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Encompassing about two-thirds of upstate New York, Adirondack Park embraces some 6 million acres of both private and state land. Nearly half of the park is classified as wilderness. Physical features range from rugged mountains and sheer cliffs to low rolling uplands, beaver meadows, swamps and a grassy plain.
Among the 46 mountains that exceed 4,000 feet in elevation is 5,344-foot Mount Marcy, the highest in the state. More than 2,000 miles of hiking trails, some 3,000 lakes and ponds and more than 30,000 miles of rivers and streams cover the landscape, allowing a mere 1,100 miles of highway and 120 miles of railroad to squeeze between the park's southwest border at Remsen and the northeast border at Lake Placid.
The park's geologic base reveals the contrasts of eons of change. Part of the main mountain chain is an outcropping of the Laurentian, or Canadian, Shield, a rare surfacing of some of the oldest and hardest known rock forged in the Earth's interior. Other areas contain fossil-rich strata formed millions of years later at the bottom of prehistoric seas.
Ecosystems, which range from alpine and subalpine to boreal and lowland lake to wetland, present an overlapping of northern and southern forest types with an occasional stand of virgin timber. With the exception of small areas near lakes George and Champlain, the park harbors no poisonous snakes.
The area was named after the Algonquin Indians. The Iroquois Indians called Algonquin Ha-De-Ron-Dah or “bark eaters” because they ate certain kinds of tree bark. The domain of hunters and loggers during the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Adirondacks were not “discovered” until after the Civil War. They evolved into a woodland retreat for the wealthy, who built luxurious resorts, private camps and summer homes on the lakes.
The wild and peaceful setting is being preserved for recreation. There are scenic views at every turn, some still bearing the vestiges of logging activity and the stubborn scars left by the forest fires of 1899, 1903 and 1908, and the hurricane of 1950.
Recreational possibilities span the seasons; boating, bird-watching, camping, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing are available. Areas with major development include Blue Mountain Lake, Lake George, Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.
Two interpretive visitor centers provide indoor and outdoor exhibits and programming about the park. Both centers offer a surfaced trail system with interpretive signage.
The Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center, 8023 SR 30 in Paul Smiths, provides access to scenic hiking trails, picnic pavilions, wildlife viewing and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. Features of the in Newcomb, 14 miles east of Long Lake on SR 28N, includes special events and hosted nature walks. Comprehensive information about the park and its outdoor recreation opportunities can be obtained by contacting the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council, located in the ILOVENY Visitor Information Center on I-87S between exits 40 and 41 in Beekmantown; phone (518) 846-8016 or (800) 487-6867.
The Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center is open daily 9-5, mid-June to early Sept.; hours vary rest of year. Adirondack Interpretive Center is open Tues.-Sat. 10-4. Trails are open daily dawn-dusk. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Free. Phone (518) 327-6241 for Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center and (518) 582-2000 for the Adirondack Interpretive Center.
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