Crossing into Warren County on the interstate is an invitation to distracted driving: wide river bends on both sides of the bridge, and the first glimpse of West Mountain off to the west.
It’s an appropriate introduction to the county, where the river plains end and the Adirondacks start. People flock north for natural attractions like Lake George and Brant Lake, the rapids on the Schroon and Hudson rivers, and some relatively gentle mountains to climb.
But this year, there’s going to be a big history component to visitor events, as Warren County conducts a yearlong celebration of its 200th birthday.
The actual bicentennial — the date the state Legislature carved Warren off of Washington County — was last Tuesday. County officials, however, will wait for a more clement time of year — June 12 — before holding a re-enactment at the former county courthouse in Lake George, which was the county seat until 1963.
Since you’re wondering, the county is named for the American Revolution’s Gen. Joseph Warren, a doctor turned soldier who was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. (There are 14 Warren counties across the United State named for him, according to Wikipedia; he was a popular martyr of the era.)
Bicentennial events of one kind or another are going on all year. A good place to look for them will be the county’s new website: www.warrencountyny.gov.
Under the First Wilderness Heritage Corridor, meanwhile, the county has been working to focus tourism on the Hudson. The river here runs pretty darned wild, and the Hudson is central to the county’s identity; more so, one would think, than Dr. Warren.
“The Hudson River touches 18 counties, but only in Warren County does it go through the middle,” said Pam Morin, event facilitator for the county Planning Department. “All the others, it’s a boundary.”
The heritage corridor came about after the Adirondack Park Agency gave a $20,000 grant for a North Creek revitalization plan in 1992. Since then, county Planning Director Wayne LaMothe said nearly $28 million in public money has gone into the corridor.
The big-buck idea that came from that first grant was for the county to take ownership of what was then a private but soon-to-be-abandoned railroad line coming out of Saratoga Springs. It took 19 years, but the Saratoga-to-North Creek tourism trains started running in 2011, and by all accounts have been a success.
The train’s destination points remain Saratoga and North Creek, but loading platforms have been built in Hadley, Thurman (across the river from Warrensburg), and at the 1,000 Acres Ranch Resort. There are measures afoot to make all those stops more like destinations.
Starting this spring, the Hadley platform will be upgraded into a full rail station, with real walls and restrooms. The same thing is planned at Thurman. There are also longer-term plans for a platform, and then a station, at Corinth in Saratoga County.
The day will come — at least potentially — when you could put a kayak in the Hudson at the Thurman-Warrensburg bridge, paddle down to the ranch resort, and take the train back to Thurman. On the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad, kayaks ride free, with a paying customer.
The county is also working on helping the hotels and motels concentrated around Lake George to know where to steer families for a comfortable outdoor experience once they’ve done the Great Escape.
It’s a good part of the Adirondacks for those who love being in the woods, but aren’t avid enough to hike a dozen miles or climb a mountain that rises above the tree line.
“The neat thing about our part of the Adirondacks is it fits the 80 percent of people,” said Steve Ovitt, a former forest ranger and outdoor recreation consultant. “This isn’t climbing Mount Marcy. This is something the majority of people can enjoy.”
Hey, I learned about a couple of hiking trails I didn’t know, and some local mountains suitable to 50-something knees.
When I arrived at the municipal center in Queensbury, there had been random snowflakes in the air. By the time I ducked out, the sun was out. Within weeks, it will be hiking weather again, and there will be a few weeks yet before the black flies hatch.
Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.