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Geological Anomolies and Glacial Erratics in the Adirondack Park

Glacier Research
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Gallery of Photos
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                                                                                                   Baker 1

 Nyle M Baker    

Professor Bornn

English 101_933

10 August 2007


           The Adirondack Park was created in 1892 by New York State amid concerns for the water usage and the timber harvesting that plagued upstate New York. Today, the Adirondack Park is a six million acre park comprised of both public and private land ("APA"). Its boundary, known as the blue lines, is an imaginary boundary created by the APA, also known as the Adirondack Park Agency, to enforce enviromental politics and protect the natural habitat within this boundary. Within the Adirondack Park there are many geologic anomalies and glacial erratics that are very beautiful and very mysterious. Though these anomalies may look disamilar they all were created during the ice age, either by the advancment or recession of glaciers.

           The Ice Age in North America started approximately two million years ago, and ended about six thousand years ago. This was a rather long glaciation episode that was marked by several glacial advances and retreats. However, in New York the geological evidence preserved tells us only about the latest glacial advance - Wisconsin glaciation. The evidence of earlier advances, although preserved in other Northern states, is absent in New York - it has been destroyed or obscured by the last (Wisconsin) surge of ice. Thus, Wisconsin glaciation is the only major glacial stage described here.

           Greg Smith explains in his book, Geological History of the Adirondacks, that contrary to popular belief, the Adirondacks are not geologically related to the Appalachians. In fact, they are the only mountains in the eastern U.S. that aren't geologically Appalachian. They actually belong to a much older formation known to some as the Canadian Shield, as the Laurentian Shield to others, and as the Precambrian Shield to the rest. This is a huge formation, underlying about half of Canada. The formation extends down through the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River Valley and into the Adirondacks.

           The climax of Wisconsin glaciation occurred approximately twenty thousand years ago. At that time ice sheets covered all of upstate New York and extended Southward as far down as New York City. In some places, the ice sheets of the glacier were more than a mile thick (calculated from isostatic rebound). The glacier overrode the Adirondacks("Olga")! Even Mt. Marcy, the highest point in New York State, was covered by ice. The glacier, however, tore boulders and rocks from the mountains, suspended some of them in ice, or ground them into rocks, pebbles and sand. When the glacier melted, the larger rocks and boulders settled on mountain tops and ridges, and in the valleys. Evidence of the Wisconsin glaciation is highly visible at Mckenzie Pond and Snowy Mountain. These are two great places to view and study glacial erratics and the process known as glacial plucking.

            Mckenzie Pond is located approximately four miles from Lake Placid on County Route 33. From the trailhead parking on route 33, you will take the well- beaten path 100 yards into the woods and you will see what has been called a rock zen garden by some, which were plucked from nearby Mckenzie Mountain and dragged approximatly two miles (Temple 142). Because of the short distance of movement, the glacial erratics have a blockish appearence with sharp aretes on most corners. A good rule of thumb is the farther the glacial erratic travels, the more circular it becomes. The glacial erratics here are enormous, ranging in size from a small car to bigger than a house, and because of their location in the high peaks, their composition is mainly anothorsite, giving them a dark gray appearence and making them very hard and resistant to weathering.

          Snowy Mountain also has glacial erratics of a peculiar state. Unlike Mckenzie Pond, where the erratics are mainly textured due to weathering, the snowy mountain boulders are textured due to water erosion. To see these erratics take Route 30N past Speculator to the Snowy Mountain trailhead. You can park there and walk a quarter mile south on Route 30 to the faint path on your right. It is marked by orange ribbon. You can follow this path and you will see the erratics. The rock type here is granatic gneiss, which is a form of compressed sedimentary rock. Upon inspection of the erattics you will see large water carved holes, bowls, and pockets covering the erratics. There is not much known about the origin of these erratics, beside the fact that they came from high on the mountain above them. There is even less known about the origin of the pockets but I have my own theory about their origin. Millions of years ago, the Adirondack mountains were covered by the shallow Potsdam Sea. The sea created waves, currents, and tides, which I suspect created the water-carved anomolies in the mountain. After the sea receded, glaciers came through and plucked the erratics from the mountain top and deposited them in their current positions.

              Although technically not inside the Adirondack Park blue line boundary, it is open to debate. Moss Island in Little falls is a spectacular specimen of water erosion. Carved in the dolostone type rock at Moss Island is a labarynth of canyons and potholes created by the draining of the ancient Lake Iroquois. Lake Iroquois covered the majority of the southern Adirondacks and the western Mohawk valley region and drained into the ancient Lake Albany which covered Albany and the majority of the Hudson Valley. The anomoly itself started as a block fault that was pushed upward, leaving cracks and crevasses for the water to swirl pebbles, which eroded the dolostone, forming the deep canyons and potholes (Keesler 4).

            The Adirondack Park is filled with beauty, splendor, and many more glacial anomolies. What I have discussed here is only the tip of the glacier, and with a little exploration and perserverance there are many more glacial anomolies to be discovered.

Geological Anomolies and Glacial Erratics in the Adirondack Park