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About the Adirondack Park

The Adirondack Park:
A Patchwork of Public and Private

The Adirondack Park was established by the New York State Legislature in 1892. Originally conceived simply as an area in which additions to the Forest Preserve would be concentrated, the Park has evolved into an unprecedented blending of public and private lands where people live in a landscape whose historic character and natural environment are protected.

Of the 6 million acres encircled by the Park's boundary, or "blue line," nearly 3.5 million acres are privately owned. The Park's many towns and villages are home to 130,000 people. The lumber and paper industries, tourism, construction and mining are major sources of employment for Park residents.

Throughout the backcountry of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, DEC maintains over 2,000 miles of marked trails that are available for people of all interests and abilities. A family can take a short hike to a picnic spot near a waterfall or climb a mountain with a fire tower. Those intent on finding solitude can spend a week backpacking along the Northville-Lake Placid Trail or canoeing in the lake country of the central Adirondacks.

Equestrians can discover elevated views of Lake George, and many rugged trails in wild forest areas are open to mountain bicycles. In winter, opportunities include a snowmobile ride to Wilcox Lake, a weekend of downhill skiing at Whiteface Mountain, or a day of ski-touring in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness. Fall big-game hunting, brook trout fishing at ice-out, or warbler watching in May round out the list of experiences available on Forest Preserve lands.

If you are looking for beautiful trails without the crowds, try the western Adirondacks. They are less well known than areas like the High Peaks and Pharaoh Lake Wilderness areas, which often are heavily used.

The Adirondack Forest Preserve

The diverse system of State lands in the Adirondack Mountain region of New York is known collectively as the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Along with similar lands in the Catskills, the Adirondack Forest Preserve was created in 1885 by an act of the New York State Legislature.

It was the culmination of a preservation movement that grew out of concern about widespread tree cutting to support the lumber, paper, leather tanning, and iron mining industries in the Adirondacks that began in earnest in the 1850's. Preservation advocates like Verplanck Colvin, Charles Sprague Sargent, and Franklin B. Hough championed the protection of the Adirondack region as a vast public park.

At the same time, influential New York City merchants feared that continued logging would lead to reduced flows in the Hudson River and Erie Canal, the major upstate transportation corridors of the day. Together they achieved one of the earliest acts of public land preservation in the nation.

After the establishment of the Forest Preserve, attempts to weaken the law that established it led the State to give it even stronger protection in 1894, when these now famous words were added to the New York State Constitution:

"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 to more than 2.6 million acres, making it the largest complex of wild public lands in the eastern United States.

Today the Forest Preserve is still important for protecting the headwaters of many of New York's major rivers. As an undisturbed natural landscape, it is a haven for a host of distinctive plants, fish, and wildlife, some of which live nowhere else in the state. A wild natural environment is also the quality that attracts increasing numbers of visitors to the Forest Preserve. Whether you see it in the background on a drive to an Adirondack inn or experience it directly by leaving the road to hike or canoe, hunt, fish, or camp, you can find recreation in a land of forests, mountains, and lakes in the Forest Preserve.

State Campgrounds

The 42 campgrounds operated by DEC in the Adirondack Forest Preserve are visited each year by nearly three quarters of a million people. Most campgrounds are located on the shores of lakes and rivers, and range in character from the bustling Fish Creek Campground to the seclusion of the Indian Lake Islands, accessible only by boat. For more information, visit DEC's Camping page.


The Adirondack Park is home for 54 species of mammals. White- tailed deer are abundant, and there are more black bears in the Adirondacks than in any other part of the state. Forest residents that usually escape detection include bobcat, fisher, and pine marten. Working mostly after the sun goes down, beaver make their mark throughout the Adirondacks by damming most of the smaller streams. The song of the coyote is a common sound of the night. Wildlife biologists believe that coyotes migrated to the Adirondacks from the midwest and Canada during this century. An even more recent migrant is the moose. A small herd of wanderers from Vermont and New Hampshire has become established in the central Adirondacks over the past two decades. In the spring, throngs of migrating songbirds returning from their southern wintering grounds add color and music to the Adirondack environment. Mergansers dive for fish in remote ponds and lakes, while great blue herons stand alert in the shallows. At night the wild call of the loon is joined by the distinctive hoot of the barred owl. In all, almost 200 species of birds breed within the Adirondack Park.

Adirondack Habitats and Wildlife

Water habitats include cold trout streams, glacial ponds, deep lakes, teeming marshes, acid bogs, and evergreen swamps. Upland communities include both evergreen and hardwood forests of various ages, and alpine zones on the highest mountaintops.

Some of the common members of these communities are:

• Sugar Maple...the common hardwood tree throughout the region on rich glacial till soils up to 2500'

• Paper Birch...found wherever forest fires or land clearing altered the landscape.
Balsam Fir...moderate size tree of both swamps and mountaintop forests

White Pine...tallest tree of the forest (150' +) and common on sandy soil and shorelines

Blueberry...low shrub of burned areas on sandy soils
Loon...common bird whose cry is the "voice of the wilderness" excess of 160 nesting pairs in the Park

Moose...returned to region after absence of more than a century; at least 75 animals here now

Coyote...major predator for nearly half a century; important to the "balance of nature"

White-Tailed Deer...common, but not well adapted to deep winter snow of the Adirondacks

Beaver...largest rodent (50+ lbs.); eats hardwood tree bark; now found nearly everywhere after near xtirpation a century ago

Brook Trout...most sought-after native fish of ponds and streams in the Park

Black Bear...some 3000 make their home here in the deeper forested areas; bears eat both plant and animal food

Osprey...large fish-eating hawk common to many remote lakes and ponds

Hunting, Trapping and Fishing

The Adirondack Forest Preserve is open to public hunting, except in intensive use areas. Big game hunters seek white-tailed deer and black bear in the fall, while others lie in wait for ducks or pursue ruffed grouse and other small game like the snowshoe hare. Adirondack furbearers such as beaver, fisher, and river otter are sought by trappers.

The many lakes and ponds, rivers and streams of the Forest Preserve support thriving communities of game fish. In many remote ponds, DEC is working to restore and maintain the native brook trout. Suitable waters are managed for other "salmonids" such as lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, and kokanee salmon. Anglers can also find an abundance of feisty "warm water" fish, like smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch and bullheads.

Hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses are sold at town offices and numerous retailers of outdoor equipment, where you may also obtain regulation booklets. For more information, visit DEC's Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources pages.

© NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

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