The Adirondack Region

The name Adirondack is descriptive of a mountainous region found in northern New York State bordered by Lakes Champlain and Ontario on the east and west, and by the St. Lawrence and Mohawk River valleys to the north and south. The region's history is as rich and diverse as its landscape is unique and varied. The Adirondack Mountain High Peaks region has over 40 peaks higher than 4,000 feet in elevation, and the entire region has over 2,500 lakes, ponds and rivers that historically have provided important transportation routes through its interior. The Adirondack Park boundary is represented by the light blue line around the Adirondack Mountains.

Adirondack Region of NYS


Adirondack may have been derived from the Iroquois word "ha-de-ron-dah", meaning "bark-eater", a derisive term given to the Algonquins. These native peoples lived in the neighboring river valleys and lake basins, utilizing the verdant Adirondacks for hunting, fishing and gathering of plants. European exploration and settlement began in the early 17th century when French explorer Samuel de Champlain and French missionary Father Isaac Jogues visited the region. Military outposts and some settlements had been established by the 18th century in the Lake George-Lake Champlain corridor, and this area became the focus of the century-long struggle between France and England for control of North America culminating in the French and Indian War (1757-1763). The same corridor between the Adirondack region and Vermont would have significant strategic importance during the American Revolution. Among early triumphs for the colonists were the capture from the British of Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point in May of 1775, cannon from these posts subsequently being used to expel British troops from Boston. A British army invading from Canada to the north was delayed for a year by the Battle of Valcour Island (1776) in Lake Champlain, and later defeated at the Battle of Saratoga (1777).

Much of the Adirondack region remained largely unknown until the early 19th century when demand for timber and iron ore led to increased exploration of the uncharted Adirondack wilderness. Although farming communities were established in many of the river valleys, a thorough exploration of some of the region's interior did not occur until it was surveyed by crews led by Verplanck Colvin after 1870. Increased rail and water transportation helped establish the Adirondack region as a popular vacation destination. Residents of the crowded cities traveled to the wilderness to hunt and fish, or to seek a cure for tuberculosis. The wealthy built "great camps", and hotels, inns and guide services sprang up to serve visitors.

Land in the Adirondack Mountain region owned by New York State is part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, created by the legislature in 1885 through the efforts of an early preservation movement concerned about widespread logging. Verplanck Colvin and others were persistent and eventually successful in securing this legal protection for much of the region's forests and their inherent values, aided by a perceived need to protect the region as a watershed. Attempts to weaken protection of the forest preserve led to a constitutional amendment in 1894, an historical landmark in natural resource conservation that states: "The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed." Originally consisting of scattered parcels covering about 681,000 acres, the Adirondack Forest Preserve has grown over the past century from less than 700,000 acres to more than 2.7 million acres with another 250,398 acres protected by state conservation easements, making it the largest tract of legally protected lands in the eastern U.S.

The Adirondack Park, a boundary created by the state legislature in 1892 to encompass the forest preserve lands, has grown into a unique blend of public and private lands that is now the largest state park in the lower 48 states. The park boundary encompasses 9,375 square miles, roughly a 100 by 100 mile square. The six million acre park has just over three million acres in private ownership, while one million acres of the public land are designated as wilderness. The Adirondack Park is home to 135,000 residents in 135 hamlets. The park's summer population soars with seasonal residents and the estimated seven million people who visit annually. The Adirondack Park has a long tradition of craftsmanship, resourcefulness, and hospitality as well as rugged beauty and rustic charm.


Forest Environment

The Adirondack North Country region is comprised of 14 counties in northern New York that comprise 18,000 square miles. Forests cover three-quarters (75%) of the area, with 8.8 of its 11.5 million acres. Close to one-half (50%) of New York State's forest land is contained in the Adirondack North Country region.

Recent Forest Service data for the Adirondack Park portion of the region indicates the following:

  • Close to two-thirds of the Adirondack Park is classified as hardwood forest, with a predominate maple/beech/birch mix.

  • Sugar maple represents the highest volume for species in the Park followed by red maple, American beech, eastern white pine, eastern hemlock, spruce, yellow birch, aspen and black cherry.

  • Though the Park contains 18 percent of the state's timberland, it holds 75 percent of the state's balsam fir volume, 50 percent of its spruce volume and 22 percent of its white pine volume.

If you are a forest owner or manager and are looking for forest management information, or a forester consultant, click here to visit the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation web page on the topic.


Wood Products Industry

The Adirondack Park sits in the center of the Adirondack North Country region of northern New York. The region encompasses the 14 New York counties north of the Mohawk River and is equal in size to Vermont and New Hampshire combined. With a total population of about 1.2 million persons, the region has twice the population of Vermont, and is similar in population to the states of New Hampshire or Maine. The lumber and paper industries, tourism, construction, government and mining are major sources of employment in the predominantly rural region.

The Adirondack North Country region is heavily forested and has a long tradition in logging, lumbering, paper products, furniture making, boat building and other types of wood working. Three-quarters of the land area is forested. Of the 18.6 million acres of forestland in New York, 8.8 million (47%) are in the 14 county Adirondack North Country region. The hardwood forest is primarily a maple/beech/birch mix. The softwood forest is represented white and red pine (including hemlock) and the spruce/fir mix.

The region produced approximately 411 million board feet of softwood and hardwood production in the form of industrial roundwood in 1993. The production was roughly split between softwoods and hardwoods. The region provides over half (54%) of New York State's total softwood production and 41 percent of the state's hardwood production.

Within the 14 county region there are at least 200 wood products companies (including sawmills, furniture manufactures, other wood products producers and specialty wood crafters) employing at least 2,500 people in total. In addition, there are over 50 paper-related companies employing 7,000 people. The majority of wood products companies are small businesses, with 70% having ten or fewer employees. Wood products-related employment comprises a significant portion of private sector employment in the region. For example, in Lewis County, wood products provide 22% of the county's private sector employment.