Removal of Marcy Dam By NYSDEC

The Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) crew have been hard at work removing Marcy Dam in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. After Hurricane Irene compromised the dam in 2011, DEC elected to remove the structure to restore the stream to its natural state. Since the dam is located in a wilderness area and motorized vehicles are not allowed, it poses some difficulties for the crew. Check out how they rise to meet the challenge!

Updated Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region , Nov.2017


Adirondack Canoe Route/Northern Forest Canoe Trail

  • The Adirondack Canoe Route is part of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) (leaves DEC website) which links the waterways of New York, Vermont, Québec, New Hampshire and Maine.

Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) (aka Ausable Club)

  • The Adirondack Mountain Reserve (link leaves DEC’s website) web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • The public easement agreement only allows for hiking on designated trails and roads. Do not trespass on AMR lands and waters or participate in any unauthorized activities. (2017)
  • Dogs are prohibited on the AMR. (2017)

Boreas Ponds Tract

  • Boreas Ponds Tract web page provides information on access and outdoor recreation opportunities available on these lands and waters including links to maps.
  • An Interim Access Plan for the Boreas Ponds Tract identifies access and recreational opportunities (PDF 773 KB) that are available prior to the classification of the tract and development of a unit management plan.
  • The lower gate on the Gulf Brook Road is open to public motor vehicle use. Gulf Brook Road provide access to three interior parking areas along the road. The Gulf Brook Road Upper Parking Area is near a gate that bars public motor vehicles use beyond the parking area. LaBier Flow is 2.5 miles beyond the gate and Boreas Ponds is 3.5 miles. (2017)
  • The public is prohibited from trespassing in and around leased hunting camps. (2017)

High Peaks Wilderness

  • A large tree has fallen on the Mr. Van Lean-to on the Mr. Van Ski Trail causing severe damage and rendering the lean-to unsafe and unusable. DEC is working with partners to evaluate the extent of the damage and the requirements and timing of repairs. (11/6)
  • Several sections of the Phelps Trail in the Upper Johns Brook Valley contain extensive amount of blowdown (fallen trees, limbs, and branches). Please use caution when hiking in and around this area. (11/6)
  • Blowdown has been cleared from the Blueberry Horse Trail between the Calkins Creek Horse Trail and Ward Brook Horse Trail in the Western High Peaks and the trail has been “brushed out” (trailside vegetation has been trimmed). The work was completed over the past two years with considerable effort from the DEC Ray Brook Trail Crew and the Student Conservation Association High Peaks Backcountry Stewards. The trail is once again passable to horses and riders, however, riders should take care near drainages and several stream crossings that will be muddy. DEC plans to improve the trail tread of this route in the future. (11/6)
  • A new section of Bradley Pond Trail to Sanatanoni Mountain has been constructed near the beginning of the trail to avoid the two crossing which had unusable bridges. The new trail section leaves the old trail just as the trail leaves the gravel road and crosses Santanoni Brook on a newly constructed bridge, and then joins the old trail a short distance later. The project was a combined effort of NOLS Alumni Service, Student Conservation Association (SCA) Adirondack Program, SCA High Peaks Backcountry Stewards, DEC High Peaks Trail Crew, Adirondack 46ers Volunteer Trail Crew, NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Moriah Shock Camp crews and DEC Lands & Forests staff. (11/2)
  • The high water bridge over Calamity Brook has been repaired. Although it leans slightly it is usable for crossing. The lean will be corrected at a later date. The repairs were completed by SCA High Peaks Backcountry Stewards, a DEC Forest Ranger and the DEC High Peaks Wilderness land manager. (11/2)
  • The trail through the Elk Lake Easement lands connecting to the High Peaks Wilderness is closed to the public through the regular big game hunting season. The trail will reopen on Monday, December 4. (11/2)
  • The high water bridge over Slide Mountain Brook on Phelps Trail between the Garden Trailhead Parking Area and Johns Brook Lodge has been replaced by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) Professional Trail Crew under contract with DEC and ADK Volunteers. (10/19)
  • The trail across private lands to the summit of Owls Head is closed to public access on weekends, but remains open to the public use during the week. (10/19)
  • Cold Brook Trail is not a designated DEC trail and is not maintained. The trail has not been a designated trail since Tropical Storm Irene. (9/14)
  • Lake Arnold/Feldspar Brook Trail wet and muddy but passable. (8/31)
  • Store ALL food, toiletries, and garbage in bear resistant canisters. Bear resistant canisters are required in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness and recommended throughout the Adirondacks. (2017)
  • The bridge over Ouluska Brook on the Northville-Placid Trail has collapsed into the brook. Due to low water conditions, crossing the brook is still possible. (2016)
  • The use of wood burning stoves is prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks. The ban on campfires applies to any type of use of wood as fuel to protect the trees and other vegetation from being damaged. (2016)
  • Many of the herd paths found on Mount Marshall and some of the other trail-less peaks meander around the slopes of the mountain without reaching the peak. Those climbing these peaks should navigate with a map and compass rather than follow the paths created by others. (2013)
  • Fixed ropes, harnesses and other equipment are often abandoned in the Trap Dike. Due to the age, weatherizing and wearing of these materials they are unsafe and should never be used. (2012) The Calkins Creek Horse Trail has two bridges out, making it impassable for horse drawn wagons and difficult for horses. (2011)

Dix Mountain Wilderness

  • The Dix Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • The trail through the Elk Lake Easement lands connecting to the Dix Mountain Wilderness is closed to the public through the regular big game hunting season. The trail will reopen on Monday, December 4. (11/2)
  • The Boquet Lean-to on the Dix Mountain Round Pond Trail has been moved away from river and repaired by volunteers from the Adirondack 46ers (leaves DEC website). (2017)

Giant Mountain Wilderness

  • The Giant Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • A trail re-route has been constructed around the flooded area on the North Trail to Giant Mountain just past the lean-to. (2017)

Hurricane Mountain Wilderness

Jay Mountain Wilderness

  • The Jay Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Nothing to report.

McKenzie Mountain Wilderness

Northville-Placid Trail

  • The Northville-Placid Trail Chapter (leaves DEC website) of the Adirondack Mountain Club provides the latest trail conditions and information for planning a hike on the trail – whether a through-hike, section-hike or weekend-hike.
  • The bridge over Ouluska Brook has collapsed into the brook. Due to low water conditions, crossing the brook is still possible. (2017)

Sentinel Range Wilderness

  • The Sentinel Range Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Beaver activity has flooded some parts of the Jack Rabbit Trail. (2017)

Thousands of Idled, Dirty Railroad Cars Are Littering the ADK Landscape

By Tracy Staedter

On an overcast day at the end of October, about 25 tanker railcars rolled through the small town of North Creek, New York, north of Saratoga Springs. They were heading for Minerva in Essex county to join a couple of dozen other railcars parked earlier in the month on a 30-mile stretch of track that cuts through the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Their growing presence in the park, where the branch could accommodate up to 2,000 cars, has rankled some local residents and conservation groups.

But railroad tracks, for the most part, are privately owned and federally managed, leaving some states and local municipalities without legal recourse. Add to that market fluctuations for goods hauled by rail and the expansion of new pipelines that transport oil and gas more cheaply than trains, and idled railcars can start to pile up. As of October, 2017, nearly 350,000 railcars of the 1.6 million freight cars operating in North America were in storage, according to the American Association of Railroads.

Image: American Association of Railroads

With rail yards reaching capacity, it’s common for freight car owners to lease track space from railroads that may have a secondary railway line or a bypass track, called a siding, said Bill Stephens, a correspondent for Trains magazine, who has been covering the business end of the train industry since the early 1990s.

“Storing cars is one way to make money with very little cost,” said Stephens.

Eyesore in the Adirondacks

At issue in the Adirondacks are stored tanker cars, of the type that transport crude oil. Federal regulations do not require that parked railcars be free of oil, gas or other hazardous materials. On some occasions, tanker cars have temporarily stored crude oil as it awaited shipment. That tanker cars parked in the Adirondack Preserve could potentially leak oil into the environment had many folks from New York’s Warren and Essex counties upset when they first heard about the storage plans back in July, 2015.

Pressed by those concerns, the railway’s owner, Ed Ellis, CEO of the Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings, asked the owners of the railcars to have them scrubbed at a federally certified cleaning facility, which costs about $3,500 for each, he said. “We told Warren County that we would not store any cars with residue there,” said Ellis. “We store them everywhere else, except in the Adirondacks. We made an exception.”

That information hasn’t quelled concerns among conservation groups. “We have asked for and not received any information from our state department of transportation about the inspections that the company claims have been done on these railcars,” said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, one of the groups active in pushing back on the storage of the railcars. “The state of these cars is an open question.”

Cleaned or not, storing train cars is not an appropriate use of the preserve, said Bauer. The 30-mile Sanford Lake Branch, which runs north from North Creek, New York, to its terminus at Tahawus mine, hugs the Hudson and Boreas rivers at times and runs for 13 miles through the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

“We are faced with the potential of seeing that track become a storage facility that could be this 30-mile junkyard snaking through the forest preserve, running along some of the grandest rivers in the state and threatening and undermining the scenic beauty and the environmental value of the Adirondack Park,” said Bauer.

Ellis said the railcars still have a good 20 or 30 years left in them and are being stored on a siding in the middle of nowhere. Photographs of the parked cars that can be found online show the trains ensconced in a thick forest of pine trees. “The people who took those pictures were trespassing. They were clearly standing on our property,” said Ellis.

Who’s Driving the Train?

Many opponents say that because of a “forever wild” clause, known as Article IVX, in the law that established the Adirondack Park back in 1892, the railroad shouldn’t be there in the first place. It was built during World War II, after the federal government used eminent domain to acquire a 100-foot-wide temporary easement, so that it could haul titanium ore from Tahawus mine down to the main line at Saratoga Springs. Since those days, the railroad has exchanged hands a couple of times.

Eventually, Iowa Pacific Holdings stepped in. In 2011, they established the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, which leases track from the town of Corinth as well as Warren county and owns track in Essex county. Ellis said that when the opportunity originally came up to purchase the track, he went to town officials in those counties and suggested that they buy it, since they owned the rest of the track that extended south to Saratoga Springs. “Neither of them had any money,” said Ellis. “They said, ‘Ed, you should buy the line.’ So we did.”

Ellis said his company has spent millions of dollars maintaining the track as well as updating bridges and crossings. The company had expected to operate trains for tourism and to haul rock from the mine, but so far neither of those ventures has panned out financially. “We are still working toward that,” said Ellis.

Until then, the company is leasing space to idled cars as a way to recoup the company’s investment. “Why isn’t it a good idea for us to earn our money back?” he said.

On Monday, Nov. 6, Ellis posted a video to Youtube of a song he penned that advocates his position. “Keeping Tracks” is sung to the tune of “Home on the Range” and has the refrain:

Home, home on the tracks

Where the deer and the blackbear still play

There is no need to fight

The cars are not in sight

You see wilderness every which way

Scenes Across the Country

The conflict in upstate New York is not the first of its kind. Last year, residents of Pittsfield and Saline, Michigan, expressed concerns over parked railcars owned by Ann Arbor Railroad.

For the last three years, the Uptown Triangle Neighborhood in New Orleans, Louisiana has been urging city officials as well as the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad to stop parking tanker cars along the two-mile length of track that parallels Leake Avenue. 

In Lakeville, Minnesota, neighbors started circulating a petition in March, 2017, to fight Progressive Rail, which has been storing railcars along a track there for eight years.

This past October, the Chicago-based real estate developer, Sterling Bay, filed a legal notice with Chicago, explaining why a couple dozen empty tanker cars—owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings—should not be stored on a track in the Goose Island neighborhood because they were bringing down property values.

For locals fighting against the storage of railcars in their backyards, it’s an uphill battle. Because railroads are a national network, economic and safety regulations are almost exclusively the domain of the federal government, said Stephens of Trains magazine. “There is limited authority that local entities have over rail movement.”

Neil Woodworth, executive director and legal counsel for the Adirondack Mountain Club, thinks there may be a legal case against Iowa Pacific Holdings. At the moment, the cars are parked on a siding and not on the active line. But if they start showing up on the branch line, said Woodworth, that could violate the terms of the easement as it was originally drawn up during World War II.

“If the railroad can no longer can be used for the purpose for which the easement was granted,” said Woodworth, “…it reverts back to the state of New York and is reincorporated back into the Forest Preserve.”

For now, concerned citizens and conservation groups are appealing to New York state’s Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Ellis said that in 2015, when the issue of storing cars on the branch came up, he wrote to Governor Cuomo and explained his plans. “There was no objection,” said Ellis.

If opposition efforts fail, locals will have to wait until the temporary easement expires to reclaim the land. That’s scheduled for 2062.

Keep your dog on a leash

I received this troubling email from one of our viewers during the past week. I myself have seen it and I encourage each and everyone of you if the dog needs to be on a leash you should do so.

Here is the e-mail

I live close to Henrys Woods and have come to love getting out each day for my daily hike there. I have had encounters with dogs thru the years but until last Saturday had never been attacked. A women came up the trail as I was coming out with a large German Shepard. As I approached the dog crouched down then ran at me and bit me on the hand. She called it back and told me I should not have put my hand out. As I went to continue down the trail he came from about thirty feet and attacked me again. Taking hold of my hand and biting . Although the damage was minimal ; this dog should be on a leash. Thought I would pass this along in the event that others have encountered this aggressive dog and its owner.

Point well taken. The vast majority of the dogs that are on the trail with us are not aggressive but as we have read this dog was aggressive and unfortunately attacked twice. So please for everybody safety, keep your dog on a leash or at least Under full control.

ADK Opening Johns Brook Lodge For Winter

From The Adirondack  Mountain Club


ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) will open Johns Brook Lodge (JBL) to the public this winter for the first time in decades. Caretaker service will be offered at the lodge for up to 10 guests on weekends.

Johns Brook Lodge is located on a 26-acre parcel of private property a 3.5-mile hike in from the Garden Parking Area, which serves as an access for much of the Adirondack High Peaks near Keene Valley.  Built in 1925, the lodge sleeps 28 guests in co-ed bunkrooms in the summer. During July and August the stay includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. From mid-May to late-June and Labor Day to Columbus Day the lodge operates under caretaker service where guests provide and cook their own food and have access to the JBL kitchen.

ADK has offered winter accommodations on the Johns Brook Property for over 80 years. Most recently, winter accommodations have been offered at Camp Peggy O’Brien and Grace Camp, two winterized cabins on the opposite side of Johns Brook from JBL. These cabins have been a popular basecamp for winter recreationists. Three lean-tos are also available for rent year around.

Starting on January 5th, JBL will be open to guests on weekends until early April. Guests will have to provide and cook their own food but will have full access to JBL’s kitchen. Heat from a propane heater and a wood stove will be provided for guests. There will be no running water at the lodge during this time so gathering and treating water from the brook will be necessary.

Over the past 10 years ADK has renovated and winterized Johns Brook Lodge with new windows, wall insulation, and the installation of a wood stove.

Since the early 1980s, ADK has facilitated a volunteer Winter Host Program at the Johns Brook Property from December through March where volunteers provide information to recreationists heading into the High Peaks. In addition to information, volunteers offer hot beverages and a space to warm up for hikers passing through the property. This year, ADK is expecting to transition this responsibility to a full-time caretaker to facilitate winter operations.

Rates are $50 per person per night and you can make a reservation for your stay, check availability, or find out more information about staying at JBL during the winter by visiting the ADK website, or by calling (518) 523-3441.

Former state education commissioner, 72, dies while hiking in Adirondacks

Richard P. “Rick” Mills, the state’s former education commissioner, died on Nov. 1 after suffering an apparent heart attack while hiking in the Adirondacks with a friend, his wife Judy told the Daily Gazette.

Mills, 73, of Clifton Park, N.Y., was on the Puffer Pond Trail in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area in Warren County when the incident occurred.

He was state education commissioner from 1995 to 2009. He led “the push to make the Regents exams the closest thing New York has seen to a universal high school exit exam. He was also commissioner as the charter school movement, which was approved by the Legislature and Gov. George Pataki, got underway in New Yori,” the Albany Times Union reported.

The DEC gave the following account of the incident that led to his death:

“At 5 p.m. on Nov. 1, a radio call came in from the DEC trail crew working on the East Sacandaga Trail. The crew had been notified that a man … was having a possible cardiac arrest on the Puffer Pond Trail in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area. Due to inclement weather, helicopter support was not available. Six Forest Rangers, two trail crew members, and the Indian Lake Fire Department responded to the scene for a carry-out of the ill hiker.