Chesterfield is a very old town. The native Algonquin people were the original inhabitants. This area is still a rich source of fascinating structures with great appeal, both natural and man-made.
This classic example of an Adirondack water-powered mill community was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Locus of water power
As seen above, the famous bridges in the hamlet of Keeseville, part of the Keeseville Walking Tour, offer wonderful vantage points. There's a lovely loop walk across the main drive, through downtown, over a pedestrian bridge, and through the old industrial complex. Look for Classical, Gothic Revival, and Italianate design, many built from local river sandstone.
There's a gallery and rotating exhibits at Adirondack Architectural Heritage, which is downtown in a renovated horseshoe nail factory building. Ask about their tours throughout the historic areas of the Adirondacks.
Ausable Chasm has been an incredible natural attraction since 1870. I love exploring the deep gorge with the many layers of sandstone revealed by the action of the river over millenia.
The pump house and bridges across the river are a popular photography subject, and the walking trails throughout offer wonderful views. Strap on a harness for their adventure walks, and experience cable bridges, a cargo net climb, and edge walks.
In warmer seasons there are a number of adventure experiences, with biking, disc golf, rafting or tubing tours, and rock climbing. In winter, guided tours with snowshoes or ice cleats are available. This can be an equally spectacular time, with amazing frozen falls and ice structures up to 150 feet high.
The intersection of Adirondack rivers and Lake Champlain is one of the most utilized natural resources of the area, providing the earliest inhabitants with food and water, and powering the mills of the early Industrial Revolution.
Place in history
Near Ausable Chasm is the North Star Underground Railroad Museum, part of the Town of Chesterfield Heritage Center. The exhibits cover all aspects of the hidden history of the Champlain Line of the Underground Railroad, consisting of the Upper Hudson River, the Champlain Canal, and Lake Champlain itself.
This popular route north used all known transport — stagecoach and railroad lines from New York City and New England connected with steamboats, barges, and canal boats to reach nearby Canada.
One display features the story of Adirondack farmer John Thomas, who escaped from Maryland and got his own Adirondack Mountains farm. This multi-media production details the frightening journey slaves made to reach safety.
Another place to see snapshots of the past is the Anderson Falls Heritage House Museum, with its many early artifacts of the Industrial Revolution from the area. The Champlain Coast was an early adopter of the latest 19th century technology because of the abundant natural power sources and mineral resources.
The stunning cliffs of Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain offer excellent hiking to a fire tower with commanding 360-degree views. In 2008, a new trail was opened that was not as steep as the old one, giving more hikers access to the summit. Look for two ponds built by beavers and views of some massive rock ledges. There's a large parking area marked with a DEC sign.
The mountain is also one of the most popular rock climbing walls in all of the Adirondacks. Certain rock climbing routes are closed during peregrine falcon nesting season, as these raptors find the pocked rock walks just right as homes for their young.
The Port Kent ferry is one of my favorite ways to sightsee. Lake Champlain Transportation Company operates many ferries, but this one is the scenic cruise and the ferry has snacks and beverages. This one also lands in downtown Burlington, where there is seaside dining right at the dock, within walking distance of many attractions.
Wickham Marsh Wildlife Area is 862 acres of forest, wetlands, and Lake Champlain shoreline. There are plenty of trails for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and other outdoor delights. There are hundreds of acres of lively environment in the wetlands area, all rich with flora and fauna.
There's also a wheelchair accessible trail and observation platform, with an accessible trail and a bird conservation area kiosk. The observation platform sits 200 feet above the marsh on the top of a steep ridge, providing an 180-degree view of the marsh.
There's an osprey pole and nesting platform located where the marsh meets the grassland. Be sure to bring binoculars and a zoom lens.
For a town you might not have heard of, there certainly are a lot of reasons to come here.
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