Adirondack Fire Towers
|N.W Region||N.E. Region||S.W Region||S.E. Region|
* Out of the Park
|Bald (Lewis County)
Moose River Mt.
Salmon Lake Mt.
58 in the list and have climbed the red ones. Links above have photos & descriptions of my hikes.
What a difference a year makes! Thanks in great part to the work of three authors: Jack Freeman - Views from on High: Fire Tower Trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills, Marty Podskotch - Fire Towers of the Catskills: Their History and Lore, and Gary & Justin VanRiper - Rescue on Bald Mountain - the Adirondack fire tower stories have hit the newspapers all summer. All three authors have attended book signings and/or given slideshows to hundreds of folks who have expressed their concern for and interest in preserving the towers remaining on State lands in the Adirondacks and Catskills. Public and private restoration partnerships have evolved and committees have formed in many communities to raise funds, recruit volunteers, and develop educational/interpretative awareness programs for a number of the towers.
News from Adirondack
Architectural Heritage (AARCH):
More on the Catskills - coming soon!
Tower Challenge - Sponsored by the Glens
Falls Chapter of the Adirondack Mt. Club
Also - information on our Unsolved Mystery Fire Tower - Click here to view our mystery photo sent in by Russell Roberts.
The Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Council on the Arts have awarded a $4,765 grant to the Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) to nominate the towers to the National Register of Historic Places. According to Charles Vandrei, DEC's historic preservation officer, "To be considered for the National Register, the structure must be in good condition and its appearance must not be greatly modified from the period during which it was used." Ten towers are being considered, although the program may be extended to others. The recognition and status of a National Register listing will provide additional protection and possible funding to groups and the DEC in their efforts to preserve one of NY State's most visible conservation efforts. According to Steve Engelhart, Executive Director of AARCH, "There is alot of support for this project. The towers are a piece of our history." Press Republican - Plattsburgh, November 24, 1998
Adirondack Fire Tower History
While climbing Pok-O-Moonshine a few years ago, I chanced upon an elderly gentleman who was taking a breather along the path. In the course of our conversation about mountain climbing he remarked, "You know, it's not the elevation of the summit that is important for me, but what you see when you get on top! New York State picked the fire tower summits for this purpose." In his seventies, he was making his annual climb up his favorite mountain. So...a seed was planted even though I was busy climbing the 46 highest Adirondack peaks at the time. I'm now trying to climb as many of the fire tower summits as I can find.
I've studied old maps, visited libraries, read hiking books and surfed the net. One of the best resources I have found so far is Louis Curth's The Forest Rangers, 1987. Some 55-61 sites were once in maintained within the Adirondack Park. I hope a few people who find my site can send on more fire tower stories.
Jolted by the devastation of thousands of acres of the Forest Preserve during the Great Fires of 1903 and 1908, Governor Hughes signed amendments to the existing Forest, Fish and Game Law which would provide for a forest patrol service and provisions for the erection and staffing of forest fire observation stations. The first was located atop Mt. Morris in Franklin Co., 16 in all in the Adirondacks by 1910, 4 in the Catskills, 49 stations by the end of 1912. Most were built with crude logs or planks and varied in height. At first observers lived in tents and were paid $50-$60/month, $12 more if they lived on the mountain rather than returning home each night. So, rough cabins quickly replaced the tents.By 1917, steel towers were replacing the wooden ones - most directed by Forest Ranger Albert Tebeau of Owls Head at a cost of $530 average, not counting the labor of the Rangers. During the thirties, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) laborers assisted in the construction or reconstruction of the fire observation sites. Manpower shortages in the forties brought women into fire observer positions.
So what brought about their abandonment? A number of factors I believe. Money (or lack of it), politics, technology. As to the latter, twenty-nine railroads crisscrossed over 1,300 miles of NYS Forest Preserve in 1888 - the chief cause of early forest fires. Today, modern highways are the avenues by which people, goods and services are coursed through the mountains. The first Biplane used for fire patrol and observation began in 1931 and air service significantly increased following WWII. Helicopters were first brought into service in 1965.
Adirondack Architectural Heritage Newsletter, Vol. 4, #1, May 1995 stated:
Many of these are favorite hikes in our own back yards. The few towers remaining represent a important link to the history of the Park and to the dedicated foresters that helped to preserve it for future generations. Local action groups have formed such as for Blue Mt. and Hadley Mt. AARCH has more info for interested citizens. Call 518 834-9328.
For a list of the Adirondack Towers, I recommend Bob Berch's site. He maintains a chart of the mountains, heights, distances & directions. Don't forget to sign the registers!!
Additional Fire Tower Info: