An Adirondack History

An Adirondack History

The story of the Adirondacks is the most interesting natural history story in the world. It has been shown here that natural systems can restore themselves and recover in remarkable ways in coexistence with man.
Bill McKibben

The unusual geology under the Adirondacks made the modern history of this land equally unusual. Imagine the crust of the Earth beneath your feet rising up like a massive rock dome. Most mountain ranges in North America run are ridges running north to south, that often served as paths of migration. In contrast, the Adirondack dome was more like a blockade than a path. As the dome cracked and eroded over millions of years, it formed an irregular jumble of mountains, lakes and rivers.

The dome, still visible from space, was cold and difficult to traverse. Early Native Americans skirted around its perimeter, traveling up and down Lake Champlain and the Mohawk and St. Lawrence Rivers, and leaving the higher ground largely uninhabited.

For more than 10,000 years after the last Ice Age, while other parts of America were populated by thriving communities of Native Americans, the Adirondacks were largely untouched by man.

To the European settlers spreading across America, the Adirondack dome was equally forbidding. It was an obstacle to people on foot and wagon, and its high elevations and northern latitude meant deep snow and cold. Like the Native Americans before them, the Europeans tended to skirt the region, farming around its gentler edges. The interior of the dome remained a wild place long after most of the lands from Boston to the Mississippi were settled and industrialized.

Today the 10,000 square miles of the Adirondacks are wilder in many ways than they were 100 years ago. There may be nowhere else on earth where the same claim can be made for a space of this great scale. The Adirondacks, now a park larger than many nations, is again blanketed in wild forests. Moose bugle here; beavers smack their tails, and it’s even possible that mountain lions might growl.