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McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area

State Land Master Plan February 2014 Description

This area is located in western Essex County in the Towns of St. Armand, North Elba and Wilmington. In general, the Saranac River and Franklin Falls Reservoir border on the north; the Wilmington Franklin Falls Road, the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway and the west branch of the AuSable River form the eastern boundary; the Saranac Lake Lake Placid Road, Route 86 between Lake Placid and Ray Brook, forms the southern boundary; and the Saranac River forms the western boundary.

McKenzie Mountain, sometimes referred to as Saddleback, and Moose Mountain, sometimes called St. Armand Mountain, are the dominant topographical features of the area.

McKenzie Pond, from which the Village of Saranac Lake obtains its water supply, forms part of the boundary on the west side as does Moose Pond However, few ponds are fully encompassed within the boundaries of this area. Bartlett Pond, lying at about 2,800 feet altitude on the southeast side of McKenzie Mountain, and Loch Bonnie which is at about 2,900 feet altitude on the southeast side of Moose Mountain, are completely within the Wilderness boundary.

The area is densely forested with softwoods. Spruce and balsam dominate the forests above the 2,500 feet and mixed hardwoods and softwoods dominate the lower elevations.

During the 1950 hurricane, heavy blow down occurred in a number of spots, chiefly in the saddle between Whiteface Mountain and Mount Alton to the west.

In the legislatively authorized timber salvage operation conducted after 1950, log roads were bulldozed along Lincoln Brook from the north and at the head of Lake Placid from the south. Most of these log roads have now become overgrown with dense, second growth hardwoods.

Although the area is in close proximity
to the Villages of Saranac Lake on the southwest and Lake Placid on the southeast, the interior has retained its wilderness atmosphere. This is due to the steep and rugged terrain which effectively prevented motor vehicle penetration prior to its Wilderness designation in 1972.

In the 1800's, when logging was at its peak in the Adirondacks, a road was constructed from the vicinity of the Whiteface Toll Gate southwestward following the 2,400 foot contour for several miles along the side of Esther Mountain and Whiteface Mountain. The road was well built, with culverts and ditches, for horse-drawn sleds to transport logs to the head of Red Brook, where a small pool of water, known as Lake Stevens, formed the start of a log flume that ran approximately three miles to the Ausable River. Once at the river, the logs were floated down to the pulp mill in Ausable Forks. Although the old road is gradually being reclaimed by second growth hardwoods, its location will likely remain in evidence for many years.

The attractiveness of the area is enhanced by the excellent views that may be obtained from the top of McKenzie Mountain and Moose Mountain. Also, there are numerous spring fed brooks in the area. Lincoln Brook and French Brook, with their tributaries originating high on the northwest slopes of Esther Mountain and Whiteface Mountain, are crystal clear trout streams with many scenic spots along their courses.

The Adirondack Mountain Club originally maintained a foot trail from the vicinity of Wolf Pond near Route 86 to the top of McKenzie Mountain. To avoid private land conflicts, the trail was relocated in 1984 and now begins at the pull off east of the Saranac Lake Golf Course on Route

Public access to the area is relatively good from all but the northern side. The area is used to a considerable extent by hikers to climb the mountains, by anglers to try their luck in the small brooks and by hunters chiefly during the big game season.

Approximately six miles of snowmobile trails have been closed and four tent platforms removed from this area. The former drive in theater site adjacent to Route 86 was added to this Wilderness in 1979. After temporary use as a vehicle parking area and storage area for the 1980 Winter Olympics, this area was allowed to revegetate.

This area does not yet have an adopted Unit Management Plan.

Mapping Resources:
(Not from the State Land Master Plan or Unit Management Plans)

Recreational Opportunities Map

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Soils and Wetlands

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McKenzie Mountain area statistics:

State Lands 37,220 Acres
Bodies of Water (12) 74 Acres
Inholdings (1) 184 Acres
  (minimum) 1,320 Feet
  (maximum) 4,869 Feet
Foot Trails 18.4 Miles
Lean‑tos 1
Non‑conforming Uses:  




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