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50¢ Visitors Guide here are few places in the world that offer more ways to play than New England. Carnival midways and fairs, horse racing and amusement parks, multiplex theaters and giant shopping malls. All the noise and neon that technology can bestow is within a short drive. Then there’s Ausable Chasm — a 150-foot cleft in the earth nearly two miles long, fringed with ancient evergreens, cool mosses and delicate wildflowers. Along its majestic walls, which cradle the Ausable River as it flows from the Adirondacks toward Lake Champlain, are the ages of history etched in rock. Half a billion years in the making and a favorite tourist attraction for more than a century, the “Grand Canyon of the East,” as it was dubbed a century ago, continues to draw 50,000 visitors each year to its serene, majestic vistas. They come for solitude, reflection, and the unspoiled beauty of one of America’s great natural wonders, preserved for eons in its natural state. Formed 500 million years ago during North America’s Cambrian period, Ausable Chasm was created by the spasms of the earth—ancient sandstone split by geologic faults and scoured by receding glaciers and rushing waters. DISCOVERY OF THE CHASM O n an October day in 1765 William Gilliland, late of County Armagh, Ireland, took a jaunt from his settlement on the Boquet River, exploring northward along the west shore of Lake Champlain. His bateau nosed its way up the sandy, twisting mouth of a river to still water below some rapids, from which he could see the lower end of a narrow gorge. His journal reads: “It is a most admirable sight, appearing on each side like a regular built wall, somewhat ruinated, and one would think that this prodigious clift was occasioned by an earthquake, their height on each side is from 40 to 100 feet in the different places; we saw about half a mile of it, and by its appearance where we stopped it may continue very many miles further.” Gilliland is perhaps the first European to discover the great Ausable Chasm, where Atlantic salmon spawned in great numbers to the delight of settlers. Saw mills, grist mills, paper mills and wheelwright shops soon sprung up, powered by the Ausable River’s strong currents. Thaddeus Mason made the mistake of building his saw mill below the falls, where the spring floods sent it tumbling toward Lake Champlain. By the early 1800s, a lucrative logging industry, fueled by the adundant pine forests of the region, saw the basin at the Chasm used as a dunking spot for logs. The giant logs, 80 feet in length, were piled at “rolling banks” along the river during the winter and rolled into the water at flood levels each spring by means of a log slide. Plunging dramatically into the waters, they floated downstream toward Lake Champlain for

Ausable Chasm Guide

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