HISTORY IN THE ADIRONDACKS
The Adirondack Region has a rich and diverse history that is unique among eastern states. People first began to live in the area along Lake Champlain, then a brackish sea, very soon after the last of the Wisconsin glacial ice melted, about 10,000 years ago. Later, Algonquin speaking peoples, probably related to similar groups in New England and Canada, hunted, fished and collected plant foods from the rich wetlands, lake shores and river valleys of the region.
In late prehistoric times Iroquois people, who farmed in the Mohawk, St. Lawrence and other river valleys also recognized and used the rich plant and animal resources of the Adirondacks. The name "Adirondack" may have been derived from the Iroquois word "ha-de-ron- dah", which means "bark-eater," a derisive term they gave to the Algonquins.
French explorers and missionaries, notably Samuel Champlain and Father Isaac Jogues, were the first Europeans to visit the region, both in the early 17th century. By the 18th century, scattered settlements and military posts were located along Lake George and Lake Champlain. This corridor became the focus of the century long struggle between France and Britain for control of North America that culminated in the French and Indian War (1757-1763). The largest land battle in American history before the Civil War occurred at Carillon (Fort Ticonderoga) in 1758.
Among the first successes of the American Revolution were the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point in May 1775. Cannon from these posts were used to drive British troops from Boston. The Battle of Valcour Island (1776) in Lake Champlain delayed a British invasion of New York from Canada by a year. This invading army was later defeated at the Battle of Saratoga (1777).
The rich iron deposits of the Champlain Valley were discovered in the late 1700's setting off a round of land clearing, settlement and mining that continued for the next century. Rivers, flowing out from the center of the region provided the transportation for millions of pine, spruce, and hemlock logs to mills around the rim of the mountains. Logging continued slowly but relentlessly into the interior of the mountains during the late 1800's. The raw wilderness was rapidly transformed by those who eked out a living in the woods, mines and mills in the region.
With the exception of its eastern fringe, the Adirondack region remained virtually unknown to Europeans until the early 19th century. As the new United States industrialized, the discovery of iron ore fueled efforts to develop iron mines, furnaces and forges in many places in the region. A burgeoning demand for timber pushed loggers deeper into the wilderness. Farming communities developed in many of the river valleys. Serious exploration of many areas did not occur until after 1870, under surveyor Verplanck Colvin.
By 1880 the region had become a popular destination for residents of the crowded and polluted cities. Vacations in the northern wilderness were recommended for health, well being and as a cure for tuberculosis.
Hotels, inns and guide services sprang up to serve visitors to the area. It became fashionable for the wealthy to establish "great camp" estates.
Since the creation of the Forest Preserve in 1885, nature has hidden most evidence of the logging, wildfires, and the disruptions to wildlife that occurred in the 1800's. Tourism, timber and mining remain the mainstays of the modern Adirondack economy and landscape.
The Adirondacks of today are wilder than a century ago, and with proper management, will continue to provide inspiration to people who live and visit here for centuries to come- information provided by DEC.
The Adirondack Park
Is home for 54 species of mammals. White-tailed deer are abundant, and there are more black bears in the Adirondacks than in any other part of the state. Forest residents that usually escape detection include bobcat, fisher, and pine marten. Working mostly after the sun goes down, beaver make their mark throughout the Adirondacks by damming most of the smaller streams. The song of the coyote is a common sound of the night. Wildlife biologists believe that coyotes migrated to the Adirondacks from the midwest and Canada during this century. An even more recent migrant is the moose. A small herd of wanderers from Vermont and New Hampshire has become established in the central Adirondacks over the past two decades.
In the spring, throngs of migrating songbirds returning from their southern wintering grounds add color and music to the Adirondack environment. Mergansers dive for fish in remote ponds and lakes, while great blue herons stand alert in the shallows. At night the wild call of the loon is joined by the distinctive hoot of the barred owl. In all, almost 200 species of birds breed within the Adirondack Park- information provided by DEC.
Adirondack Habitats and Wildlife
Water habitats include cold trout streams, glacial ponds, deep lakes, teeming marshes, acid bogs, and evergreen swamps. Upland communities include both evergreen and hardwood forests of various ages, and alpine zones on the highest mountaintops. Some of the common members of these communities are:
the common hardwood tree throughout the region on rich glacial till soils up to 2500'
found wherever forest fires or land clearing altered the landscape
moderate size tree of both swamps and mountaintop forests
tallest tree of the forest (150' +) and common on sandy soil and shorelines
low shrub of burned areas on sandy soils
common bird whose cry is the "voice of the wilderness"...in excess of 160 nesting pairs in the Park
returned to region after absence of more than a century; at least 75 animals here now
major predator for nearly half a century; important to the "balance of nature"
common, but not well adapted to deep winter snow of the Adirondacks
largest rodent (50+ lbs.); eats hardwood tree bark; now found nearly everywhere after near extirpation a century ago
most sought-after native fish of ponds and streams in the Park
some 3000 make their home here in the deeper forested areas; bears eat both plant and animal food
fish-eating hawk common to many remote lakes and ponds - information provided by DEC.
Possums have now migrated North.
Timber Wolves in the Adirondacks?
© Back To Basics Adirondack Wilderness Adventures 2004