Adirondack State Park was created by the state in 1892, and two years later a large chunk of the land was designated "forever wild," prohibiting future development. The official park boundaries encompass 6 million acres, almost three times the land area of Yellowstone National Park. There are 1,000 mi of rivers, 30,000 mi of brooks and streams, more than 3,000 lakes and ponds, and 1.3 million acres of forest. The numbers impress, but they're just an introduction to the Adirondacks.
Understanding the Adirondacks is a matter of sensory perception rather than number crunching. It's a place that not only has to be seen but also has to be heard and smelled, and, in winters that are often harsh, felt as well. From spring through fall, every lake view or mountain vista or walk in the woods comes with the fragrance of hemlock and spruce and musty soil and the sounds of songbirds, woodpeckers, loons, or any of the 220 species of other birds in the region.
However, this isn't a complete wilderness area; about half the land within park boundaries is privately owned. The checkerboard of public and private lands gives the Adirondacks a different character from most national parks. Unlike in many state or national parks, motels, lodges, and restaurants are found throughout, as are private canoe rentals, seaplane services, and guide services. At the same time, most campgrounds, trails, and waterways are maintained on public land by the state, through the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Although most people associate the Adirondacks with high mountains, the southern and central landscape is primarily one of lakes, rivers, and hills. The notable exception is Blue Mountain, which stands high above everything that surrounds it. Its summit lookout tower affords a 360-degree view that includes the chain of lakes stretching west, but the price of this view is a fairly steep scramble of about a mile.
For the most part, the tranquillity of the southern and central Adirondacks turns to dormancy in winter. However, because the terrain here is gentler than in the High Peaks region to the north—and nearer the population centers of the south—snowmobiling and cross-country-skiing enthusiasts are drawn to the area. Snowmobilers tend to congregate in Schroon Lake, Speculator, and Old Forge, which is also the center of tourist activity in the southern and central area. Blue Mountain Lake, home of the Adirondack Museum, is the area's cultural center.