ADK Fire Towers

By Kelsey Zehr

When you think of forest fires, you don’t generally think about the eastern side of the country, right? It is rare to hear similar stories of devastating fires like those in the midwestern and western states. But, the Adirondack Park has seen a fair amount of destructive fires.

Fire towers were created in response to the most prominent ‘great fires’ of 1903 and 1908 that burned about 1 million acres of Adirondack forest.

Source: adirondack.net.

New York established fire districts complete with superintendents and patrolmen whose job it was to detect fires early and extinguish them efficiently. To simplify the detection process, fire towers were built on the top of mountains, which allowed trained observers to pinpoint the location of fires in the distance and alert those on the ground.

It wasn’t until 1990 that the Adirondack towers were no longer actively used due to technological advancement, such as aircraft. Despite this, hikers around the world have been attracted to the fire towers over the years.

After a while, a “hiking challenge” was even created to encourage hikers to summit at least 18 of the tower peaks in the Adirondacks and 5 in the Catskills. Source: Adirondack Mountain Club, adk.org.

Of the 57 original steel Adirondack towers, 34 are currently still standing. One known fire tower that still stands today is on Black Mountain, which oversees Lake George.

Black Mountain

  • 7.7 mile loop trail, 5.7 miles to the summit
  • Elevation gain 1,361 feet
  • Rated Moderate

source: alltrails.com

Unfortunately, the fire tower at the top is in no condition to be climbed. If you look past the landmark, there is a large rock where you can get a beautiful view of the lake and surrounding mountains.

  1. The lake you see is Lake George – the two islands visible is Harbor Island
  2. Looking east you can also see the mountains of Vermont
  3. The High Peaks are visible from this point

Lake George is a popular attraction, and it’s said to be a gem of the Adirondack Park in Upstate New York. It has long been admired for its natural beauty and history. Specifically, the fire tower on Black Mountain holds a significant importance to the Lake George region as well:

The tower, now out of service, is a reminder of our historical wilderness heritage.

Source: lakegeorge.com.

Although its purpose of protection against fires is outdated, the area has kept it standing to preserve its unique history.

Source: Kelsey Zehr.
Source: Kelsey Zehr.

ADK Fire Tower Challenge Scratch Off | Adirondack Mountain Club, 2021

Black Mountain and Lake George Trail – New York, 2021

Black Mountain Fire Tower Hike; Adirondack Mountains. (2021). Retrieved 15 November 2021

Black Mountain: Hiking Near Lake George, 2021

Discover Adirondack Fire Towers: A Physical Reminder Of Our Region’s History, 2021

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