When it comes to Off The Beaten Path adventures, the Wild Center Adirondacks is a must-visit in New York State.
By Tom and Patti Burkett
The Adirondacks are full of surprises, as you might expect from an area that’s been a recreation and vacation land for more than a century. It began in 1885 and over the next 50 years developed into a state forest preserve.
Much of it is owned by the state of New York, but there are also privately held sections. It’s the largest such piece of protected land in the world, and the regulations that limit development and resource extraction within its boundaries have withstood many legal challenges over the years. It has been so effective, in fact, that it was the model for the federal Wilderness Protection Act passed in 1964.
This mega park contains many attractions for the wandering tourist.
Mike and Jennifer Wendland outline several of them in their Adirondack Park Seven-Day Adventure Guide, and careful reading of a map will identify others.
Be sure to check out the Wendlands’ video report on the Adirondacks below, including video of the Wild Center Adirondacks.
One of our favorite maps is the National Geographic travel atlas because it shows a variety of places not shown in other guides. That’s how we came across the Wild Center Adirondacks in Tupper Lake.
Relatively new (it opened in 2006), the Wild Center Adirondacks showcases the life and biodiversity of the Adirondack region. The unique exhibits it offers, especially for families and children, make it worth the rather steep admission cost.
Wild Center Adirondacks: The Nest and The Web
According to the website of the Wild Center Adirondacks, “The idea for The Wild Center was first discussed in August 1998, when a group of friends sat around Betsy Lowe’s cabin on the shores of Long Lake, New York, in the heart of the Adirondack Park. The surrounding forest was scarred by the latest big natural event – an ice storm that coated the Adirondacks and Quebec. The single, seemingly destructive force created a scene of shining beauty. Betsy had supervised a small exhibit on the storm as part of her job at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and was impressed by the level of interest in the basic exhibits. She sensed that there was a thirst for more.”
Volunteers and state officials would go on to work together to establish what would eventually become the Wild Center Adirondacks as it stands today.
There are high-quality displays and hands-on activities in the visitor center, but the showcase of the museum is outside.
A ramp near the parking lot leads up to an elevated boardwalk that winds through the treetops of the surrounding forest. It was fun and interesting to look down into the landscape from above, seeing into the nests of birds and watching squirrels and rabbits go about their daily business oblivious to our eyes. The walkway system includes a number of treehouses with climbing opportunities and striking vistas out across the hills.
Our two favorites, hands down, were the nest and the web.
A spiral stairway leads up into person-sized nest, apparently built of sticks, that makes one wonder if some giant bird might be on its way with an offering of food. We spent some time talking about what that food might be and agreed we likely would not be eating it.
Yards away, down another swinging walkway, is a spider web constructed of ropes, and large enough for humans to scuttle around on. The surrounding observation platform sports great views and informative displays, as well as a web-sized spider. While you’re out there on the trail, look up and you might see us, Patti and Tom Burkett, high above the beaten path.
Note: It’s important to keep in mind that the Wild Center Adirondacks has taken several steps to keep visitors and employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, reservations are required, the indoor exhibits and café are closed, masks are required while in the center, and cash is not be accepted as a form of payment
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