Adirondack Park is a publicly-protected area located in
northeast New York. It is the largest park in the contiguous United
States, the largest National Historic Landmark, and the largest area
protected by any U.S. state.
The park covers some 6.1 million acres, a land area about the
size of Vermont, or of the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon,
Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined.
More than half the land within the Adirondack Park is privately
owned, including several villages and hamlets.
Adirondack Park boundary, commonly referred to as the 'Blue Line,'
contains the entire Adirondack Mountain range as well as some
The park includes all of Hamilton and Essex
counties, as well as considerable portions of Clinton, Franklin,
Fulton, Herkimer, St. Lawrence, and Warren counties and small
portions of Lewis, Oneida, Saratoga, and Washington counties as
The Clinton County towns of Altona and Dannemora, despite
being entirely within the park boundary, are specifically excluded
from the park by statute, due to the large prison facilities in both
Not all of the land within the park is owned by the state,
although new sections are frequently purchased or donated. State
land comprises 2.7 million acres, or about 45% of the park's area,
including the highest peaks in New York State, as well as Mount
Marcy, the highest elevation in the state.
About one million acres
of this total are classified as wilderness, with most of the
remainder managed under the somewhat less stringent wild forest
classification. Towns and hamlets comprise less than 1% of the area
of the park; the remaining area of more than 3 million acres is
privately held but is generally sparsely developed.
There is often
no clear demarcation between state, private, and wilderness lands in
the park. Signs marking the Adirondack Park boundary can be found on
most of the major roads in the region, but there are no entrance
gates and no admission fee.
The thinking that was to lead to the creation of the park first
appeared in George Perkins Marsh's Man and Nature, published
in 1864. Marsh argued that deforestation could lead to
desertification: referring to the clearing of once lush lands
surrounding the Mediterranean, he asserted "the operation of
causes set in action by man has brought the face of the earth to a
desolation almost as complete as that of the moon."
The idea for the park itself first occurred to surveyor Verplanck
Colvin in 1870, while taking in the view from atop Seward Mountain.
He wrote to the state government that action was necessary to
protect the forests or it would be wasted, which would lead to the
drying up of the water needed to keep the Erie Canal in operation.
Three years later he was appointed to a committee formed to consider
how to do this.
While his term 'Adirondack Park' led to some derision and fears
from longtime residents of the area that they might be bought out
and evicted, proponents of the idea began to use 'Adirondack Forest
Preserve' instead. Both terms continue in use to this day, with the
former referring to the land inside the Blue Line and the latter to
that portion owned by the state.
In 1878, Seneca Ray Stoddard produced a topographical survey of
the Adirondacks that was influential in the creation of the Park.
Serious efforts to protect this land began in 1882, when
businessmen in New York began to be concerned about the effects of
widespread logging. Without trees, the many steep slopes on the
mountains in the region were likely to erode, and the silt from the
slopes could conceivably have silted up the Erie Canal and the
Hudson itself, choking off New York State�s economic backbone.
In 1885, legislation declared that the land in the Adirondack
Park and the Catskill Park was to be conserved and never put up for
sale or lease. The park was established in 1892, due to the
activities of Colvin and other conservationists. The park was given
state constitutional protection in 1894, so that the state-owned
lands within its bounds would be protected forever ('forever wild').
The part of the Adirondack State Park under government control is
referred to as the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Further, this
became a National Historic Landmark in 1963.
Ongoing efforts have been made to reintroduce native fauna that
had been lost in the park during earlier exploitation. Animals in
various stages of reintroduction include the American Beaver, the
Fisher, the American Marten, the Moose, the Canadian Lynx, and the
Osprey. Not all of these restoration efforts have been successful
The park has a year-round population of about 130,000 people in
dozens of villages and hamlets. Seasonal residents number about
200,000, while an estimated 7-10 million tourists visit the park
It is the largest area without a city in New York State.
There are more than 3,000 lakes and 30,000 miles of streams and
rivers. Many areas within the park are devoid of settlements and
distant from usable roads.
The park includes over 2,000 miles of
hiking trails; these trails comprise the largest trail system in the
nation. With its combination of private and public lands, its large
scale and its long history as a place people have tried to coexist
with nature, many see the Adirondacks as a model for the ways
natural areas with human populations can be protected into the
future. There are parks in India and other nations that use the
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
is responsible for the care, custody, and management of the
2,700,000 acres of public (state) land in the Adirondack Forest
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA, created 1971) is a
governmental agency that performs long-range planning for the future
of the Adirondack State Park. It oversees development plans of
private land-owners, as well as activities within the Forest
Preserve. Development by private owners must be reviewed to
determine if their plan is compatible with the park.
This system of management is distinctly different from New York's
state park system, which is managed by different agencies, primarily
the state's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
While it is frequently referred to as a state park, the Adirondack
Park has much more in common with a national forest: it mixes
private and public land and has year-round residents within its
boundaries in long-established settlements. 'Adirondack Park' was
Verplanck Colvin's original term for the area; it and the park
itself predate by several decades the formal establishment of state
parks in New York.
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