“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
AuSable in Clinton County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

The Boats And The Boatmen

Ausable Chasm's "Famous Boat Ride" Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Doda, July 1, 2018
1. Ausable Chasm's "Famous Boat Ride" Marker
Seneca R Stoddard, eminent Adirondacks photographer and guidebook author, penned these words about the Ausable Chasm (Kaz' m] Best Ride in 1890—

"Through a cleft in the lower edge of Table Rock we descend and enter the large bateaux found waiting here for the passage through the Grand Flume and beyond Do not fear, are strong and serviceable to withstand the hard knocks they get at times, and in charge of stalwart boatmen who will guide us safely through the exciting passage below."

Now let us learn more about the "strong and serviceable” boats and "stalwart boatmen"...

The boat displayed is 30 feet long and can seat 30 people. It was built for Ausable Chasm in the 1970s by carpenter Dave Torrance of AuSable Forks, New York. Using a traditional design Torrance made several 30-foot boats to replace the Chasm's 24-foot boats Before the 1970s, most Chasm boats were built in Maine, based on the "Maine lumberman boat building tradition. Some early boats also came from Saranac Lake. New York. Size increased over time, capacity going from 10-12 (1870s-80s), to 20-24 (1890s-1960s), to 28-30 (1970s-1996).
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This type of boat is called a "bateau” [ba-toh], a sturdy flat-bottomed shallow draft boat with high pointed ends introduced in North America by 17th century French explorers and fur traders. In the 1800s, the bateau served the timber industries of the Adirondacks, Maine and elsewhere. On spring log drives crews in "logging bateaus” moved logs down rivers from forest to sawmill, breaking up jams as they went. Here in the Adirondacks, the logging bateau was called a jam boat. One Ausable River log drive went from the end of Ausable Chasm to Lake Champlain (3 miles). The bateau's stability with heavy loads, effectiveness on rivers and similarity to Adirondack jam boats made it well suited for Ausable Chasm s Boat Ride.

Adult males called "Boatmen” piloted the boats, whose weight (several tons full passenger load) and length required 2 boatmen per ride. The front (bow) boatman paddled and talked about the Chasm while the rear (stern) person paddled and steered. Working as a boatman at Ausable Chasm required excellent paddling skills to handle the mover's tricky currents, physical strength, teamwork, a love of the outdoors, and hospitality with an ability to entertain. The boatmen were local people familiar with the area's natural environment and history.

Skill at repairing the wooden boats was essential. Although boatmen were excellent
Ausable Chasm's "Famous Boat Ride" Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Doda, July 1, 2018
2. Ausable Chasm's "Famous Boat Ride" Marker
navigators, boats sustained their share of "knocks” from heavy use. Boats scraped rocks in the Rapids during low water and occasional bumps against rock walls damaged planking. In fall, winter and spring, boatmen repaired. re-sealed, and re-painted woodwork for the next season. Boatmen also monitored the river level, cleared rocks from the Rapids, and maintained the motorized cable boat haul system used from the late 1920s-1996 (see next panel).

The Boat Ride began in May (when spring high water subsided) and ran through October sometimes into November. For many boatmen, Ausable Chasm was a seasonal job that supplemented another occupation. Some were public school teachers with summers free to work here. Being a Chasm boatman was hard. physical work, but also rewarding and fun, with great camaraderie among the crew. Tumover was low — boatmen typically stayed at the Chasm for many years.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Parks & Recreational AreasWaterways & Vessels.
Location. 44° 31.501′ N, 73° 27.707′ W. Marker is in AuSable, New York, in Clinton County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Mace Chasm Road and U.S. 9, on the left when traveling west. Located behind the entrance to Ausable Chasm. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Keeseville NY 12911, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers
Ausable Chasm's "Famous Boat Ride" Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Doda, July 1, 2018
3. Ausable Chasm's "Famous Boat Ride" Marker
are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. What Is This Boat? (here, next to this marker); Ausable Chasm's "Famous Boat Ride" (here, next to this marker); How Did They Get Boats Back For The Next Ride? (here, next to this marker); Herbert Estes (within shouting distance of this marker); Our Freedom Bell (within shouting distance of this marker); Rainbow Falls Hydroelectric Plant (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Train Depot (approx. 1.4 miles away); Mineral Spring (approx. 1.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in AuSable.
Also see . . .
1. Ausable Chasm. (Submitted on November 28, 2020, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.)
2. Ausable Chasm (Wikipedia). (Submitted on November 28, 2020, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.)
Credits. This page was last revised on November 28, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 23, 2020, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 355 times since then and 132 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on November 23, 2020, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio. • Michael Herrick was the editor who published this page.

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Jun. 7, 2023