|Dates & places of birth and death||1847-1920|
Verplanck Colvin (1847–1920) was a lawyer, author, illustrator and topographical engineer whose understanding and appreciation for the environment of the Adirondack Mountains led to the creation of New York's Forest Preserve and the Adirondack Park.
In 1865, when Colvin was 18, Alfred Billings Street gave him a copy of his 1860 book, Woods and Waters, about his adventures in the Adirondack Mountains. The next three years, Colvin spent his summers exploring the Adirondack wilderness. By 1869, he had formed the idea of doing a geological survey of the Adirondack region. To gain experience, he recruited friend Mills Blake for a trip to nearby the Helderberg Mountain; he wrote an illustrated report of the trip that was published in Harpers New Monthly Magazine, a national publication.
During the summer of 1869 he climbed Mount Marcy, and in 1870 made the first recorded ascent of Seward Mountain. During the ascent of Seward, Colvin saw the extensive damage being done by lumbermen in the Adirondacks. His report of the climb was read at the Albany Institute, where it garnered the attention of state officials, and was printed in the annual report of the New York State Museum of Natural History. In it, he tied clear-cutting of Adirondack forests to reduced water flow in the state's canals and rivers, an idea that had first appeared in George Perkins Marsh's Man and Nature, published in 1864.
In 1872 he applied to New York for a stipend to cover the costs of a survey; he was subsequently named to the newly created post of Superintendent of the Adirondack Survey and given a $1000 budget by the state legislature to institute a survey of the Adirondacks. He was an able administrator, managing crews of up to 100 men separated by difficult terrain with only primitive communication methods. He also designed and built some tools for the job, including a folding canvas boat, and a wind powered spinning reflector to enable precise sighting of a mountain top from many miles away.
During the first year he discovered Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds, the source of the Hudson river. He directed surveying parties throughout the Adirondacks and determined the altitudes of most of the highest peaks, becoming obsessed with his task. Determined to fix the precise altitude of Mount Marcy (having decided that the barometric method of determining altitude was insufficiently accurate) he ran a series of eight hundred chains and levels over forty miles long from Lake Champlain to Marcy, each intermediate altitude being calculated to one thousandth of an inch. As the crew approached the summit of Marcy, they encountered an October snow storm with ice and freezing rain; despite urging by his guides and assistants to wait for better weather, Colvin pushed on despite the danger of becoming trapped in Panther Gorge.
In 1873 he wrote a report arguing that if the Adirondack watershed was allowed to deteriorate, it would threaten the viability of the Erie Canal, which was then vital to New York's economy, and that the entire Adirondack region should therefore be protected by the creation of a state forest preserve. He was subsequently appointed superintendent of the New York state land survey, which led to the creation of the Adirondack Forest Preserve in 1885. His work ended in 1900 when then Governor Theodore Roosevelt transferred his duties to the state engineer.
|Places of residence||
|Titles & Honors||Superintendent of the Adirondack Survey, 1872|
West Point Academy