Lyon Mountain: Wilderness or Wild Forest?

The view of Chazy Lake from the top of Lyon Mountain. Photo by Phil Brown.
The view of Chazy Lake from the top of Lyon Mountain. Photo by Phil Brown.

The Adirondack Park Agency is poised to classify Lyon Mountain as Wild Forest—a decision that would run into opposition from the Adirondack Council, one of the Park’s leading environmental organizations.

Brian Houseal, the council’s executive director, said he would like to see the Lyon Mountain tract classified as Primitive, with an eye toward eventually classifying it as Wilderness, the strictest of the APA’s nine state-land zoning categories.

“There’s no Wilderness now in that sector of the Park,” Houseal said after the APA’s meeting last week.

Located in the northeastern Adirondacks, west of Plattsburgh, 3,830-foot Lyon is one of the Park’s tallest mountains outside the High Peaks region. The state acquired it from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy late last year.

On Friday, the APA voted to send to public hearing a proposal to classify 91 parcels of Forest Preserve scattered throughout the Park, totaling 31,780 acres. Most of the parcels are small, encompassing less than a hundred acres. At 17,190 acres, the Lyon parcel is by far the largest.

Houseal pointed out that the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan permits parcels greater than ten thousand acres to be classified as Wilderness.

Lyon Mountain has nonconforming facilities, including a fire tower and an access road, that make it ineligible for Wilderness designation now. The land also contains ruins of old ski lifts and evidence of former ski trails and logging roads.

The APA staff cited the “extent of established facilities” on the land as one reason for designating it Wild Forest, a less-strict classification that would permit the fire tower and the road to remain.

Houseal, however, argued that the parcel could be classified as Primitive and managed as Wilderness until the nonconforming facilities are removed. “It’d be a Wilderness-in-waiting,” he remarked.

The APA expects to hold public hearings on the classification proposals early next year. They could be modified, based on comments received.

Also included in the land-classification package is a 6,132-acre parcel near Tahawus acquired from the Open Space Institute in January 2009. The APA staff recommends that this be added to the High Peaks Wilderness.

The institute retains the right to generate electricity from the dam at Henderson Lake. The power would be used by the nearby Masten House, which the institute is leasing to the state College of Environmental Science and Forestry. To accommodate the institute, the APA staff recommends that the dam and the short road leading from the dam to the Upper Works parking lot at Tahawus be classified as Primitive rather than Wilderness.

Below is a map of the Lyon Mountain tract. Click here to view other maps and documents related to the 2009 State Land Classification Proposals.

Lyon map copy

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Marion Weaver says

    I would not like to see the historic fire tower removed, nor the access road. The access road can be used to advantage as a fire break and rescue path.

  2. aaron F says

    I have to agree that lyon mountain should be left as it is. The fire towers are a part of the adirondack history. the access road should be left for people with disabilities so its easier for them to get in the woods and have a good experience. classifying this much land to primitive would limit everyones enjoyment of the area. Primitive will only benefit hikers and not the rest of the people who would like to use it.

  3. Adam says

    I don’t think this should be wilderness, although I do advocate for wilderness in other places in the park, Lows Lake, Henderson Lake are both right on. The level of development that can be seen from the top really takes away from the remoteness that wilderness should have. The argument that Brian is trying to make is bad one – just because there is no wilderness in this part of the park doesn’t necessarily mean there should be one. Having the character of wilderness makes it wilderness, not where it is in relation to the rest of the park.

  4. tourpro says

    Pretty complicated issue here which is related to the Sable Highlands deal. Last meeting regarding the plan was packed with almost every user-group you can imagine. The plan as presented won’t be implemented for years due to lack of funding.

    Personally, I’d like to see a large tract of primitive/wilderness.

  5. tourpro says

    The access road is not exactly open to the public. Is it? I think it is for access to the transmitters up there.

    Agree that fire tower should remain, if it can be maintained in safe condition.

  6. Phil says

    TourPro, I am referring to the milelong access road from the highway to the parking lot. If the tract were classified Wilderness, I assume that road would be closed.

  7. Normandy says

    I think wild forest is appropriate for this tract. Its setting will not provide the remoteness and solitude a wilderness should have. I agree with the poster above that Brian Houseal’s argument is a really bad one. “There is no wilderness in that part of the park”. That doesn’t mean there needs to be one. The state land master plan doesn’t define wilderness by where it is in relation to the park and other wilderness areas. The APA was right to not fight for wilderness here and save the fight for more appropriate areas.

  8. jim says

    I have lived in the area all of my life. I can see the fire tower from my home. This is part of the history of our area. LEAVE IT ALONE! We live here year around, and the impact from not allowing recreation vehicles on this land will hurt our local area businesses. Hopefully the APA people will see it our way as we are full time residents and not just weekend tourists

  9. tourpro says

    I guess I have no problem with putting the trailhead at Chazy Lk Rd.

    There’s an old road from High Banks that connects to the existing snowmobile trail. Will this be included as part of the Wild Forest Rec Corridor if designated Wilderness?

  10. Phil says

    I don’t know what would happen to the High Banks road. I don’t know if the council has worked out its proposal to that level of specificity.

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