About fifty-five tree planters at Lake Clear Junction, c. 1901-1910
New York State Archives
Address: Lake Clear

Other names: Lake Clear Nursery, Lake Clear Plantation

Year Founded: 1901

Malone Palladium, November 16, 1905

A Planted Forest.

[By A. Knechtel, state forester.]

The Forest, Fish and Game Commission has just finished the planting of a forest of evergreen trees on State land along the road between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. One hundred and seventy-five thousand trees were set out. Seventy thousand of these were put on land belonging to the State hospital at Ray Brook, and one hundred five thousand are about two miles west of Lake Placid. They are all within, easy sight from the road and add greatly to the interest of this popular drive.

Driving from Saranac Lake the first sight of the little trees, which, by the way, are about a foot tall, is to be had on approaching the hospital, where ten thousand trees are planted close to the roadside. To the left the trees are white pine. They are placed irregularly and spaced wide apart, eight to ten feet, so that they will grow into a grove with trees having stout branches.

To the right the trees are Scotch pine. They are planted close together as the object here is to produce timber trees. They are spaced only five feet apart and present a very pretty sight as they are set in straight rows each way. The trees in this plantation are intended to crowd each other in a short time so that they will grow tall and slender, and soon lose their branches. When they are full grown they will then furnish lumber free of knots— "clear stuff," as the lumbermen call it.

Threading pine seedlings into a "transplant board" for transplanting at Lake Clear, c. 1920
New York State Archives
Driving on past the Sanitarium one soon comes to a hill in the road, near the railroad station. From the top of this hill a fine view is afforded of a spruce plantation across the brook. This is the main plantation on the hospital property. Sixty thousand trees are planted there, in rows as straight as if they had been made by means of a rope stretched across the field. They were thus planted, however, by means of a few stakes set in straight lines. The trees are spaced four feet apart as they, like the Scotch pine already referred to, are intended when full grown to furnish clear lumber.

But the trees will not all become large. In five or six years the branches of each tree will touch those of its neighbors, and in twenty or twenty-five years they will be crowding one another so hard that more than half the trees will need to be removed. Those removed will make good hop poles. The trees remaining will soon close upon one another again and will need to be thinned out about every ten years. The last cutting is called by the foresters “the final harvest.” The crop will be mature about the year 1980. That is a long time to wait for a crop, but there is a good deal of it when it does come. Besides, the thinnings while the crop is maturing will build many a barn, even if they do not fill them.

Driving on towards Lake Placid, about two miles distant from the village the road format a place known as "Club Hill.” Here the hillsides for a distance of a mile are green with the little trees. For a long time these hills have lain barren and desolate. Now the living trees will not only make them interesting and beautiful, but they will be producing a crop that we shall sorely feel the need of long before it matures.

New York City and Hudson Railroad near Lake Clear Junction, c. 1910 The men are tree planters being taken to a reforestation site.
New York State Archives
Europeans, when they come here, are horrified at the wastefulness of wood. But they too wasted it until they were compelled to use it sparingly. And the time is close at hand when we shall be as parsimonious in its use as they. Like them, too, we are beginning to see that we must grow the wood for our future use.

The question naturally arises “where did the Commission get so many little trees?” Close to the Saranac Inn station, on the New York Central railroad is a tree nursery where millions of trees are being raised from seed. The seed is collected in the woods and sown the following spring in beds prepared much like those of a vegetable garden. The nursery can be easily seen by any one who will take the trouble to look out the car window when near this station.

The railroads have been the cause of much destruction to the forests. The forest fires have been due chiefly to sparks from the locomotives. It is interesting to note that now the railroad companies are lending a helping hand in the work of reforesting. While the plantation was being made this fall at Ray Brook the Delaware & Hudson Company furnished free transportation to the force of planters each day between Ray Brook and Saranac Lake.

Documents of the Senate of the State of New York, Volume 23, 1909, pp. 91-92

Saranac Inn Nursery. This one is located at Saranac Inn Railroad station, two and one-half miles from the hotel. It has a rectangular, area of two acres, inclosed by a substantial, well-painted picket fence. The transplant beds, laid out east and west, are four feet wide and forty feet long, separated by narrow, well-kept paths, with a wagon road running through the center. For sprinkling the beds in dry weather the inclosure is traversed by lines of galvanized iron pipes at convenient distances, fitted with hydrants to which rubber hose can be attached. The water supply comes from a large tank, placed on the hillside beyond the railroad, with a capacity of 5,000 gallons, and protected from the weather by a house, neatly built and painted. The tank is filled by a hydraulic ram a few rods away at the outlet of Little Clear Pond.

The soil in this nursery is sandy, free from stone or gravel and is underlaid with a bed of hard pan. To secure the necessary moisture and fertility 555 cubic yards of rich, black muck were hauled to the inclosure from time to time and thoroughly mixed with the soil. In addition, the ground received a liberal application of compost made from horse manure. This was expensive, but the thrifty growth of the plants has justified the outlay. There are no nurseries in this country or in Europe in which I have seen as fine a stock of seedlings or transplants. In short, this nursery has proved successful in the highest degree, and its appearance has evoked words of hearty commendation from the many foresters who have visited it for purposes of observation and instruction.

The stock in this nursery at this date consists of:

Four year-old transplants, White pine 21,000
" " " Scotch pine 90,000
" " " Bull pine 1,600
" " " Norway spruce 67,000
Three year-old transplants, White pine 66,000
" " " Scotch pine 86,000
" " " Red pine 13,000
Two year-old seedlings, White pine 6 beds
" " " Scotch pine 6 "
" " " Red pine 5 "
" " " Bull pine 1 "
" " " Norway spruce 6 "
One year-old seedlings, White pine 9 "
" " " Scotch pine 11 "
" " " Red pine 1 "
" " " Bull pine 2 "
" " " Native red spruce 1/3 "
" " " Norway spruce 2/3 "

Chateaugay Record, Friday, April 29, 1927

Large group of men planting trees in fields at Old Beaver Meadow near Lake Clear Junction, c. 1910
New York State Archives

Tree Nursery At Lake Clear World's Second

Founded in 1901 by the late C. R. Pettis, state superintendent of lands and forests, Lake Clear nursery of the conservation commission has grown to be the second [...] largest nursery in the world devoted to the growth of forest trees. There is only one other nursery that ranks ahead of it, the state nursery at Saratoga Springs. The third largest is at Lowville.

The season for shipping trees to parts of the state for transplanting is now at its height. An idea to what length tree growing has developed at the Lake Clear Nursery may be gained from the fact this nursery will have an output of 12,000,000 trees this year. The present season will eclipse all others at the nearby nursery.

Despite changeable weather of the spring, work has progressed rapidly. Pulling and shipping of trees from the nearby nursery began April 4. Shipments this season will comprise 4,000,000 three-year transplants and 8,000,000 two-year seedlings. Up to the present only a little more than 1,000,000 trees have been shipped. More than 100 persons are employed in getting the trees out and ready for shipment.

Trees raised at the nursery include red and white pine, Scotch pine, Norway spruce, white cedar and balsam. With the pulling of trees for shipment the ground is being simultaneously prepared for transplanting surplus seedlings.

F. E. G. Otis, foreman of the nursery, said that about 7,000,000 of such seedlings will be transplanted this season and sold next year as transplants. They are being transplanted at the rate of 200,000 a day. In addition to this work, there are 1,040 new seed beds to prepare and plant.

Trees sold at the nurseries for reforestation purposes to residents of the state are disposed of at less than cost of production as a means of encouraging the work. The price quoted by the state [f]or transplants is $4 per 1,000 and $2 per 1,000 for two-year seedlings.

In other years this nursery has been unable to supply the demand for trees, but this season there is prospect all orders will be filled.

Chateaugay Record, Friday, March 25, 1938

Village Fights Move To Close Tree Nursery

Faced with the loss of an employment depot that supplied jobs for more than 200 men for periods of several months each year, directors of the chamber of commerce of Saranac Lake formally protested the closing of the Lake Clear tree nursery.

Elimination of the state garden where millions of tiny evergreens are nurtured each year will also mean the loss of a valuable scenic park area that attracted hundreds of visitors each season. It is located on the improved Lake Clear highway and was a stopping off point for tourists and sightseers en route to the popular Fish Creek camp site.

Each spring from April 25 to June 1 the nursery employs more than 125 men taken from the national reemployment bureau in Saranac Lake and indirectly from the Harrietstown relief rolls. Employment to more than 75 men is given from September 1 to November 1. The nursery has an annual payroll of more than $25,000 and local officials estimate that most of that sum reaches Saranac Lake.

The bill for additional appropriations was introduced by Senator Charles Hewitt and Assemblyman Vincent. Despite this move the conservation department has already begun its program to abandon the nursery. The chamber directors thru Mayor Thomas P. Ward, learned that tools, sprinkling equipment and other state property have already been moved from the site and that it will be closed when the present nursery stock has been shipped out this spring.