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GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY.
To give the reader some idea of the central portion of New York, in which the scenes of this work are laid, and through which I traveled; and that he may not regard it mere child's play to penetrate it, I would say that across it either way is about the distance from New York to Albany-varying from a hundred to a hundred and fifty miles. It is the same as if the whole country from New York to Albany, and extending, also, fifty miles each side of the Hudson, was an unbroken wilderness, crossed by no road, enlivened by no cultivation, not a keel disturbing its waters, while bears, panthers, wolves, moose and deer were the only lords of the soil.
Imagine such a tract of country, about the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut put together, most of which lies a neglected waste, through which you must make your way with the compass, sustained by what your own skill can secure, and you will obtain a faint conception of the Adirondack region. And yet, you will hardly get a correct one, because there would not enter into it the gloomy gorges and savage mountains that everywhere roll it into disorder.' I shall furnish, however, the best description, by giving an extract from a letter of Professor Farrand N. Benedict, of Vermont University, whose able report in the Geological Work of our State, and reports, also, to the Senate, on the capabilities of this section for slack water navigation, have been of equal service to science and to the practical man.
In a letter to me, which the reader will acknowledge to be written with singular clearness and beauty, he says:
- The northern section of New York, embracing the county of Hamilton, and the most of the counties of Essex, Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Herkimer, Lewis, War ren, and Fulton, has hitherto resisted the march of improvement, and still remains, with a few solitary exceptions, an unsubdued forest. Until recently, little has been known of its physical resources, and of its adaptedness to the wants of man in his civilized state. Regarded as an unproductive waste, it has left the vagụe and transient impression on the mind that it answered well enough, the only purpose of its existence, to constitute a barrier between the Mohawk and St. Lawrence Rivers, and to prevent the waters of Lake Ontario from carrying desolation with them into the valley of Champlain. It seems until lately to have failed to awaken that interest in its behalf, tc which it is 'ustly en
titled, in view of the recent developments of its mineral, and even of its agricultural capabilities.
This section of country, which is frequently denominated the Plateau of Northern New York, is washed at its western base by the Black River and Lake Ontario-at its northwestern by the St. Lawrence-at its eastern by Lake Champlain—and at its southern by the Mohawk River. Settlements and civilization have advanced from five to twenty-five miles up the valleys and slopes of this elevated table, where they are met by the nearly uninterrupted wil. derness of the interior. The general surface of this region as indicated by the lakes and streams, and in many instances, especially in the western part, of the extensive valleys which they drain, is nearly a horizontal plane, with a medium elevation above tide of 1700 feet. This elevated surface is attained by a rapid ascent from its base, in a distance of some ten or twenty miles, except where the grade is occasionally reduced, and the distance proportionably increased by valleys and streams. The slope is the most rapid from the Black River and Lake Champlain, declining more gently to the Mohawk, and still more so towards the St. Lawrence and the low country of Canada.
“ This table is divided transversely into two nearly equal portions by a broad valley of variable width, which meets the shores of Lake Champlain at Plattsburgh. The valley
extends in a southwesterly direction up the Saranac River to the beautiful cluster of lakes of that name—thence with no intervening ridge it passes up the Raquette River, through Long and Raquette Lakes; and thence in the same general direction, and with no opposing barrier, down the Moose River and its chain of picturesque lakes, ard terminates in Oneida County, near Boonville. This valley is remarkable for its extent-being about 150 miles in length—for its nearly uniform direction, although it is formed by the basins of three different systems of waters for the productiveness of its soil in the upper sections of its course—and especially for its almost unparalleled line of natural navigation.
“The western portion of the table, or rather that which is situated west of this valley, presents a varied and picturesque, though not a mountainous surface. The Adirondack Mountains are seen towards the east, with their bare and rocky summit, dim in the distance, projecting their spurs clothed with black forests to the shores of this central line of waters. Proceeding westwardly from this line, the physical aspect of the country undergoes a marked and immediate change. The mountains are reduced to hills of mode elevations; and, instead of being covered with rugged and sterile peaks, their rounded summits display a luxuriant growth of valuable timber. They appear to be disposed without inuch conformity to any general system of
arrangement. They are frequently solitary, and whenever they can aggregate in groups or clusters, their positions are determined by the local arrangements of the neighboring waters. Between the lakes, or rather ponds, of this uniform section, which are disseminated in singular precision over the whole plateau, the surface rises gently from the shores into swells of arable land, excepting the southern declivities which are often abrupt and precipitous.
The eastern part of the plateau, embracing a tract of country about 50 miles wide and 140 miles in length, and terminated by the Raquette Valley on the west, is decidedly Alpine in its physical aspect. Its apparently confused wil. derness of mountains is found, on close examination, to be disposed in ranges nearly parallel to the valley above mentioned. These terminate in successive bold and rocky promontories on the western shore of Lake Champlain. The chains increase in elevation as they approach the interior, until they attain their greatest altitude and grandeur in the most western one of the series. This has a northern termination at Trembleau Point, and thrusts its southern extremity into the bed of the Mohawk at Little Falls. It consists of an extended aggregation of mountain masses, resting on bases that are elevated nearly 2000 feet above tide. Many of these throw their bare and pointed summits of rock to the perpendicular altitude of about a mile above the surface of the ocean. The vastness of their elevations,