 to 1945. Each was a bit different from the other, thus the name.

– Scooters: 300 to 500 pound, shallow, moderately heavy hulls which sprout a sturdy bowsprit. Boats carry mainsail, smaller jib and four shallow keel-like runners which have a rocker shape so that, by shifting his weight, an operator can slide the boat out of the water and up onto the ice, then back into the water if necessary.

– Skeeters: 30 foot long hulls carrying seventy-five square feet of sail and steered by a foot mechanism or wheel.

– DNs: modified versions of the winning entry in a 1937 ice boat contest held by the Detroit News; 12 foot long, thirty-six pound hulls with steeply raked 16′ masts carrying 60 square feet of sail.

– Lockley Skimmers: small steel-framed boats carrying 45 square feet of sail; built for one passenger and good for sailing on smaller lakes.

– Yankee Class: 18 foot long craft with side by side seating; carry 75 square feet of sail. One of these, built in 1950 by the famous ice boat designer and racer John Alden Beals (“Scruffy”), is on display at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Another, “Still Crazy,” is currently owned and sailed by Dr. Dean Cook.

Unfortunately, iceboating is not practiced as much now as in earlier times, perhaps because there are fewer days when ideal ice conditions prevail. If you should spot a sail out on a lake, it will be well worth your time to pause a minute and drink in the sight of these delightful boats gliding across the ice, graceful, swift and beautiful. Thankfully, some folks are still keeping this North Country tradition alive.

Caperton Tissot is the author of Adirondack Ice, a Cultural and Natural History, published by Snowy Owl Press.



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