Adirondack Mountains

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Eagle Lake, Adirondack region

The Adirondack mountain range are a group of mountains in north-eastern New York, USA, which extend into Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, and Warren counties. The mountains are often included by geographers in the Appalachian Mountains, but pertain geologically to the Laurentian Mountains of Canada. They are bordered on the east by Lake Champlain and Lake George, which separate them from the Green Mountains. They are bordered to the south by the Mohawk Valley. The mountains are bordered on the west by the Tug Hill Plateau, separated by the Black River. This region is south of the St. Lawrence River.


The Land

The Park

A large portion of the Adirondack range is encompassed within the 6 million acres (24,000 km²) of Adirondack State Park, which includes a constitutionally protected forest preserve of approximately 2.3 million acres (9,300 km²). The Adirondacks contain a number of lakes, including Lake Placid, two-time site of the Olympic Winter Games.

The Mountains

Unlike the Appalachians, the Adirondacks do not form a connected range, but consist of many summits, isolated or in groups, arranged with little apparent order. There are about one hundred peaks, ranging from 1200 to 5000 feet (370 m to 1500 m) in height; the highest peak, Mt. Marcy (sometimes also called Tahawus), at 5344 ft. (1629 m), is near the eastern part of the group. Other noted High Peaks include Algonquin Peak (formerly Mt. McIntyre), 5114 ft. (1559 m), Haystack 4960 ft. (1512 m), Skylight 4926 ft. (1501 m), Whiteface 4871 ft. (1485 m), Dix 4857 ft. (1480 m), and Giant 4627 ft. (1410 m).

The High Peaks

Forty-six of the tallest mountains are considered "the 46" peaks over 4000 ft. (1219 m), thanks to a survey done around the start of the 20th century. Since then, better surveys (and perhaps erosion) have shown that four of these peaks (Blake Peak, Cliff & Nye, and Couchsachraga) are in fact just under 4000 ft., and one peak just over 4000 ft. (McNaughton) was overlooked.

There are many fans of the Adirondak mountains who make an effort to climb all of the original 46 mountains (and most go on to climb McNaughton as well), and there is a Forty_Sixers club for those who have successfully reached each of these peaks. Twenty of the 46 remain trailless to this day, so climbing them requires bushwhacking and following herd paths to the top.


The mountains consist primarily of metamorphic rocks, mainly gneiss, surrounding a central core of intrusive igneous rocks, most notably anorthosite, in the high peaks region. These crystalline rocks are a lobe of the Precambrian Grenville Basement rock complex and represent the southernmost extent of the Canadian Shield, a cratonic expression of igneous and metamorphic rock 880 to 1,000 million years in age which covers most of eastern and northern Canada and all of Greenland. Although the rocks are ancient, the uplift which formed the Adirondack dome has occurred within last 5 million years - relatively recent geologic time - and is ongoing. The dome itself is roughly circular, approximately 160 miles (257 km) in diameter and about one mile (1.6 km) high. The uplift is almost completely surrounded by Palaeozoic strata which lap up on the sides of the underlying basement rocks.

The mountains form the drainage divide between the Hudson watershed and the St. Lawrence river/Great lakes watershed. On the south and south-west the waters flow either directly into the Hudson, which rises in the center of the group, or else reach it through the Mohawk River. On the north and east the waters reach the St. Lawrence by way of Lakes George and Champlain, and on the west they flow directly into that stream or reach it through Lake Ontario. The most important streams within the area are the Hudson, Black, Oswegatchie, Grass, Raquette, Saranac and Au Sable rivers.

The region was once covered, with the exception of the higher summits, by the Laurentian glacier, whose erosion, while perhaps having little effect on the larger features of the country, has greatly modified it in detail, producing lakes and ponds, whose number is said to exceed 1300, and causing many falls and rapids in the streams. Among the larger lakes are the Upper and Lower Saranac, Big and Little Tupper, Schroon, Placid, Long, Raquette and Blue Mountain. The region known as the Adirondack Wilderness, or the Great North Woods, embraces between 5000 and 6000 square miles (13,000 km2 and 16,000 km2) of mountain, lake, plateau and forest.

Mining was once a significant industry in the Adirondacks. The region is rich in magnetic iron ores, which were mined for many years. Other mineral products are graphite, garnet used as an abrasive, pyrite and zinc ore. There is also a great quantity of Titanium, which was mined extensively.


The mountains are sometimes known as the Adirondaks, without a "c". Some of the place names in the vicinity of Lake Placid have peculiar phonetic spellings attributed to Melville Dewey, who was principal influence in the development of that town and of the Lake Placid Club associated with its growth. The Adirondack Loj, a popular hostel and trailhead run by the Adirondack Mountain Club in the high peaks region is one example.

Tourism and Recreation

The mountain peaks are usually rounded and easily scaled. There used to be many railroads in the region but most are no longer functioning. The surface of most of the lakes lies at an elevation of over 1500 ft (457 m). above the sea; their shores are usually rocky and irregular, and the wild scenery within their vicinity has made them very attractive to tourists. Cabins, hunting lodges, villas and hotels are numerous. The resorts most frequented are in the vicinity of Lake Placid, Lake George, Saranac Lake, Schroon Lake and St. Regis Lake.

Hunting and fishing are allowed in the Adirondack Park, although in many places there are strict regulations. Due to these regulations, the large tourist population has not overfished the area, and as such, the brooks, rivers, ponds and lakes are well stocked with trout and black bass. At the head of Lake Placid stands Whiteface Mountain, from whose summit one of the finest views of the Adirondacks may be obtained. Two miles (3 km) south-east of this lake, at North Elba, is the old farm of the abolitionist John Brown, which contains his grave and is much frequented by visitors. Lake Placid is the principal source of the Au Sable River, which for a part of its course flows through a rocky chasm from 100 to 175 ft (30 to 53 m). deep and rarely over 30 ft (10 m) wide. At the head of the Ausable Chasm are the Rainbow Falls, where the stream makes a vertical leap of 70 ft.

Another impressive feature of the Adirondacks is Indian Pass, a gorge about eleven miles (18 km) long, between Mt. McIntyre and Wallface Mountain. The latter is a majestic cliff rising vertically from the pass to a height of 1300 ft (400 m). Keene Valley, in the centre of Essex County, is another picturesque region, presenting a pleasing combination of peaceful valley and rugged hills. Though the climate during the winter months is very severe--the temperature sometimes falling as low as -42 °F (-41 °C), a number of sanitariums were located there in the early 1900s, largely due to the positive effect the air had on tuberculosis patients. The region is heavily forested with spruce, pine and broad-leaved trees. Lumbering was once an important industry, but it has been much restricted by the creation of a state forest preserve (this is Adirondack State Park, which is discussed above.)

These resources need to be updated.

For a description of the Adirondacks, see S. R. Stoddard, The Adirondacks Illustrated (24th ed., Glen Falls, 1894); and E. R. Wallace, Descriptive Guide to the Adirondacks (Syracuse, 1894). For geology and mineral resources consult the Reports of the New York State Geologist and the Bulletins of the New York State Museum.

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