Adirondack Wilderness Experience

Summer 2007

ES 241

(4 credits)

Bob Turner                                                                                           

Assistant Professor                                                                                  

Government Department                                                                 


Kyle Nichols

Assistant Professor

Geoscience Department


The Adirondack Park is the birthplace of the American concept of wilderness and land conservation.  It is the second oldest park in the U.S. and the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, larger than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon parks combined. Today, it is on the cutting edge of how to turn the abstract principles of environmental sustainability into a set of feasible political, economic, and ecological principles.  This class will examine the natural setting of the park, the environmental impact of humans on the park, the evolution of popular views of the wilderness, the attempts to balance development and preservation, the prospects of bio-regional level governance, and the major challenges to ecological, social, and economic success in the Adirondack Park. 


            The emphasis in this class will be in experiential learning.  The course will draw on practitioners and scholars who have created and managed  the Park while at the same time debating its merits.  We have recruited individuals for their depth of understanding of the issues and the divergence of their perspectives. Moreover, we will also go into the wilderness itself in various hikes and/or canoe trips.  Ebenezer Emmons, the director of the State Survey of the Adirondacks in 1836, wrote, “It is not however by description that the scenery of this region can be made to pass before the eye of the imagination.  It must be witnessed; the solitary summits in the distance, the cedars and firs which clothe the rock and shore, must be seen; the solitude must be felt.” 


Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:


Books and Readings

Schneider, Paul. The Adirondacks: A History of America’s First Wilderness.



Jenkins, Jerry. The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park.


Reading Packet of articles, to be provided




June 3  Day Long Field Trip, Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area (see above)


Section I.  Early Land Use and the Emergence of the Wilderness Aesthetic

June 6 Settlement and Industry

Schneider 4–12

Adirondack Atlas: p. 14-18, 69-77; 80–83, 99-111,


June 7 The Arrival of Tourists

            William Murray, from Adventures in the Wilderness, 1869

            J.T. Headley, from The Adirondacks: Or, Life in the Woods, 1864

            Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Adirondacks” and Nature

Terrie: 20–43; 106–113.

Schneider 21–23; Atlas: 88-91.


Reading Essay 1 due


June 8 and 9  Overnight Field Trip

            June 8, Tour Adirondack Museum, Presentations by Museum Staff

            Stay overnight at Great Camp Sagamore, Raquette Lake

            June 9, Trip to Paul Smiths Hamline Pond Wilderness Restoration Project


Reflection Essay 2 Due


Section II.  Governance of the Adirondack Park

June 13  Creation of Adirondack Forest Preserve and the Forever Wild Clause

Atlas: 25-27;

Verplanck Colvin, from Adirondack Explorations, 1997: pp, 87–97, 98–110

Terrie 6 and 7

Schneider 25: 287-304.


June 14  The Creation of the Adirondack Park Agency and Land Use Conflict 

Terrie 8:134–183;

Atlas: 24-33.

Catherine Henshaw Knott, from Living with the Adirondack Forest, 1998: Chaps. 7

            Schneider 26–28: 305–334; Atlas: 205-7.


Reading Essay 2 due


June 15 Field Work- Ascent of a High Peak to be determined

            Isachsen et al., Geology of New York, 1991: Chaps. 3–4, 11–12

            Review DEC High Peaks Regulations http://internal/website/dlf/publands/adk/hpwa/index.html

            Stay at Adirondack Loj--


June 16 Competing Views on the Future of the Adirondacks  

Proposed Speakers

Ross Whaley, Chairman, Adirondack Park Agency (APA)

John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council,

Peter Litchfield of the Blue Line Council,

Virginia Brandreth of the Adirondack Landowners Association,

J.R. Risley, Supervisor of the Town of Inlet and member of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages


Reflection Essay 3 Due


Section III  Environmental Challenges to the Adirondacks

June 20  Economic and Ecological Challenges Facing the Adirondack Park

            Is Industrial Logging Better Than Vacation Homes

Schneider 17–18: 197–217

Atlas: 99-111;

Knott 7: 153–215.


June 21  Competing Recreational Visions --Motorized Vehicle Use in the Adirondack Park

Guest Speakers

            David Gibson, Exec. Director, Assoc. for the Protection of the Adirondacks


Reading Essay 3 due


June 22 Field Trip to Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation

Guest Speaker Karen Roy, Scientist, Adirondack Lakes Survey Corp.

Hubbard Brook Research Foundation, Acid Rain Revisited, 2004.

Volker Mohnen, “The Challenge of Acid Rain,” Scientific American 259(2):30–38


June 23


Reflection Essay 4 Due


June 27  The Proposed Oswagatchie Wilderness Area

            Proposed Guest Speakers

            Wilderness Coordinator, Atlantic Chapter, Sierra Club\

            Andy Keal, GIS Coordinator, Wildlife Conservation Society

            Tom Martin, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation


June 28-29  Overnight Canoe Camping Trip on the Oswagatchie River


Reflection Essay 5 Due