Explore Saranac Lake's History
Discover the history of the Adirondack Park and more in Saranac Lake.

Early Days

Adirondack Guides & Guests on Lower Saranac Lake

The Adirondack region was initially used by the Native Americans to hunt and trap. It is thanks to these early settlers that this region is now called the "Adirondacks," meaning "bark eaters."

Growth in Saranac Lake was slow through the early 1800s. The economy at that time was based on logging as well as hosting and guiding 'sports' who came to hunt and fish. It began with the arrival of Jacob Smith Moody who settled here in 1819, and by 1856, Saranac Lake was home to just 15 families. 

Paul Smith & Theodore Roosevelt

In 1859, Apollos Austin Smith - known as "Paul" - opened a hotel on Lower St. Regis Lake. The hotel became well known as "Paul Smith's." One of his early guests was Theodore Roosevelt, who was elected Governor of New York in 1898. Roosevelt's stay in the area helped him become knowledgeable in environmental conservation, and he recognized the Adirondack Park as a great resource for forestry and wildlife.

Outdoor recreation became a mainstay of the region's economy and Paul Smith was hugely successful. He left his estate to his son, Paul, who then left the entire estate in his will to found a College named for his father. Today, more than a century later, Paul Smith’s College has a thriving campus, specializing in the culinary arts, forestry, hospitality, natural resources and ecology.

The Cure Era

Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau

Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau

By 1876, the village of Saranac Lake was home to 700 residents. Among them were Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, his wife, and their two children. Dr. Trudeau would quickly transform the Saranac Lake area. As an outdoor enthusiast who had come to love the forests and waterways, Dr. Trudeau suffered from tuberculosis. To his astonishment, his stay in the mountains cured his disease, thus forming the basis for a curing regimen that eventually established Saranac Lake as a "pioneering health resort."

In 1892, the Village of Saranac Lake was incorporated, and Dr. Trudeau became its first mayor. In the early 1900s the village grew into a prospering community and a fashionable destination - home to the world-renowned Trudeau Sanatorium, a dozen bustling hotels and a host of what became known as "cure cottages." In 1887, author Robert Louis Stevenson came to Saranac Lake to be treated by Dr. Trudeau, and the first annual Saranac Lake Winter Carnival was held to bring entertainment to the many people recovering in the village.

The Adirondack Great Camps

Wealthy families of the early 20th century discovered the beauty of the region and many built Adirondack great camps. They would invite their friends and families to spend memorable times in the Saranac Lake Area. Among the many well-known families who owned local great camps were the Rockefellers, Posts, Baches and Guggenheims.

Over the years, many famous figures such as Mark Twain, Christy Mathewson, Jack Dempsey, Al Jolson, Somerset Maugham, Albert Einstein, Bela Bartok, and Presidents William Henry Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, Calvin Coolidge and Bill Clinton have come to Saranac Lake for rejuvenation of mind, body and spirit. You can see many of these camps today by boating the various Saranac Lake's.

If you're looking to really dive into our cool history plan a visit to Historic Saranac Lake & Saranac Lake Laboratory Museum.


 Adirondack Attractions & Events

Nestled between the villages of Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake is the largest village in the Adirondack Park with just over 5,000 year-round residents. It is also home to the largest hospital in the park, an airport, theatre, studios, galleries and shops.

Saranac Lake has 170 former cure cottages listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places, making the village a great attraction for lovers of history and architecture. Historic Saranac Lake is a not-for-profit organization historical preservation group that also houses a local museum. The village's traditions continue today: every year the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival kicks off its ten day celebration on the first Friday in February.

Take a Saranac Lake walking tour and explore the area’s historic park system. Created by the same firm that designed New York City's Central Park, the Olmsted Brothers, Saranac Lake's park system is owned by the Village Improvement Society, a not-for-profit volunteer group that has cared for the park since 1910.

Experience the local culture and the surrounding wilderness of this year-round destination and see why Saranac Lake is the Adirondacks’ coolest place! Browse the area’s lodging options to start planning your Adirondack getaway!

Blog Topics...

A Trail Across the Treetops Don't miss the Wild Walk at the Wild Center this summer!

Upcoming Events

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Don't miss this great opportunity to try before you buy from the best names in canoes, kayaks, SUPs, and paddles. Our trained staff will help you choose the boat or board that's right for...

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

The 10.5 mile flatwater races start at 11am at Ampersand Bay Resort on Lower Saranac Lake. Paddlers go southwest to Bluff Island, where they turn south into the Saranac River. Competitors then...

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Beginning in March, semi-monthly Game Nights will be held at Saranac Village at Will Rogers (March 11 & 25, April 8 & 22 and May 13 & 27). This redesigned Game Night was organized with...

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Don't miss this great opportunity to try before you buy from the best names in canoes, kayaks, SUPs, and paddles. Our trained staff will help you choose the boat or board that's right for...

Recent Blog Posts...

Monday, May 22nd, 2017
A changing landscape Spring is an amazing time of transition in the Saranac Lake Region of the Adirondacks. For the past few weeks Wren and I have been exploring it on our daily – and...
Monday, May 15th, 2017
Submitted by Guest Blogger: Tyler Merriam June is the sixth month of the year — hopefully by then you’ve uncovered your kayaks and pulled the canoe out of the garage. Paddling season has...
Tuesday, May 9th, 2017
The Fast Pace of Spring I know that it shouldn’t, but May always seems to sneak up on me. Or at least it feels that way. The pace of spring accelerates day after day as I reach one of my busiest...
Tuesday, May 9th, 2017
One of the fun things about spring hiking is getting first crack at the wildflowers. Some of them bloom quite early. We also need to stay below the 3,000-foot limit which keeps fragile trails and...
Fly to Saranac Lake via Cape Air The Adirondack Regional Airport, your "Gateway to the Adirondacks," provides quick and convenient access to and from Logan International in Boston, MA. Daily flights are provided...
Join In Our Cool Adirondack Traditions Our scenic location, rugged beauty, and abundant wilderness led the small village of Saranac Lake into the cool ways of life we still observe today.