The First Life: Natural Forces and Native Peoples

Charlotte Whale. Courtesy of the University of Vermont.

Charlotte Whale. Courtesy of the University of Vermont.

Natural Forces

Dramatic geological forces built Lakes to Locks Passage. When the earth was young, the rocks of the Adirondack Mountains to the west lay by a warm seashore. Buried by the first in a series of continental collisions, they have risen to the surface again, compressed to a crystalline beauty. Rifting tore the land apart, so the sea returned. Sandy beaches formed golden sandstone. Sea sediments built layers of lime-stone embedded with fossils. Then another collision added New England to North America.

Sheets of ice shaped the contours of the present landscape. Glaciers a mile thick rounded off mountains and gouged out the Lake George and Champlain valleys. Melting water filled glacial lakes to 500 feet above the present water level before finally finding an outlet to the north. The sea returned for a time until the earth’s crust rebounded from the weight of ice, leaving a series of connected waterways that form an inland Passage.

Charles Bird King, “Joseph Brant (Mohawk),” from Thomas Loraine McKenney and James Hall. History of the Indian tribes of North America. Philadelphia: E. C. Biddle, 1836-1844.

Charles Bird King, “Joseph Brant (Mohawk),” from Thomas Loraine McKenney and James Hall. History of the Indian tribes of North America. Philadelphia: E. C. Biddle, 1836-1844.

Native Peoples

People have only been here since the glaciers melted. Paleolithic hunters moved north with the edge of the glacier twelve thousand years ago, following big game like mastodons and giant beaver. Migrating ducks followed the Passage on their long flights north, providing a bountiful source of food in spring and fall. About a thousand years ago, Woodland people began to grow crops and establish village sites alongside streams and lakes.

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