For more than 125 years, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the largest producer of printed topographic maps, has portrayed the complex geography of the nation. Prior to 2009, USGS topographic maps were created using traditional cartographic methods and printed using the lithographic printing process.
Now the USGS National Geospatial Program is nearing completion of the conversion of these these historical printed topographic quadrangles to an electronic format (GeoPDF). The scanning and processing effort serves the dual purpose of creating a master catalog and digital archive copies of the irreplaceable collection of topographic maps in the USGS Reston Map Library, as well as making the maps available for viewing and download online. » Continue Reading.
It’s been a bit surreal to read about this summer’s record-breaking drought from the lush, thunderstorm-drenched environs of Long Lake. But while the central Adirondacks may have had plenty of rain this summer, other parts of the North Country have not.
I have been tracking drought conditions across the region with stream gage data from US Geological Survey that measures stream levels and transmits the information in real-time to the internet. The USGS began stream gage construction in the late 19th century, and now maintains 7,500 gages across the country including dozens in the Adirondack region. The data from these gages are used for many purposes including flood forecasting, water supply allocation, wastewater treatment, highway engineering and recreation (rafting anyone?). » Continue Reading.
Those interested in joining statewide efforts to track invasive species can attend an iMapInvasives online mapping tool training session. Anyone can help keep the New York map up-to-date and accurate by reporting invasive species locations.
Volunteers, citizen scientists and educational groups will find the simple reporting interface easy to use for local projects, and conservation professionals can use the advanced interface to manage detailed information about infestations, surveys and treatments in a standardized format. Training is required to enter data, and then users can enter observations of invasive plants, aquatic invasive species, forest pests and agricultural pests. » Continue Reading.
In this week’s dispatch we take up the remainder of the story that delivered Lost Brook Tract intact and pristine into the 21st century. When we last left it smoke was hanging in the air and one edge of the parcel was singed, courtesy of the 1903 fires. Logging and paper companies were moving into the area to salvage lumber from the vast amounts of burned acreage.
Adirondack residents and workers were returning to normal life. Hikers were encountering and documenting the tremendous devastation in the back country, decrying the “acts of God” that caused them. Amazingly, while the damage to the forests was horrific, by and large population centers were spared. That may be a reason why people continued to see these fires as fate instead of folly. » Continue Reading.
There is a common conception that logging for prized wood such as the Eastern White Pine or the Red Spruce led to the depredations that nearly lost the Adirondacks for posterity. This is not exactly right.
In truth it was mining that led the charge to subdue these mountains. One of the early names given to the Adirondacks was the Peruvian or Peru Mountains, so named by the French – optimistically, one would have to say – and then used by early British miners as well, Peru being a country fabled for its precious ores and Incan gold. » Continue Reading.
It amazes me how cartographers continue to develop new ways to visualize spatial information. One example I thought might be of interest to Almanack readers is a website allowing the user to explore maps of New York’s new legislative redistricting, finalized in March 2012.
The website, hosted by the CUNY Center for Urban Research, gives users three ways to compare old and new legislative maps: side-by side, overlay or slider. My favorite was the overlay tool, but each has its advantage depending on what you want to get from the map comparison. » Continue Reading.
Among the standards used by the US Department of Justice in determining the validity of newly redrawn political districts are that district maps be compact and contiguous and respect natural and artificial boundaries. In drawing up the new map for the 21st Congressional District, Special Master Roanne Mann strictly followed county borders (artificial boundaries), with the exceptions of Herkimer and Saratoga Counties whose southern population centers would have thrown off the numbers. For an equally useful artificial boundary that validates the common interest of the proposed 21st Congressional District, consider the frequency and signal strength map of North Country Public Radio. Broadcasting out of studios at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NCPR operates 13 transmitting towers, all but two—the Bristol Vermont tower reaches west to the NY shore of Lake Champlain, and the Boonville tower—located within the proposed district lines. In fact, the maps are so closely aligned, one would be hard-pressed to find another Congressional district (not counting Vermont and other single district states) where a single broadcaster has such identical and unrivaled coverage.
If nothing else, this convergence of maps raises a clear question to Bill Owens, Matt Doheny and (potentially) Doug Hoffman: Is your membership paid up?
The post was amended to reflect the fact that NCPR’s Boonville transmitter is outside the proposed district line.
Three years ago in anticipation of the decennial census, reapportionment and redistricting, Adirondack Almanack suggested a congressional district (red outline on the map) that would comprise the entire Adirondack Park and lands reaching to the St. Lawrence River from Alexandria Bay to Cornwall and the US/Canadian boundary from Cornwall east. If necessary there was plenty of room on the map for the district to expand below the park to accommodate larger numbers.
The numbers were loosely based on a guess that New York would lose only one congressional seat this time around. The fact that New York lost two seats in the reapportionment process, and that prison populations would no longer be credited to the prison’s district, meant that any resulting congressional district would have to cover more territory. The map of the new 21st CD released yesterday by Special Master, US Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann (blue outline on the map) came pretty close to the imagined Adirondack/North Country district—with Watertown, Fort Drum and Tug Hill added for good measure. The only scrap of the Adirondack Park missing from the new district is the northeastern point of Oneida County, now assigned to the 22nd district. Oh so close, especially when you consider the extra wart on the new 21st CD below the Adirondack Park at Hinckley Reservoir, encompassing Gravesville and the town of Russia. Not to be petty here, but would it have killed someone to swap a few dozen Russians for as many resident Adirondackers settled around White, Long and Otter Lakes?
This post was amended to reflect the correct name and official designation of US Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann.
The other day at a recreation planning meeting in Lake Placid, I participated in a time-honored Adirondack meeting ritual. It goes like this: someone at the table brings up the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), the document that defines land classifications (wilderness, wild forest, etc.) and lists the guidelines for their use. Next, nearly every stakeholder at the table agrees that the SLMP is outdated and that a major review is long overdue. The ritual concludes with everyone agreeing that meaningful review of the SLMP is unlikely, and probably not worth pursuing. The conversation then moves on to other topics.
The SLMP states “Major reviews of the master plan will take place every five years by the [Adirondack Park] Agency in consultation with the Department of Environmental Conservation, as required by statute…” but the last review was in 1987. I wondered how implementation of the relatively static SLMP has evolved over the years, and how these changes have manifested themselves on maps. » Continue Reading.
It was New Year’s Eve 2010, our first visit to Lost Brook Tract, just two days after we had closed on the property. I was standing in four feet of snow, contemplating potential trouble. I had bushwhacked down from the small plateau that marks the low point of our land, trying to get a feel for the ridge upon which it lay so that I could solidify the route in my mind.
My family and I had been guided in by Vinny McClelland the first time and on the way I had a noted couple of tricky spots. I was glad for the deep snow that provided sure tracks back to camp for at that moment I stood at one of those locations that raises the pulses of off-trail adventurers. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondacks have long been a bit of a blank spot on maps. From the time Jacques Cartier first glimpsed the Adirondack Mountains from Montreal in 1535 until the mid 1700s (long after coastal and more populous areas were mapped in great detail), the remote and mountainous Adirondack region was represented only by terse descriptions such as “This Country by reason of Mountains, Swamps & drowned Lands is impassable & uninhabited,” or “Parts but little known.” But Adirondack history is full of explorers, surveyors and cartographers who underwent great risk and hardship in order to fill in these blanks. By 1900, thanks to the work of men such as Verplanck Colvin, the basic geography of the park was well-known. The beloved 7.5 minute USGS topographic quads we are all so familiar with were the culmination of this effort, and they have undergone only slight revisions over the last hundred years or so. But an interesting thing has happened in the last 30 years with the rise of computers and their ability to overlay map layers in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Maps and the way people use them have changed radically.
People today are not satisfied with paper maps that merely portray the geographic arrangement of features; they expect maps to be full-blown search engines where they can explore the virtual landscape and then connect instantly to information about map features. Prospective visitors don’t want to just see where a hotel is, they want to click on it and get information about room availability, prices and contact information. Hikers don’t just want the location of a trail, they want to know its difficulty, its condition or how much use it gets.
With all these new expectations, the Adirondacks once again lag behind more populous areas where the work of connecting geographic features to attribute information has advanced further. So, while perhaps not quite as risky (thankfully) or romantic as it once was, there are still many people working to improve the quality and quantity of spatial data and produce ever better maps of the Adirondacks.
Thanks to the proliferation of inexpensive GPS units and free web-based GIS applications such as Google Earth, members of the general public are now active participants in both data collection and map production.
If cartography is the art of producing a map, anyone who has printed out GoogleMap directions is an amateur cartographer! For specialists such as myself, this has been a paradigm shift that has changed our jobs radically. We now must think not only of how to manage the incredible amounts of spatial data being created, but also how best to communicate that information to the public. To conclude my first post, I’d like to highlight one elegant example of how modern technology can communicate spatial information in new and exciting ways.
John Barge, GIS specialist for the Adirondack Park Agency, has made many map resources available on the APA’s GIS page. I encourage you to browse through them all, but I’d like to feature a particular resource John has produced– a downloadable .kmz file that superimposes historic bird’s eye maps of several Adirondack communities onto the virtual landscape of Google Earth. A quick video tutorial can be found here.
I look forward to future posts on Adirondack spatial matters, and to reading your comments!
PS: Thanks much to the Almanack for having me!
Illustration: Richard William Seal. “New and Accurate Map of the Present War in North America, 1757”.
Please join us all here at the Almanack in welcoming our newest contributor, Steve Signell. A resident of Long Lake, Steve is a mapping specialist at the SUNY-ESF Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb, where his main task is to provide spatial decision support for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). As part of his duties, Steve coordinates the activities of the Adirondack Park Regional GIS Consortium, whose goal is to facilitate the sharing of map data via the Adirondack Regional Geographic Information System web portal. Steve also runs Frontier Spatial, an Adirondack-based GIS consulting firm. Steve will write regularly about geography, maps, new data sources, mapping technologies, etc., all with an Adirondack focus.
Artists find their way around the world differently than most people. This is clearly evident in “Mapping the Familiar: Artist Maps of Saranac Lake”, which opened last week at the Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery in that village. The exhibit was curated by Jess Ackerson, a young artist, printmaker who lives and works in Saranac Lake. Each artist was invited to interpret the concept of the show in their own individual way – and all the pieces in the show are very unique. When I find my way somewhere, I am inclined to rely upon visual “signposts” – usually natural landforms. Even in an urban environment, I find myself locating the sun, when possible, so I’ll know which way is north, and I might mark my course by remembering to turn at the big tree on the corner where the road goes uphill rather than the name of the street intersection. This might be evident when a viewer examines my piece in the exhibit because I have no map in it, but I do have many of the views that one sees when in Saranac Lake.
There are several pieces in the show which are clearly maps – but maps interpreted through what the individual artists found interesting. Diane Leifheit’s map is a detailed ink drawing/silkscreen print that depicts the course of the Saranac River and the various bridges within the community, along with hand-scripted anecdotal notations. Peter Seward’s “The Resettlement of Saranac Lake” is “a whimsical depiction of the challenges faced inhabiting a wilderness”. It is reminiscent of the fanciful maps of drawn by early explorers and even has an area identified as “terra incognito”.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau, who once boasted of some interest in the arts, was also invited to contribute a piece. His cartoon style drawing of a map of the community shows the pride he feels in the village and looks like something you might have seen in a 1950’s tourism brochure! It’s title was derived from the locally known Dew Drop Inn and Mr. Rabideau wrote in his artists statement “for many generations, thousands of people have, indeed, “dropped-in” to Saranac Lake and never left, making it their permanent home”.
Some of the other pieces in the show have more emphasis on the “art” and less on the “map” although the village map has worked it’s way into the individual images. Jess Ackerson’s three color reduction lino-cut, silkscreen and colored pencil piece combines the map with other bold images like a rainbow, a compass star and a labyrinth. In her statement Jess wrote “This map is actually a maze. It’s an attempt to describe what it takes to be present while we navigate the transition from past, where there were so many other paths we could have taken, to the future.” Eric Ackerson created a labyrinth of intertwining map and snake forms titled – “A Ransack Illegal Fovea” – which happens to be an anagram for Village of Saranac Lake.
In addition to the 10 artist creations, there is also a large, interactive “Community Map” where gallery visitors are invited to draw and write upon it their special spots or trails in the village.
Find your own way to this unique and thought provoking exhibit – the Adirondack Artists Guild is located on Main Street in Saranac Lake and the exhibit will be up through January 29.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Bureau of Fisheries is offering a new, full color map free of charge for individuals who fish in the freshwaters of New York. The I FISH NY Guide to Freshwater Fishing in New York State provides information on over 320 NY lakes and ponds and 112 river and streams.
“Research shows one of the primary reasons people do not fish more often is because of a lack of information concerning where to fish,” said Kathy Moser, assistant commissioner, DEC Office of Natural Resources. “Our comprehensive map provides all the information needed to have a quality freshwater fishing experience, and is part of our agency’s overall efforts to help connect New Yorkers and others to our natural resources.” The large 36″ x 37.5″ map folds to 3.875″ x 9″ size. One side provides a map of New York state identifying locations of fishing waters recommended by DEC regional staff. The other side provides tables with details on each water, including the fish species present, the type of access provided and who owns it, whether or not it is open to ice fishing, the availability of fishing piers, marinas or local campsites and any permits or other restrictions that apply.
Guidance on how to buy a fishing license, register a boat or make a camping reservation in New York is also included, along with information for anglers desiring to fish the Great Lakes for wild trout, wilderness brook trout or black bass. Anglers will also find important phone numbers and e-mail addresses for various contacts, along with a quick response (QR) code providing a smartphone link to the current New York Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide. Color identification photos and descriptions of popular sportfish in New York are also provided.
The I FISH NY Guide to Freshwater Fishing in New York State was completed using Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration grant funds and can be obtained free of charge by visiting any DEC regional office, or by mail. To receive a map in the mail, e-mail a request to DEC at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests by e-mail should include the name and complete address of the recipient, as well as NY Fishing Map in the subject line.
The West Canada Lake Wilderness deserves our respect. It is the second-largest officially designated Wilderness Area in the Adirondack Park (after the High Peaks Wilderness). As such, it’s a place where you can wander for days without seeing another soul.
This magnificent region encompasses 171,308 acres, with elevations ranging from 1,390 to 3,899 feet (on Snowy Mountain). It boasts 163 lakes and ponds and is the source of three major rivers (Indian River, Cedar River, and, naturally, West Canada Creek). The Northville-Placid Trail cuts through the heart of tract. All told, there are sixty-seven miles of trails and sixteen lean-tos. » Continue Reading.
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