A lot of people have asked me why I chose the name“Marion River” for the company. It is a simple story but one that I enjoy telling.
Growing up I had an excellent friend whose family had vacationed on Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks for decades. I was very fortunate that they took me every year to summer with them at a cabin there. As a young man I greatly enjoyed boating on the beautiful lakes and, as someone who has always had an interest in history, the area is saturated with it.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was the playground for millionaires who would make an arduous journey by rail and then overland by stagecoach on primitive roads to reach pristine chains of lakes. Names like Roosevelt, Firestone, Edison, and Ford were common there, and luxurious hotels began to emerge to cater to these affluent customers. The Prospect House, a fantastic 300 room hotel finished in 1882, was the first in the country to have an electric light in every room. It is rumored that Thomas Edison himself even installed some of the wiring.
Guides would take hunters and fisherman (colloquially called “sports”) to and from the various camps and hotels via the workhouse of lake craft – the Adirondack guideboat. One of the defining qualities of guideboats is that, despite their size, they are incredibly lightweight and easily portaged. This was a necessity in a region that contained chains of
lakes that did not always have a navigable waterway to connect them. The boats would have to be pulled out and carried to the next put in on the shoulders of their guides
The Marion River connects Raquette Lake to Utowana Lake and, in its natural state, had a set of small rapids that necessitated a portage of the boats. By 1879, as the tourist trade increased, the river was dammed to decrease the length of the carry and to allow steamboat travel from Raquette Lake to move farther toward Utowana. However, there was still a ¾ mile land trail which was unavoidable. In 1900 tracks were laid and small steam locomotive imported from Pittsburg. Visitors could now traverse Raquette Lake by steamboat, board the shortest standard gauge railway in the United States, and then pick up another boat in Utowana to steam all the way through Blue Mountain Lake.
The implementation of this system makes it unique to the Adirondack region and perhaps the world. So in honor of the Marion River Carry and its unique story, I picked the name. Although the fancy hotels, railway, and steamboats have all faded into history, it makes me smile to think of a time when guideboats plied the pristine waters of cool mountain lakes with well-appointed passengers and the promise of a relaxing summer. In recreating these beautiful boats, I hope that with every pull of the oars you can feel a little bit of this wonder no matter what waters you travel.
1903 United States Geological Survey map.
Photograph of Prospect House courtesy Adirondack Experience Museum, Blue Mt. Lake, NY.