Autumn of 1948 had been a particularly dry season. Forest Rangers of that era often remained at their headquarters awaiting a phone call reporting the location of a blaze. The radio system of that time was poor but most outposts and fire towers were connected via phone line.
Daniel McKenzie, a 27 year veteran, was the Forest Ranger for North Hudson at the time and he lived on the Blue Ridge Road. A Ranger’s work schedule was much different then. During dry periods they stayed available all the time and they worked until the work was done. Ranger McKenzie, by all accounts, wore his uniform almost all the time. The Northway was decades away from construction and North Hudson was a more isolated community. In fact, McKenzie first came to the area prior to becoming a ranger to help construct State Route 9. » Continue Reading.
In 1936, the conservationist Bob Marshall made a list of forty-eight forested areas in the United States that exceeded three hundred thousand acres and that remained roadless — that is, relatively pristine. Evidently, he considered three hundred thousand acres to be the minimal size of a true wilderness.
“We would like to point out that the 300,000 acres is not a roadless area in any pioneering sense,” Marshall wrote in the magazine Living Wilderness (with co-author Althea Dobbins). “Actually, a 300,000-acre tract is only about 21½ by 21½ miles, something which a reasonably good walker could traverse readily in a day if there were a trail.”
Although the Adirondack Park boasts more than a million acres of officially designated Wilderness, where motorized use is forbidden, no single Wilderness Area comes close to Marshall’s criterion. The High Peaks Wilderness — the largest in the Park — covers only 204,000 acres. » 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.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is accepting public comments on Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan conformance for proposed amendments to the Alger Island and Fourth Lake Unit Management Plan (UMP), the Meacham Lake Campground UMP and the Community Connector Trail Plan (Newcomb, Minerva, North Hudson).
The Adirondack Forty-Sixers and the Town of North Hudson are sponsoring a day-long festival on June 20, 2015 at the Town of North Hudson Park, off State Route 9, to celebrate the official renaming of Grace Peak.
The 46ers led a 12-year campaign to rename East Dix in the Dix Mountain Wilderness “Grace Peak” in honor of Grace Hudowalski, the first woman to climb the 46 High Peaks, and long-time promoter of the recreational opportunities in the Adirondacks. The United States Board of Geographic Names approved the 46ers’ petition for the naming of Grace Peak in June, 2014. » Continue Reading.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released a Stewardship Plan to guide interim management for public access and use of newly acquired lands in the Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex in the Central Adirondacks. The Stewardship Plan outlines a range of recreational activities that may occur in the Essex Chain while DEC develops a long-term Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Complex area. This new Stewardship Plan supersedes the 2013 Interim Access Plan.
The Stewardship Plan is now in effect and can be viewed on DEC’s website via pdf. Under the plan, additional access to the Essex Chain Lakes includes: » Continue Reading.
$500,000 in grants will be awarded to communities in the Adirondacks to enhance business development and access to the State’s newly-acquired former Finch, Pruyn & Co. lands.
The Adirondack Park Upper Hudson Recreation Hub grants, provided by The Nature Conservancy, will be used to fund nine projects designed to increase tourism opportunities, support small business growth, and expand recreational offerings with an overall goal of strengthening the region’s local economy and supporting jobs. » 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.
Increased opportunities for outdoor recreation in the Adirondacks would be available under two proposed plans released today for public review and comment, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced. Comments will be accepted on the Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex Draft Unit Management Plan (Draft UMP) and a Draft Community Connector Multiple-Use Trail Plan (Draft Trail Plan) through July 18.
The Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex includes the 6,956-acre Essex Chain Primitive Area, the 2,788-acre Pine Lake Primitive Area and a portion of the 42,537-acre Blue Mountain Wild Forest. These lands are located in the Town of Indian Lake in Hamilton County, and towns of Newcomb and Minerva in Essex County. » Continue Reading.
Two years ago, when Governor Andrew Cuomo revived the massive Finch, Pruyn land deal, first engineered by the Adirondack Nature Conservancy in 2007, he shifted the terms of a long-running debate over big land-conservation projects in the Park. Funding for open-space conservation had been under attack in Albany for years, including a moratorium on new spending. Even many Democrats were questioning the value to taxpayers of protecting more “forever wild” land in the Park.
The governor turned that debate on its head, arguing that vast tracts of new public lands would be a boon to the state’s tourism economy—rather than a costly burden—and would give struggling Adirondack towns a long-needed boost. “Today’s agreement will make the Adirondack Park one of the most sought-after destinations for paddlers, hikers, hunters, sportspeople, and snowmobilers,” Cuomo declared in August 2012 as he committed the state to spending $47 million on sixty-nine thousand acres of timberlands over five years.
Cuomo pointed to “extraordinary new outdoor recreational opportunities” that he asserted would spark investment and help revitalize the tourism economy in struggling mountain towns. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by Connie Prickett, Director of Communications for The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter. The Nature Conservancy is using $500,000 to create a new grant opportunity for recreation-based development in local communities.
When The Nature Conservancy in 2007 took on its largest single land conservation project in the Adirondacks, we knew success was only going to happen through collaboration. Recent steps by the Conservancy to establish a $500,000 grant opportunity ensures that community involvement continues to be an integral part of the conservation equation and a key element to the project’s overall success. The aim is to help communities position themselves to capitalize on new outdoor recreation opportunities being created through this project. » Continue Reading.
The state acquisition of 69,000 acres of the former Finch Pruyn lands in the Adirondack Park has spurred much discussion. I thought I’d chime in from a tourism perspective.
In general, the purchase will ultimately mean public access to incredible natural resources for recreational activity. Or, according to a press release from Governor Cuomo’s office on August 5th, “Opening these lands to public use and enjoyment for the first time in 150 years will provide extraordinary new outdoor recreational opportunities, increase the number of visitors to the North Country and generate additional tourism revenue.”
I applaud the Governor’s office and their efforts, and appreciate that there is opportunity for the adjacent communities to realize a positive economic impact from the resulting increased visitation. » Continue Reading.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that New York State has acquired 69,000 acres of the former Finch Pruyn and other Nature Conservancy lands throughout the Adirondacks. A statement by the Governor’s office called the acquisition “the largest single addition to the Adirondack State Forest Preserve in more than a century.”
Cuomo pointed to additional recreational opportunities, and the increased revenue from tourism as the reasons behind the purchase. Some of the lands have been closed to the public for more than 150 years.
The Schroon Lake Chamber of Commerce has announced the launch of two new websites it hopes will serve to promotes the region.
Schroonlakechamber.org offers a business directory, membership application and benefits listing, a chamber events and meeting calendar and relocation resources.
The redesigned schroonlakeregion.com promotes the region as a destination, showcasing the visitor experiences available in the communities that comprise the Schroon Lake Region; Schroon Lake, Newcomb, North Hudson and Minerva. The site offers information for visitors including attractions, events, dining, shopping, lodging packages and specials as well as business listings and real estate. The dual-website project was undertaken by the Chamber in partnership with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, Essex County’s destination marketing organization.
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 Adirondack Almanack is a public forum dedicated to promoting and discussing current events, history, arts, nature and outdoor recreation and other topics of interest to the Adirondacks and its communities
We publish commentary and opinion pieces from voluntary contributors, as well as news updates and event notices from area organizations. Contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The information, views and opinions expressed by these various authors are not necessarily those of the Adirondack Almanack or its publisher, the Adirondack Explorer.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to editor Melissa Hart.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.