Featured Map: Big Moose Lake

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FEATURES & STATISTICS
Contour Interval
165 ft
Highest Elevation
2880 ft
Lowest Elevation
880 ft
Map Area
93.5 sqmi
Centerpoint Coordinates
43.757112, -74.822121

Early Development

Big Moose Lake is at the head of the Moose River, about five miles north of Old Forge and Fourth Lake in the Adirondacks. While undoubtedly being a popular tourist destination, the lakeshore is known for being less developed than others in the area. When the area became more easily accessible by rail upon Big Moose Station’s opening in 1892, large private homes and resorts were built, many of them in the palisade architectural style featuring walls made of vertical half timbers. The outside of the logs are still rounded and covered in bark to face the elements while the inside sanded and varnished for a finished look. Building with unmilled wood was more practical and the vertical half timbers provided more surface area than traditional log cabins. The Waldheim resort, established in 1904, is a prime example of the style.

Fishing and Lake Acidification

Fishing is popular on Big Moose Lake, though, for a time the activity was threatened by acidification of the many of the regions lakes. With the increase of industrial activity in the northwest beginning in the late 1800s, coal combustion released large quantities of sulfur dioxide into the air which transformed into sulfuric acid and in turn acid rain. In the 1970s park rangers detected an increase in lake water acidity and the dying off of their many species of fish. 

Historical records of Big Moose Lake’s pH level were available as far back as 1760 providing data showing the effect of the sulfuric acid. The effects have been largely mitigated by Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 which targeted acid rain and required sulfur dioxide emissions to be significantly reduced.

W.M. Stigliani (1988). Changes in valued capacities of soils and sediments as indicators of nonlinear and time-delayed environmental effects. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment.

The Murder and Haunting

One of the unique stories of Big Moose Lake is the reported haunting of Grace Brown who was murdered in 1906. The story has been portrayed in plays, songs, a movie, novel, and an episode of Unsolved Mysteries in 1996. Grace moved away from her family home in 1904 at the age of 19 to work in the Gillette skirt factory. There she met and began a secret relationship with the owner’s nephew Chester Gillette. His social status made him unwilling to publicly be involved with a factory girl. 

In 1906 Grace became pregnant, which at the time for an unwed woman was a tragic affair. She begged Chester to marry her in letters until in July he took her on a romantic getaway to the Adirondacks. Expecting to receive a proposal or perhaps be married on the trip, Grace joined him as they visited Utica and Tupper Lake before heading to Big Moose Lake. A few days into their trip they took a rowboat from the boathouse at the Glenmore Hotel onto Big Moose Lake where Chester struck Grace in the head causing her to fall out of the boat and ultimately drown. Chester was arrested soon after her body was discovered and later sentenced to death by electrocution.

More to explore

Featured Map: Fulton Chain of Lakes

The chain of lakes’ namesake, Robert Fulton, is credited with the first commercially successful steamboat, the Clermont. In 1807 the boat traveled 300 miles roundtrip up the Hudson River from New York City to Albany and back in 60 hours, changing river traffic and trade in America. – Learn about Robert Fulton, the Lake Formation and History, and Tourism and Recreation.

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