On this page:
Background and Study Area


The Adirondack Ecological Zone, corresponding to the legislatively defined New York State Adirondack Park, comprises a 6 million-acre (2.4 million-ha), predominately forested region of northern New York (Figure 1). Nearly 340,000 wetland hectares, including deepwater marshes, rich fens, kettlehole bogs and over 3,000 associated lakes and ponds are situated in the region. Approximately 43% (2.5 million acres, 1 million ha) of the Park is owned by the State of New York and is constitutionally protected as "forever-wild" Forest Preserve. Private lands devoted principally to forestry, agriculture, and open-space recreation account for 57% of the Park (3.5 million acres, 1.4 million ha). The Park contains the largest wilderness acreage east of the Mississippi River as well as numerous settlement areas with attendant use conflicts. Because of the biological diversity in wetlands and the range of land uses, the Park is an ideal area in which to undertake a project seeking to characterize the wetland resource on a detailed watershed basis.

The St. Lawrence watershed encompasses close to 1.3 million acres (518,000 ha) in the northwest part of the Adirondack Park (Figure 2). The St. Regis watershed is one of the major drainages within the St. Lawrence watershed, and it was the focus of the previous study (Halasz et al. 2000), funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under grant no. CD992441-01-0. The remaining drainages within the St. Lawrence watershed include the Salmon/Trout, Raquette, and Grasse watersheds. The northeastern, Salmon/Trout side of the St. Lawrence drainage, is adjacent to the Lake Champlain basin, and the southern and western sides, next to the Raquette watershed, border the Oswegatchie/Black.

Together, the Raquette, Grasse, and Salmon/Trout watersheds studied in this report comprise 961,218.8 acres (388,993.0 ha). The region extends from 43.7N to 44.9N latitude and from 73.9W to 75.1W longitude. The highest point in the watershed is the summit of Santanoni Mountain in the western part of the High Peaks Wilderness area, at an elevation of 4607 ft. (1404.2m), and the lowest point is the spot where the North Branch of the Grasse River drains out of the Park, at an elevation of about 720 ft. (219.4m).

The watershed generally has a fairly wet climate, with short, cool summers and extended winter seasons. In Tupper Lake, for example, the average annual temperature in 2001 was 42.5F (5.8C); the average temperature in February was 16.4F (-8.7C) and in August 66.4F (19.1C). Precipitation data for Tupper Lake is unavailable, but in Lake Placid, just outside the watershed, the annual precipitation for 2001 was 39.9 in. (1014.5 mm). In Tupper Lake, the season of temperatures remaining above 32F (0C) lasted 105 days in 2001. (NOAA 2001)

The St. Lawrence watershed is ecologically unusual, even within the Park, because of the concentration of large peatland complexes, and it contains almost all of the Park's low elevation boreal habitat. The region is sparsely populated, with few sizable towns and a large percentage of undeveloped land. Three-quarters of the land in the project area is wilderness, wild forest, or resource management land (Figure 3). These are either protected State land designations or private designations with high thresholds for development; the result is that the project area consists largely of continuous forestlands.


The primary aim of this study was to collect the data to provide a watershed context in which to characterize, evaluate, and protect the wetlands of the St. Lawrence River Watershed. Underlying this goal were six objectives:

  1. To complete mapping of the St. Lawrence Watershed, produce digital watershed maps for Part II of the St. Lawrence River watershed showing USGS 11-digit watersheds, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation pond watersheds and the major wetland complexes as determined from 1:24000 and 1:25000 topographic maps.
  2. To develop and label watersheds for all lakes and for major wetlands according to the hierarchical drainage flow model developed for the Oswegatchie-Black River and Greater Upper Hudson River projects.
  3. To produce accurate digital wetlands maps for the area using the best available high altitude photography at a scale of 1:24000.
  4. To conduct a literature search of the major wetland complexes and devise a system to geo-reference these in a GIS.
  5. To prepare thematic maps showing hydrography, Adirondack Park Agency land classifications, ecological habitat information, large contiguous landowners, and State Land Units.
  6. To provide wetlands and watershed maps to landowners and land managers along with other GIS data layers, so that they may know where and what types of wetlands occur on their property. Use the maps and analysis as possible models and tools for landscape analysis.

These objectives were modified slightly during the execution of the project. Whereas the St. Regis watershed effort focused on outreach to private landowners, this project concentrated on ways to bring new data and information to State land managers. As a consequence, data layers were prepared for State Forest Preserve units instead of for large contiguous private landowners (objective no. 5). Additionally, the literature search has not yet resulted in a GIS that geo-references areas with reference and survey information available (second half of objective no. 4).

Continue to next section of St. Lawrence II Report: Literature Survey
Return to table of contents
References Cited