Navigating the New World wasn’t nearly as easy as Henry Hudson or Samuel de Champlain had hoped. Obstacles were everywhere, and in upstate New York none were more disheartening for explorers than the Great Cohoes Falls and the LaChute River.
Those two geological features as well as two of New York’s most popular lakes — Lake Champlain and Lake George — will be among the topics discussed by SUNY-Plattsburgh professor David Franzi as part of the First Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain this weekend at Fort Ticonderoga’s Debra Clarke Mars Education Center.
Franzi is one of eight speakers to present lectures on various topics involving both history and science. His talk, titled “The Deglacialization of the Champlain Valley and Eastern Adirondack Mountains,” is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Saturday.
‘First Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain’
WHERE: Debra Clarke Mars Education Center, Fort Ticonderoga, 30 Fort Ti Road, Ticonderoga
WHEN: Saturday 9 a.m.-2:45 p.m., Sunday 9:15 a.m.-3:45 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $125
MORE INFO: 585-2821 or www.fortticonderoga.org
“I’m going to be talking about the deglacial history of the region, and I’m hoping to focus on how that affects us today, and how we use the land today,” said Franzi, a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Earth and the Environment at SUNY-Plattsburgh.
“There were these deep glacial lakes that developed as the ice was retreating, and everything in the Champlain Valley drained into the upper Hudson. At one time even the Great Lakes drained into the Hudson River, and those things still shape the landscape we enjoy so much today.”
A native of Connecticut, Franzi has been teaching at Plattsburgh for 14 years, and recently became a member of Adirondack Forty-Sixers, having climbed all 46 of the region’s highest peaks.
“This whole area is one of the most interesting geological regions in the country, and I’ve really fallen in love with it,” said Franzi, who earned his bachelor’s degree at Eastern Connecticut State University, his master’s at Miami University in Ohio and his Ph.D at Syracuse University.
“But along with the glacial history and climate change, I’ll also talk about the damage from Hurricane Irene last year. There’s a lot going on in the Keene Valley, in the whole Lake Champlain basin, and I’m going to address those things, too.”
Those natural characteristics of the area played a key role in its history. While Hudson was prevented from penetrating any farther into the great Northwest because of the Cohoes Falls and the increasing shallowness of the Hudson River north of Albany, Champlain, who was heading south, was blocked by the LaChute River.
This river, connecting the northern end of Lake George to a southern section of Lake Champlain, contained rapids and a pair of waterfalls that were more than enough to stop Champlain’s boats, which had started their journey on the Richelieu River in Canada.
“The rivers and the waterways were the interstate highways of the 18th century,” said Rich Strum, education director at Fort Ticonderoga. “If you wanted to control the territory, you needed control of the water, and the great north-south highway of that time, from Quebec City to New York City, was the Hudson River, Lake George, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. With a few exceptions, such as the LaChute River at Ticonderoga, that distance can almost be covered totally on the water.”
The LaChute, which flows north out of Lake George, drops 220 feet in elevation during its three-mile trip to Lake Champlain.
“You could portage that three miles to Lake George if you were heading south, then portage another 12 miles at the southern end of Lake George to get to the Hudson River,” said Strum.
“It was two portages, but that was better than going to the southern tip of Lake Champlain and doing a 23-mile portage to the Hudson. That’s why the French originally built the fort at Ticonderoga. That juncture could block both invasion routes. You can’t really talk about the history of this area without also talking about the geography. There’s a real connection between the two.”
Also scheduled to participate in the conference is Emily DeBolt, a representative from the Lake George Association, who will talk about lake-friendly landscaping, and Meg Modley of the Lake Champlain Basin program, who will discuss how invasive species threaten the lakes and the surrounding landscape.
“We’ve tried to find something for everybody,” said Strum, who grew up in Hague. “If you have some kind of interest or some love for the two lakes, this will be an opportunity to learn more. Typically, here at Fort Ticonderoga, we tend to focus on the history, particularly the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, but for this conference they’ll be much more than just history.”
9 a.m. — Welcome, Beth Hill, executive director at Fort Ticonderoga.
9:15-10 a.m. — “Using Documentary filmmaking to Tell the Story of The Sunken Fleet of 1758,” Joe Zarzynski.
10:15-11 a.m. — “The Deglacialization of the Champlain Valley and Eastern Adirondack Mountains,” Prof. David Franzi.
11:15 a.m.-noon — “Lake-friendly Landscaping and Lawn Care,” Emily DeBolt of the Lake George Association.
12:15-1:45 p.m. — Lunch break.
2-2:45 p.m. — “Battle of the Ironclads,” John V. Quarstein, author and director of the Virginia Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va.
9:15-10 a.m. — “The Side-Wheeler Ticonderoga: Representing Lake Champlain’s Steamboat Legacy,” Chip Stulen, director of buildings and curator of the Ticonderoga at Shelburne Museum.
10:15-11 a.m. — “Richard Dean’s Lake George: Photographing the Queen of America Lakes,” Mark Bowie (Dean’s grandson).
11:15-noon — “Aquatic Invasive Species in the Lake Champlain Basin,” Meg Modley of the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
12:15-1 p.m. — Lunch break.
1 and 2:30 p.m. — “Lake George Association’s Floating Classroom.”
3-3:45 p.m. — “Lake Champlain and Environs Through the Lens of Seneca Ray Stoddard,” Timothy Weidner of the Chapman Museum in Glens Falls.
4-4:45 p.m. — Optional Fort Ticonderoga tour.