The Adirondack region was one of the last areas of the northeastern United States to be explored; the headwaters of the Hudson River near Lake Tear of the Clouds on the slopes of Mount Marcy were not discovered until more than fifty years after the discovery of the headwaters of the Columbia River in the Canadian Rockies. Although a few sportsmen had shown some interest earlier, the publication of William H. H. Murray‘s Adventures in the Wilderness; Or Camp-Life in the Adirondacks in 1869 started a flood of tourists to the area, leading to a rash of hotel building and the development of stage coach lines. Thomas Clark Durant, who had helped to build the Union Pacific railroad, acquired a large tract of central Adirondack land and built a railroad from fashionable Saratoga Springs to North Creek. By 1875 there were more than two hundred hotels in the Adirondacks, some of them with several hundred rooms; the most famous was Paul Smith’s Hotel
The Great Camp tradition has analogs in the western United States, especially in the Rocky Mountains. Closely tied to the dude ranch tradition, elaborate private lodges and cabins owned by groups of wealthy Easterners were constructed in the wilderness. Often families originated from New York or Chicago, and traveled by train to spend long periods in summer in the high country. Some lodges in the West were built by railroad interests, who were able to pick the best land while surveying potential railroad routes.The early Great Camps started life as simple tent camps, often on land initially leased from hotel owners, as hotel guests sought a more authentic wilderness experience. The tent camps evolved into tent platforms or lean-tos and then into compounds of rustic cabins. Even in the early stages, some of these camps became quite elaborate. In 1883 one of the first families on Upper St. Regis Lake, the Anson Phelps Stokes, would arrive in a “special parlour horse car direct from 42nd street to Ausable for $100.” The party consisted of ten family members and an equal number of servants, “three horses, two dogs, one carriage, five large boxes of tents, three cases of wine, two packages of stovepipe, two stoves, one bale of china, one iron pot, four washstands, one barrel of hardware, four bundles of poles, seventeen cots and seventeen mattresses, four canvas packages, one buckboard, […], twenty-five trunks, thirteen small boxes, one boat, one hamper”, all of which was then transferred to wagons for the 36 mile ride to Paul Smiths, and thence by boat to their island campsite.
thank you for stopping by, have a pleasant week-end