Ausable Chasm

Driving down the west side of Lake Champlain we ran across a place called “Ausable Chasm.” I had spotted their brochure in  a local diner, on the rack that advertises the nearest Putt-Putt, Zoom Flume, and all other attractions designed to entertain the American Family on Summer vacation. Usually, I drive right past such places, more than happy to avoid the lines, the bored kids wishing they were home with their xbox, the deep fried objects vaguely resembling food, the… you get the picture, I’m sure.

But I learned a long time ago that “tourist sites” exist for a variety of reasons (commercial opportunities often high on that list). Most important among them is the idea that there is often something very cool there to witness or experience. Well, Ausable Chasm , it turns out, is that very place. We did have some things in our favor. It was a beautiful day for a hike. Schools had not yet let out for the Summer. Best of all, Ausable Chasm tells a fascinating story of geologic history.

Thankfully, stepping on to the first trail erased any notions of “tourist hell!”  In fact, the next two plus hours were filled with wonder and amazement. First discovered in 1765, this sandstone gorge was formed nearly 500 million years ago during the Cambrian Period and claims to be one of the oldest attractions in the country. Walkways rim the Chasm, dropping down to various levels throughout its length, offering views experienced by visitors for the past one hundred forty years.

“Seneca Ray” Stoddard (whose stereoscopic views of Ausable Chasm I present here) photographed the Adirondacks during the latter part of the 1800s. While his work exposed the Adirondacks to a post – Civil War audience eager to travel, he is perhaps best remembered for his documentation of unregulated mining and logging devastation. That work led to the 1892 “Forever Wild” clause in the New York State Constitution. Two exhibits of his work are currently on view at the New York State Museum in Albany, NY. and the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls, NY.

I discovered “Seneca Ray” after our trip, and only then did I begin to match the images. In my follow up research I also discovered an 1888 catalog Stoddard shot for the Ausable folks – an interesting travelog from another time. It is downloadable as a PDF here.

Equal to the spectacle of a carved out canyon are the wonderful patterns that the rock creates. Between the layers of sediment, chemical reactions in the sandstone from age and leaching, and the strange fracturing, you’d think that someone took paint and a broad brush to the chasm walls! I’ll end this week with images from the “painted” walls interspersed with a few more views of the Chasm.

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Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

Thanks again for the visit.

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