new york state · photography

Ausable Chasm: “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks”

From the History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, New York by Duane Hamilton Hurd, published in 1880, here is an elaborate, beautifully worded description of Ausable Chasm in Ausable, New York:

The town [of Ausable] boasts some of the finest natural scenery to be found in the world – one of the most sublime natural curiosities, the Ausable Chasm, the favorite resort of numerous tourists, being situated in its southeastern section. The Great Ausable River, in its impetuous course to [Lake Champlain], here breaks a passage through the solid Potsdam sandstone, towering many feet above its bed, and follows a rugged and irregular channel for a distance of nearly two miles. At several places the river is compressed to a width of less than 30 feet. The river plunges into the chasm in a succession of beautiful falls of from 60 to 80 feet in height, and struggles through the tortuous channel, foaming and tearing and whirling over its rocky bed as though bent on freeing itself from the thraldom of the gigantic cliffs which overhang it. By means of artificial stairways, galleries, and bridges, erected and owned by a party of Philadelphia gentlemen, and by boats, this stupendous work of nature may be traversed its entire length.

This freak of nature is but one of a system of rents in the earth’s surface that extend over the northern portion of the State…. The walls, that are now from 10 to 15 feet apart, were undoubtedly some time united and solid; projections on the one hand are often faced by corresponding depressions on the other; layers of rock on one side are duplicated on the other. Professor Emmons, State geologist, found here petrified specimens of the lowest or first orders of animal life, and ripple-marks made when the rock was in its plastic state; above these, in successive layers, towers 70 feet of solid rock.

Popular with photographers (see Ausable Chasm on Flickr and Ausable Chasm on SmugMug), the Chasm is also often featured in landscape painting, including the work of Adirondack artist Emmett Pine (see Emmett Pine: The Keeseville Ausable Chasm and Lake Champlain Railroad), and Hudson River School painter Benjamin Champney (see Benjamin Champney: Ausable Chasm).

I took these photos from the bridge over the Ausable River and from the surrounding property. Select any of the images below to begin a slideshow.

Thanks for reading! More soon!

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2 thoughts on “Ausable Chasm: “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks”

  1. I’m pretty sure we went there when I was about 6 or 7 – hard to remember those road trips we took in the summer. Very nice write-up and photos! I love the power of the water, and those wonderful rocks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The rock formations are fascinating; many of them have names. In the book I linked to above, the names are listed and described (starting on page 206) … names like Pulpit Rock, Cathedral Rock, Devil’s Oven, Jacob’s Ladder, Mystic Gorge, and even Devil’s Punch-Bowl … how the names came about would be a fun historical study in itself. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

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