A Call for an Expanded High Peaks Wilderness at Boreas Ponds
Key Aspects of the AWA Boreas Ponds Proposal
Adirondack Wilderness Advocates’ Boreas Ponds Proposal
Join us as we advocate for a major expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness. The Boreas Ponds, McIntyre East, and McIntyre West tracts acquired recently in the foothills of the mountains should be designated Wilderness to protect natural resources and promote new opportunities for primitive recreation.
Combined with adjacent private properties that are protected by conservation easements, the expanded Wilderness Area would become part of an unbroken landscape greater than 300,000 acres in size.
Not only would this create a protected area on a scale not possible anywhere else in the northeastern United States, it would rival many of the Wilderness Areas of the western states as well. The new High Peaks Wilderness would extend from the Raquette River on the west to the Schroon River on the east, encompassing a roadless area larger than such prominent National Parks as Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Bryce Canyon.
Our inspiration is the region’s vast size, sensitive wildlife habitats, history of light human habitation, and high sense of remoteness. Wildness and remoteness are the qualities that distinguish the Adirondack Park from other mountainous areas in the Northeast, such as the Poconos, the Catskills, the Green Mountains, or the Whites of New Hampshire. People come to northern New York because our twenty-one designated Wilderness Areas and other wildlands provide opportunities not possible elsewhere in this part of the country. Preserving and expanding those opportunities is at the core of Adirondack Wilderness Advocates’ mission.
The proposed High Peaks Wilderness additions, including Boreas Ponds, are parts of a much larger acquisition project that has opened a vast empire of former Finch, Pruyn lands to the public. Seen in their entirety, these lands are already accommodating a wide variety of recreational uses.
However, the Boreas Ponds Tract and its neighbors represent the best opportunity to extend true Wilderness protection to a large geographic area, preserving its remoteness and unspoiled beauty for current and future generations. These lands will be a gift to a future, more technology-driven world that will need wilderness escapes more than ever.
Think about those places in the Adirondacks that you have been to, the ones that are so remote that getting there entails bragging rights and a sense of accomplishment.
That is what is at stake here.
A Resource to Protect, a Wilderness to Enjoy
There is more to our proposal than just boundary configurations. We are also promoting a conceptual idea for a future recreation management plan that puts people in these outstanding places without overburdening the resource. Explore these ideas in more depth below.
- Designate a ski trail network on the MacIntyre West Tract utilizing the established trails already in use by hunting club members. There are several small clearings on this property with outstanding views of Santanoni Mountain, and these have interesting potential as lean-to sites. Combined with the small-but-scenic Lake Andrew, these could be incorporated into a shelter-to-shelter trail system for skiers and hikers. The connection with Newcomb Lake will enable a circumnavigation of the entire Santanoni Range—a gift to trekkers.
- Establish improved canoe access points for Sanford Lake and the Hudson River. Part of the MacIntyre East Tract extends outside of the proposed Wilderness boundaries, and should be added to the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest. This section of the Hudson is navigable by canoe, although it currently suffers from a lack of good launching and takeout points. There are intriguing views of the surrounding mountains at various points along the river, and if access can be improved (especially at the downstream end) this has the potential to become a favorite paddling destination.
- Designate Gulf Brook Road as a multi-use trail for horses, skiing, and hiking. Once the hunting club leases expire in 2018 and all non-conforming structures have been removed, there will be no further obligations to maintain the road. Adirondack Wilderness Advocates strongly urges the state to keep the road closed to public motorized uses, designating it as a trail instead. Its surface would be ideal for canoe carts and wagons, which are permissible uses within Wilderness Areas, and in the winter it would be an excellent cross-country ski trail. The latter opportunity would be lost, however, if the road were opened to motorized uses, including snowmobiles.
- Build two lean-tos near the shoreline of Boreas Ponds and manage the area as a remote backpacking destination. This body of water, with its stunning views of the neighboring peaks, features extensive marshes along its shoreline. Although there has been much discussion about managing Boreas Ponds as a canoeing destination with easy road access, the absence of connecting waterways—combined with the dearth of potential campsites—make this an unrealistic setting for car-enabled paddling access. It appears that past recreational use of the pond has been low, and therefore an increased human presence enabled by easy road access could have an adverse impact on the wildlife that inhabits the area, including a robust moose population. Instead, Adirondack Wilderness Advocates proposes that Boreas Ponds is better suited for dispersed, low-impact recreation, and that its remote characteristics should be strongly protected. Lean-tos at carefully selected sites would concentrate use at durable locations, leaving much of the shoreline untouched for the benefit of nesting loons and browsing moose. Connecting trails to Panther Gorge and the Opalescent River would “plug” this tract into the existing High Peaks trail network, and extending the new Wolf Pond Trail north to LaBier Flow would provide alternate foot access from the south.
- Assess the historic value of the LaBier Flow hunting camp and retain this log structure as a ranger station, if warranted. This particular cabin, located on the main route to Boreas Ponds, is believed to have been constructed in the nineteenth century. If an assessment of its historic value determines that it is worth preserving, then Adirondack Wilderness Advocates supports the possibility of its retention as a ranger station, subject to Wilderness guidelines. However, this would require an amendment to the State Land Master Plan, so it is critical that a thorough assessment be completed before any final decisions are made. Under no circumstances would we condone the cabin’s use as a public camping or lodging facility.
- Cut a foot trail to the southern summit of Ragged Mountain, where outstanding views of the Hoffman Notch Wilderness can be found. This has the potential to become a favorite short hike within easy reach of the Gulf Brook trailhead. Currently, a short bushwhack is required to find the rock ledges, but a quality hiking trail could be established with minimum effort.
- Designate an area for camping and motor vehicle access in the vicinity of The Branch, east of Ragged Mountain. This existing Finch, Pruyn road does not penetrate a remote area and would not infringe on the wilderness values of the interior of the Boreas Ponds Tract, making it a more suitable location for motorized recreation.
- Establish a “wilderness gateway” facility at North Hudson.