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Adirondack Park

The New York State Legislature created the Adirondack Park in 1892, guaranteeing public lands remain forever wild. The park is a unique mix of public and private lands. Consisting of six million acres the Adirondack Park is three times larger than Yellowstone.

To many, the expansive park is a symbol of conservation, forever wild places and wonderful vacations.


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.

History excerpted from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
The Adirondacks

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