I Live in a Massive Park; Bigger than all the Lower 48 National Parks Combined.

My brother-in-law, Jim Forsyth, owns a boatbuilding and repair business in the Adirondacks.

The Adirondacks is sort of a Rodney Dangerfield of American parks. In area it is larger than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier and Grand Canyon National Park combined, but few people see it for the treasure it is.

If National Parks are America’s best idea, I can only describe the Adirondacks as America’s stroke of genius. While National Parks are simply created by converting federal lands, the Adirondacks are a complex and dynamic interaction of public and private properties. Within its boundary about half the area is public property and the other half is private property. This occasionally causes friction and debate, but it should never be forgotten that there are no National Parks that were created without naysayers and often fierce resistance.

Regardless of the fact that the Adirondacks are this mixture of private and public land, when you are in the Adirondacks you know you are in a park. It is a place where people commune with nature, engage in various outdoor activities and generally have a good vacation time.

My wife’s family shares a beautiful camp in the Adirondacks and I have spent many a day there communing with nature.

We live on the northern New Jersey shore between two rivers that flow into the Raritan Bay. A fascinating place, where nature also pushes right up against our door. It is a different biome. Instead of moose and bobcats, we think in terms of whales, stripers, sharks and seals, but we also share ospreys, loons, bear, deer and eagles with those who live 250 miles to the North. We also happen to live on the Great Atlantic Flyway and have the benefit of having the cleanest waters probably since the early 1800’s.

Between my Brother-in-Law and me is one of the largest population centers in the United States in the form of New York City and environs. I know it well because when we travel between the family camp and our home, we try to time the trip to avoid the worst of the highway congestion between the two places.

As such, I used to think that I was traveling through a human ruined wasteland between two areas with exceptional natural beauty.

But recently I have become aware that I am wrong. Not a little wrong, I am totally wrong.

I actually live in one continuous park that runs from the Adirondacks, past New York City, past my house and all the way to the new Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary about 80 miles offshore.

While it is massive, it is also one of the most accessible parks in the world. It is served by three international airports with, as its entry hub, one of the most dynamic cities in the world.

Every park has its entry hub, this park just happens to have one of the best in the world. Whether in the parks in Africa, or here in the gateway to this park, in the bars visitors get to discuss the natural wonders they saw. In Africa that would just top out at elephants, here it tops out at whales.

It is one giant continuous park because one can explore the entire park in almost total self sufficient solitude, and everybody within the park is rarely more than a few miles away from true nature. Even those who live in one of most densely populated areas in the country, New York City, only have to walk to the water’s edge and will immediately be confronted with true wildlife, whether it is osprey, striped bass or even whales. From that point on they have continuous access to some of most carefully preserved natural areas in the world to enjoy remarkable self-sufficient natural solitude.

It is this solitude on the road or river less traveled that is the most striking feature of this giant park. Along its entire length from the Canadian border, along Lake Champlain to the East, along the Erie Canal to the West and as far offshore as the Hudson Canyon, it is all connected continuously by solitude and nature only occasionally interrupted by resupply points. Ashore this is a little more difficult to accomplish, but never forget that, for example, the Appalachian Trail crosses the Hudson and runs through New Jersey within sight of New York City. In many ways this giant park is a copy of the original Adirondacks as a mixture of public and private property. While, on a percentage basis, this much larger park has less public property than the Adirondacks, there is much more public property than we realize (The Hudson River itself, all of the water around New York City, Gateway National Recreation Area, Harriman Park, Bear Mountain, Palisades Park, the entire New York Canal system, and the list goes on, and on) and new public access is continuously being added while air, water, and wildlife quality are continuously improving.

Where the size and continuity of this park becomes immediately apparent is on the water. In August 2022, instead of traveling by car, we traveled to the Adirondacks by boat, and on our return, we detoured West along the Erie canal and found an incredible amount of nature, peace and solitude that we never engaged with when rushing between the Jersey Shore and the Adirondacks by car. To leave the Jersey shore, to travel by boat on the Hudson River past New York City and to arrive at Lake Champlain is actually one continuous trail of natural beauty only occasionally interrupted by humans. Most of all, it is to be enjoyed slowly. Very occasionally we met faster powerboats that rushed along to go somewhere, but just as often we met kayakers who were enjoying the grace, beauty and wildlife along the way as much as we were enjoying it.

Often we think of our world as overcrowded and ruined by humans, but that is because we do not engage with the opportunities to find solitude right at our doorstep.

Take the road less traveled, exercise your senses, and in this giant New York City Park you will find a lifetime’s worth of natural exploration.