Saranac, New York, on the western edge of Clinton County, is the gateway to the northern Adirondacks. The Town includes several small hamlets, the most conspicuous of which are Saranac and Redford. Through it runs the Saranac River, which begins at the Saranac Lakes and empties into Lake Champlain at Plattsburgh. The River has been the focus of the area's life for more than 200 years; at first for access (before roads) and for log drives; then, after the building of dams, for water-powered industry; and now for electric power and recreation.
In the first half of the 19th century the Redford Crown Glass Works made high quality plate glass that sold throughout the nations. Its employees, after hours, used leftover glass to make the beautiful glassware still eagerly sought by collectors. Dams downriver from Redford powered iron forges, of which there were no fewer than five in the late 1800's. Saranac iron, praised for its quality, was used in the construction of Civil War ironclad warships such as the Monitor. Ore was mined at Lyon Mountain and at other Saranac sites. The stretch of the River now called Saranac Hollow was a busy place with ancillary industries and businesses such as logging, charcoal kilns, rooming houses, entertainment facilities, and hauling.
Near the end of the 19th century production of iron in the North Country became uneconomic, partly because of depletion of the forests that had supplied fuel for smelting, and the foundries expired one by one. Dairy and potato farming replaced them, and, although the family farm has become a rarity everywhere, Saranac retains "niche" farms raising beef cattle, sheep, draft houses, pigs, poultry, and even llamas and deer.
Saranac's rolling hills and roads with striking mountains and valley views invite the tourist, whether by automobile, bicycle, or on foot, into the Adirondacks. The famous Saranac River, its quiet pools and miles of gentle flow punctuated by rapids and falls - including the famous High Falls - entices the fisherman as well as the sightseer and offers many points of public access with parking areas. True Brook, joining the Saranac at Moffitsville, is a precipitous, fast-flowing trout stream whose huge boulders provide refuge for the "big ones."
In past years August saw the annual Flat Water Canoe Race, which began at the bridge at Pickett's Corners in Saranac Hollow, still a favorite place for individual canoeists and kayakers to paddle downstream to the Cadyville beach. The Redford Picnic, known locally as the Fifteenth of Redford, is a mid-August community gathering (visitors welcomed) over 150 years old, which features a hand-carved carousel reported to be the country's oldest still in regular operation. Winter brings cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. No fewer than three snowmobile clubs groom many miles of trails. Every Wednesday evening throughout the year the Saranac Fiddlers play old time country music at the Church of the Assumption gym in Redford. At the beautiful and historic United Methodist Church, Hill and Hollow Music presents a classical chamber music series.
Within the Adirondack Park under the brow of Lyon Mountain, in sight of Whiteface Mountain, blessed by its river, Saranac is often missed by the tourist speeding along Route 3 from the Northway to Saranac Lake or Lake Placid. But it is an area of unsurpassed beauty where a surprise waits 'round a corner to greet first-time visitor or long-time resident. Take the time to stop and look.
- Jan Couture - Email
Saranac Town Historian