"I can go inside now, confident that the youth of distant tomorrows
will backpack down winding forest trails, glimpse the sliver of a wildness lake
shining through the trees, and gather round their crackling campfire."
—Paul Schaefer

A Visit to the Hadley Mountain Firetower
by David Gibson, Partner


Great Sacandaga Lake, or reservoir from Hadley Mountain. The lake filled behind the Conklingville Dam in 1930.
Photo © David Gibson

Looking north from Hadley Mountain you can see beyond the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest to the Siamese Ponds Wilderness, and Snowy Mountain near Indian Lake. Photo © David Gibson

Hadley Mountain's rocky ridge is formed by a hard but beautiful greenish, gneissic rock. Photo © David Gibson  

Steve Tupper (rt), a 2012 graduate of SUNY Potsdam, is this year's Hadley Mountain Summit Guide. Steve wears a DEC patch on his arm to signify the important partnership the Hadley Firetower Committee has with DEC.Photo © David Gibson

The Hadley Mountain firetower was restored in the late 1990s thanks to DEC and the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower Committee chaired by Jack Freeman of the ADK. Today, it serves as a focal point for hiker awareness and education.
Photo © David Gibson


Hadley Mountain in northern Saratoga County is part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Its long ridgeline sweeps north to Stony Creek, and views during the dry, clear atmosphere of winter scan can be had of Snowy Mountain in Hamilton County and even Mount Marcy other high peaks in Essex County. Its firetower built in 1917 had to be one of the most important fire detection stations in the southern Adirondacks. To the southwest, the enormous reach of Great Sacandaga Reservoir dominates the view, backed up by the Conklingville dam that filled that valley in 1930. Two decades later, flooding of any Forest Preserve land for river regulating purposes became unconstitutional (in 1953 thanks to Paul Schaefer, our founder, and his broad coalition, including the Moose River Committee).

Hadley is also one of the first, if not the first firetower to be restored in this latter day era of an educational Forest Preserve, whose advocates seek to impart awareness, knowledge, appreciation and understanding among the hiking public. The Hadley Mountain Fire Tower Committee was created in the mid 1990s under the leadership of Jack Freeman of the Adirondack Mountain Club. Many people from the Hadley area served and continue to serve as well as lead the committee, including Linda Champagne, who writes an annual newsletter, the Hadley Mountain News. NYS DEC Forest Ranger Steve Guenther took an active role on the committee, and supervised the restoration work. On behalf of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, I attended early meetings of the committee, and continue to enjoy annual visits to the mountain.

Now with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, I was inspired by Linda’s 2012 newsletter to visit this year’s Summer Summit Guide, Steve Tupper. The Hadley Committee started fundraising for this summer position around 1995, and has an amazing track record of finding and funding talented young people willing to spend five days a week over 10 weeks living on the mountain and communicating with the estimated 1,000 hikers each week that come for this spectacular view over the Adirondacks.

In recent years, the Summit Guides have come from SUNY Potsdam, and the experience is part of an undergraduate degree in environmental science, including a specialty in Adirondack studies. The program was created by professor (and Sagamore Historic Adirondack Great Camp associate director) Michael Wilson and colleagues, and is now run by Biology and Environmental Studies professor Bill Brown.

SUNY Potsdam 2012 graduate Steve Tupper wears the DEC patch on  his shirt, and has a two-way radio to communicate out to DEC. As part of the “Forever Wild” Forest Preserve, there is no electrical power on Hadley Mountain, so Steve must power his i-Phone battery on his off-days spent in the Glens Falls area. Steve spends most nights in the old fire warden’s restored, but still very primitive cabin just below the summit, ready to answer hiker questions from morning to evening, dispensing information on fire tower history, local geography, ecology, geology and Park history, and teaching trail etiquette and providing emergency service communication with the DEC Forest Rangers when needed.

On the day I summited this past week, I observed Steve going up to every hiker and asking if they had any questions. “Is that Lake George?” is a frequent one – the large lake to the southwest is actually Great Sacandaga reservoir. Lake George is hidden by intervening terrain to the east. Another wanted to see Mt Marcy, but Steve explained that it was too humid to see the high peaks on this day. Then there is the obligatory group photograph that Steve has become very good at providing. By 6 pm, Steve is up checking on the tower, the last hiker – me, in this case - leaving him to the wind, his wits and the local wildlife.

As a Friend of the Forest Preserve, I gave Steve Adirondack Wild’s brochure about Article 14 of the NYS Constitution that protects the Forest Preserve, and told him to count on us as an educational resource.

As I descend, I wished I had brought him a copy of Paul Schaefer’s 1989 classic Defending the Wilderness - a reason to return.

Posted 07/02/12
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ADK ALMANACK - Writings by David Gibson

Wilderness 50th

The mission of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is to advance New York’s ‘Forever Wild’ legacy and Forest Preserve policies in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and promote public and private land stewardship that is consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research.

Photos ©2011 Ken RImany

Peter Brinkley, Honorary Chair
Terry Jandreau, Chair
Christopher Amato
Vice Chair & Counsel

David H. Gibson, Partner
Mobile: 518.469.4081

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve    Founded 1945   PO Box 9247 • Niskayuna New York 12309 | ©