Streeter Lake and the Schuler Tract
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Streeter lake is certainly not as well -known as other lakes in the area, like Star Lake, Lake Bonaparte, Cranberry Lake, or Trout Lake. It’s sort of a hidden gem- quiet, remote, unspoiled, yet is very accessible. Myself, I’m glad there are still some Adirondack lakes without camps and motorboats. This lake and the nearby hamlet of Aldrich haven’t always been so subdued. Aldrich was at one time a booming logging town, and the forests had railroads cut deep into the timber to feed the sawmills. It also was the summer residence and hunting camp of a potato chip magnate. Today it is a small community of seasonal camps & cottages.
From NYS RT3 in Oswegatchie NY, you will need to head south on the Oswegatchie trail. Turn west (left) onto the Coffin Mills road. About three and half miles down this road you will see a D.E.C. sign on your left for the Aldrich pond wild forest. Follow this to the gates and the Streeter Lake boat hand launch site. The road is in fairly decent shape, and is passable for most vehicles in good weather. Note: everything past the D.E.C. sign is closed during mud season and winter. It will be worth calling the D.E.C. office in Potsdam (315-265-3090) beforehand if you are thinking of this as a spring/fall trek.
While these forests were known to a few hardy hunters, trappers and woodsmen, it became Aldrich in 1901. It was named after the man who purchased the Ball brothers sawmill there. The New York Central’s Carthage & Adirondack railroad was already established through the region in 1887. This line ran through Kalurah & Jayville and on to Newton Falls & Benson mines. The Ball Brother’s mill was purchased by the Newton Falls Paper Company in 1915, and Bill Kellogg soon became the forest superintendent. A 7.6-mile spur line was run into the forests to transport the logs to the mills at Aldrich at this time, and connected with the C&A railroad. The work was started by Italian immigrants, though later years saw German and French Canadians finishing the work. At one time, there were about forty company houses, a hotel and store, and the district #12 school house. The store was run by Leonard, Finnegan & Corbett, who also ran the store in Newton falls. The Aldrich mill was managed by a man by the name of Peter Mathis. The mill employed as many as 35 workers, and sawed 30’000 board feet of spruce lumber daily. The standard way of doing business in the lumber industry (at that time) was to move into a region, and harvest any and all timber. When the source of logs was exhausted, the company would pull up its rails & mills and move to the next place. Here this came about somewhere around the early 1920’s. According to D.E.C. documents, the railroads were removed in 1922, and the state purchased much of the property in 1924. The state would reforest many of the logged-out areas with the softwood trees we see today. In the 1930’s the state would receive help from the newly formed Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC).
As years went by the properties in the area changed hands many times. With the logging industry gone, many moved on to new towns with better prospects for employment. One of the changes of ownership was by a man by the name of Andrew Schuler. By April 1947, Schuler would own four thousand acres here. Schuler’s claim to fame was the Schuler potato chip company. He was involved in many facets of the family business, including becoming the president of the company in 1948. The company merged with the Sunshine Biscuit company in 1957 and later was later sold to the Wise Potato Chip Company. He served on many board of director’s positions, including Clarkson university. An avid sportsman, Schuler built a log hunting lodge and several other buildings on the property which included Streeter and Crystal lakes, and Pansy Pond. The road into the property is on the original Newton Falls Paper Company railroad bed. He also stocked Streeter Lake with brook trout, which the state had started in 1929. It is thought that that may have been the first stocking done by the state. Local lore has it that Schuler had sand trucked in from the Niagara Falls region for the beach on Crystal Lake. One of the lasting tributes to the Schuler family is the family mausoleum built on the shore overlooking Streeter lake. This stone structure, with copper clad floors and ten-inch-thick bronze doors, was constructed in 1956 – a year after his father and business partners death. Another unique piece of history is the hundred-acre potato patch. This was cleared in the forest as a place to grow experimental potatoes for use in the potato chip industry. The region was free from potato beetles and also free from his competitors prying eyes.
In 1975, the property was sold to the state, for the sum of $900,000. Certain provisions were made, which insures the families access to the mausoleum and the park which it sits on. As with any properties that the D.E.C. acquires, any buildings would be removed or destroyed in an effort to return the property to a natural state. The log cabin that served the family was dismantled and removed from the property. It was re-assembled and has served as a home near Canton NY, were it still stands.
Today only small reminders of the Schuler families’ estate are seen. The stone pillars that once held the gates are driven through on the way to the boat launch. A lean to sits at the former site of the cabin, and on the shoreline of Streeter Lake is the pumphouse that would have supplied their domestic water needs. The potato patch is being slowly reforested by small trees and bushes. A soft bed of moss has carpeted the 100 acres. The mausoleum park is still well preserved, and has several flower beds, and has a commemorative plaque affixed to a boulder near a bench.
On the Trail
There is a small parking area at the gate, at the boat launch. This is where we started. This is a hand launch only, and is a great place to canoe or kayak. We ran into a local fisherman who assured us that the trout are still plentiful and stout. From the gate, head (southwest)uphill on the road. After you get to the top of the hill, you should see a small trail (a mountain bike path) to your right. This will take you across the potato patch. If you continue on the road, you’ll intersect the bike trail further down. The road goes around the patch. We walked around on the way in, and across on the return. At about ¾ of a mile, you will get to the lean to. We followed the trail down to Streeter Lake, and right on cue- we saw a pair of loons. The iconic birds of the quintessential Adirondack lakes. The pump-house is located in some brush nearby. Back to the main road, we continued further.
On the water
There is a a convenient car top boat launch located at the gate. It is a beautiful lake to paddle in a kayak or canoe. It is roughly two miles around the lake. A recent trip there for an early morning paddle, treated me to seeing a family of three otters and a pair of loons with two young. There is so much to see from the water that you just don’t get to see from the shore. A small cove at the northern end of the lake had many different plant species, including quite a few pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea).
At about 8/10th of a mile, we came to an intersection in the trail. Continuing straight took us to the Mausoleum (about another quarter mile). You will know when you get close, as it appears you have walked onto a park in the middle of the wilderness. Going past the gate, a well -groomed grass walkway is lined with a wooden fence. The park itself is well open from the forest, and has several large flower beds planted. The mausoleum is an impressive structure. Its cost was $25,000 at the time of construction in 1956. To the right (or northeast) is a boulder with a plaque commemorating the park and the family. There are also several benches that would have overlooked Streeter lake at one time. The forest has grown up since then, but still offer a pleasant spot to sit and take in all the area has to offer.
From here we back tracked to the intersection, and turned to the left (southeast). This takes you to Crystal lake. Along the way you will notice a few bogs. These are plentiful in the area, according to the D.E.C.’s unit management plan (U.M.P), a large bog exists south of Streeter lake. This bog is one of five in the Adirondacks that is in the 150-250-acre range. http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/aldrich.pdf
Crystal Lake is on the right (west), just a short- ways from the road. Much smaller than Streeter Lake, it is a pristine example of the classic Adirondack lake. There is not much of the Niagara sand left, but it’s clear water makes it easy to guess how it gained its name. The lake is rather unique in the fact that it has no discernible inlet or outlet. The watershed is only about 100 yards from its shore. There is a picnic table at the clearing near the lake.
We continued further down the road, which becomes more trail like as we went. The forest becomes increasingly thick here, with spruce, hemlock and balsam being the predominate trees. This is likely due to the fires that swept through the region in the early 1900’s. We came across several sites that had camps at one time. This may have been logging or hunting camps many years ago. We intended to find Pansy pond, but found no trail. The forest was thick enough that a bushwhack didn’t seem all that pleasant. We walked past the Pansy pond inlet for another half mile or so, and then started our trip back.
Although this is on the same piece of property, we drove to these fall, instead of hiking the 2.5 mile bushwhack. This is a pretty impressive set of falls. There is evidence of a log dam here, probably for a sawmill at one time. The falls are on the Little river, and are deeply cut into the rock. At the top of the falls, you can scramble through some rocks to gain a great view. Below it widens out for more good views.
To get there, Turn onto the Lake road (to the west) from the Oswegatchie trail, near to Clifton Fine hospital. After about a half mile, turn right onto a dirt road with a yellow gate. (Note there is another yellow gate shortly after the hospital, it is hard to see, but it’s not the one you are looking for- keep going). Drive down this road for about ¾ of a mile until you reach a second gate and parking area. Follow (on foot) this road downhill for about a ¼ mile, bearing right at any other trails along the way. Before long you’ll hear the falls. This would make a nice easy trip on its own. With pictures and “exploring”, we hiked around a total of 8/10th of a mile. For more on this, please visit Northern New York Waterfalls, they are the source for all things concerning waterfalls in the area. http://www.nnywaterfalls.com/littleriverfine/chipmunkfalls/
With side trips & photos, we covered about 5.5 miles, round trip. There is not much hard walking, and the trails are pretty easy to follow. Thee Aldrich Pond wild forest consists of 26,702 acres. There are miles of trails to hike, bike or ski depending on the season. There is plenty of waters to canoe, kayak or fish in. The Oswegatchie river and the Little river flow through the park. The lost hamlets of Jayville and Kalurah are on the same wild forest to the northwest (keep watch for an article on those in the future). I hope you’ll get the chance to visit this wonderful chunk of wilderness for yourself, and to take in the beauty and history that it has to offer. It is easy to let your mind wander to a century ago when the road you’re on today, was the railroad then. Or to try and picture the potato patch as it was 60 years ago. If you can’t get there in person, I hope I’ve told the story well enough for you to enjoy it from home.
Special thanks to
Shirley Meek (Town of Fine Historian) and JeanMarie Martello (SLCHA) for their help with this project.
New York Department of Environmental Conservation
Logging Railroads of the Adirondacks By Bill Gove
Town of Fine Historian
Northern New York Waterfalls
ST. Lawrence County Historical Association
Clifton Fine ADK page
About the Author
I am a life-long resident of the north country, calling Edwards my home. I have always had a passion for the outdoors, and for local history. I recently started this site to share places that have been part of our local history and heritage. I hope you get a chance to hike some of these trails for yourself, and reflect on the rich history of those that walked here before you. And if not, sit back and experience these from where ever you are right now. Either way, enjoy!
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