The official definition of ecotourism is “tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife”; however, by today’s contemporary definition, the two are not mutually exclusive (Oxford).  The Adirondacks are widely considered one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes on Earth, and thus, attracts tourists who want to experience wilderness to separate themselves from everyday life.

The Adirondacks inherent uniqueness has been a pull for tourists since even before the New York legislators declared the land “Forever Wild.”  In 1869, 25 years before Article Fourteen was added to the New York State Constitution, William Murray wrote Adventures in the Wilderness, thus beginning the Adirondacks ecotourism craze.  Murray’s book presents his views of the Adirondacks not as a resident, but as a tourist.  The first chapter of his book is titled, “The Wilderness: why I go there – how I get there – what I do there, – and what it costs” (Murray, 9).  The title of this chapter alone confirms that Murray’s book is not simply a memoir of his times in the Adirondacks, but one of the first examples of an Adirondack guidebook, not too dissimilar from a Foders or Insights travel guide.  In his book, Murray discusses Adirondack hotels and Great Camps, health benefits of being in the outdoors, and even goes into detail to describe what one should wear when exploring the Adirondacks (Murray).


Seneca Ray Stoddard/Wikimedia Commons


Throughout his book, Murray proclaims that the Adirondacks are the perfect vacation destination.  The book is filled with descriptions of the landscape, with the apparent goal of persuading the reader to leave the city and come up to the Adirondacks.  Excerpts of his book, such as, “From the summit of a mountain, two years ago, I counted, as seen by my naked eye, forty-four lakes gleaming amid the depths of the wilderness like gems of purest ray amid the folds of emerald-colored velvet,” paints a picture for the reader that the Adirondacks are, indeed, the perfect vacation destination (Murray, 10).  Murray’s writing was so persuasive that a rush, “Murray’s Rush,” of tourists came to the Adirondacks, thus starting ecotourism in the park.

National Magazine/Wikimedia

William Murray (National Magazine/Wikipedia)

Following the surge of tourists at the park’s “official” beginning, there have been several instances in history where the Adirondacks have experienced influxes of visitors.  When Lake Placid hosted the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, the town saw a great boost to its local economy (Rielly, 2014).  Even though a percentage of the local economic gains in the Adirondacks are a result of warm weather activities, much of the economically beneficial activities are fully dependent on the snow and cold weather.  Researchers and economic analysts have predicted that, within the next 90 years, the tourism businesses associated with cross-country skiing and snowmobiling may vanish, as there will not be enough snowfall to sustain these winter activities. In an article on climate change pertaining to the Adirondacks, author Bill McKibben implies that the change in the tourism industry could be the first effect of global warming that will get the needed attention of the masses (McKibben).

The Town of Lake Placid (Mwanner/Wikimedia)

Due to the lack of typical economic assets for local economies, the tourism industry is of vital importance to the Adirondacks.  In 2012, it was reported that tourism-related employment was 17.6% of all employment in the Adirondacks, accounting for 1.2 billion dollars (Tourism Economics: 30, 38). Due to, among other factors, the “Forever Wild” clause, there are no major factories or company headquarters within the Adirondacks.  Although these limitations keep the Adirondacks as “wilderness” land, they prevent the park from having the same types of economies as cities and suburban towns.

As seen, specific recreational activities can play a large role in small, local economies.  Paddling itself in the Adirondacks has significant economic impacts on the economy.  In 2007, the University of Vermont published a report on the economic impacts of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.  The trail was responsible for 90,000 tourists, totaling 12 million dollars (Pollock et. al.-UVM: Abstract).  Although there are parts of the trail that go through popular Adirondack towns, this is not the case for the entirety of the trail.  Parts run through isolated areas, which provide an opportunity to boost the local economy.  Paddling demonstrates how one such activity can utterly shape a local economy.


Works Cited:
1. "ecotourism." New Oxford American Dictionary. Eds. Stevenson, Angus, and Christine A. Lindberg. : Oxford University Press, 2010. Oxford Reference. 2011. Date Accessed 5 Feb. 2015 .
2. Murray, William H. H. Adventures in the Wilderness. Ed. William K. Verner. Syracuse, NY: Adirondack Museum/Syracuse UP, 1989. Print.
3. Rielly, Kimberly. "The Olympics’ Impact On Lake Placid." The Adirondack Almanack. N.p., 27 Jan. 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.
4. McKibben, Bill. "Future Shock: The Coming Adirondack Climate." Adirondack Life. Adirondack Life Magazine, Apr. 2002. Web. 29 Mar. 2015. .
5. The Economic Impact of Tourism in New York-Adirondack Focus. Economic Update Report. N.p.: Tourism Economics-An Oxford Economics, 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. .
6. Pollock, Noah, Lisa C. Chase, Clare Ginger, and Jane Kolodinsky. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail: Economic Impacts and Implications for Sustainable Community Development. Rep. Burlington, VT: U of Vermont, 2007. Print. PDF used from



1. Seneca Ray Stoddard/Wikimedia Commons (

2. William Murray (National Magazine/Wikipedia) (

3. By Mwanner (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons (