Ausable Chasm: A Winter Exploration

January 7, 2019

Put on your favorite fuzzy hat and gloves, because I’m about to take you on a two hour tour of the beautiful and breathtaking winter wonderland that is the U.S.'s oldest natural attraction.

Ausable Chasm offers many summer activities such as rappelling, casual trail walking and their super-cool Adventure Trail, but did you know they also offer guided and unguided winter tours of "the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks"? If you haven’t seen the roaring river on a perfect, wintry day, then you are missing out!

My mom tagged along with me on this adventure. On a 32 degree day in Upstate New York we were worried about staying warm, but after 30 minutes of walking we found that the light layers we were wearing were perfect for this active winter trek.

Ausable Chasm during the Winter

Winter tours can either be one hour or two, unguided or guided at 10AM or 2PM. Tours must be booked ahead of time by either calling or booking online and start at $17.95 per person (ages 8+). Going unguided is completely fine, but being our first time, we decided to opt for the guided tour and we highly recommend it! Our tour guide, Caleb, was amazing and gave us a different perspective on the Chasm then we would have gotten by just wandering on our own. The guided tour also allows access to the Inner Sanctum trail, which takes you further into the Chasm.

Ice cleats are also a must on these tours and are available for rent at the Chasm ($5 a pair). They made a world of difference when crunching around the fresh-fallen powder.

Ice Cleat Rentals at the Chasm

And with the proper footwear, we were off!

The first stop was a large mounted rock with bilingual signage standing next to it for all of those unguided tours. Caleb explained that this ancient sandstone slab and all of its ripples indicated a time when our area was covered by the Cambrian Sea well over 1,500 years ago!

The next stop was a similar sandstone rock with a bit of a mysterious background. Caleb explained the story of how these marks were made thousands of years ago by an animal with little claws and a narrow tail that dragged behind it. No fossil matching this description has been found in our area....yet!

After a few more minutes of beautiful scenery, we reached the famous Elephant's Head rock. We stood on a wooden deck hovering above the chasm, and looked to the other side where two major fault zones created this amazing rock formation that just so happens to look like an elephant's head.

Elephant's Head Rock Formation

My favorite part of our exploration was a tall cliff etched from calcium-filled sandstone rock, dubbed the “Post Office”.

If you're scratching your head as to why there would be a "post office" here, you're doing the exact same thing we did, but Caleb told us the reason for the name and its actually pretty cool. The calcium in the rock makes the sandstone soft and easy to inscribe on, which resulted in people leaving letters and notes stuck to the wall by pushing in pins and tacks. There were times when the entire cliff was covered in little weathered sheets of paper, hence making it look like a very disorganized Post Office. Now, people have just resorted to etching words and names into the rock. So next time you're visiting, be sure to leave your mark at the Chasm's Post Office.

Ausable Chasm's "Post Office"

As you can see in this picture, the side of the cliff has been weathered away,leaving hundreds of nooks and shelves as a testament to its easily worn nature.

Jacob’s Well is just a few staircases and another mind-blowing example of nature in its most creative forms. This literal hole in the solid rock of the cliff was weathered away from hundreds of years of sand and water swirling in a little eddy in the rock. Eventually, it was ground down to the size it is today: over two feet wide in places, and a good 8 feet down.

Jacob's Well

For those of you who have been rafting at the Chasm during the summer, you'll know that the rafts used are made of a tough rubber. Did you know that only a short time ago the rafts were made of wood? Thankfully, those boats were retired in favor of the safer ones used today. This part of the river is where the rafts are seamlessly lowered down the side of the chasm using a conveyor belt and pulley system.  In the past, the boats had to be manually carried up the side of the cliff and then driven on a truck back to the starting point. Can you imagine!?

Raft Landing (open during the Summer and Fall)

After this point, it was a light walk back around to the beginning, pinching off the loop by crossing another white-frosted bridge.

This was the last leg of the journey, and I can wholeheartedly tell you that this adventure was a great one! Definitely one of the most beautiful memories I have of winter on the Adirondack Coast. The crisp smell of the air, the vibrancy of the snow against the rock, sounds of crashing water from below...all things that are even more amazing in person.

Ausable Chasm has been operating since 1870, making it the longest operating natural attraction in the United States and whether its during the Winter, Summer or Fall, it is definitely worth the visit!

Thank you all so much for exploring Ausable Chasm with me. I hope you enjoyed your winter tour on the Adirondack Coast!

Emelia Lemza

Meet Emelia Lemza, Emmy for short! She is 15 years old and has lived in Plattsburgh, NY all of her life. She loves the area for its many local businesses, the friendly people in the community and, of course, beautiful Lake Champlain. You will find Emmy on the water most of the summer waterskiing, kneeboarding, jetskiing, taking photos and exploring the hidden gems that Lake Champlain has to offer. Oh and when she is not on the water, you can find her baking and eating just about anything with Nutella!

Adirondack Coast Adventures

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