History of the Adirondack Guide

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Being a true 'Adirondack Guide' is more than a fun moniker a local can boast. It is actually illegal to accept money for guiding services in the Adirondacks without being licensed with the State of New York. The licensing process requires certain training and a rigorous testing process, which includes current certification in First Aid, CPR, and Water Safety (for paddling guides). Rock climbing, ice climbing, hunting, fishing, rafting, and whitewater kayaking guides are also required to undergo additional training and practice hours specific to their activity. There is also additional certification for guides specific to white water rafting and kayaking, as well as rock and ice climbing, and hunting and fishing.

History of the Adirondack Guide

People from the cities came to the Adirondacks as early as 1820 to fish and hunt. Residents of the Adirondacks soon realized they were needed by the tourists for their knowledge of the woods, and living in the wild. Adirondack folks knew where to hunt and fish; they knew how to build boats and shelters of native material; they knew how to cook what they caught and how to navigate and survive in the vast wilderness of the Adirondacks they called their backyards. These men and women began to hire themselves out to the visitors or “sports” as they called them.

By the 1850’s quite a number of native Adirondackers took up the guiding profession. They were responsible for everything about their “sport’s” comfort and welfare in the great North woods. They made all preparations and bought all the necessary supplies for a stay lasting anywhere from a week to a month or more. They furnished the boats and did everything to make sure the trip went well and the client was happy, including cooking every meal. Guides were also expected to entertain their guests with stories, a good many of which were tall tales, embellished more and more as they were told time and again. There is even a collection of tall tales published under the name “Tales From an Adirondack Couty”, as collected and edited by Aber and King. The Adirondack guide has been both romanticized and looked down upon. Many guides formed lifetime bonds with their “sports” and others barely tolerated each other.

Around the mid 1800’s the guides had developed a specialized boat for the purpose of transporting a “sport” and all the gear for a lengthy trip through the Wilderness. Known as the Adirondack guide-boat, it is revered to this day as a unique and versatile water transport vessel. The boats are still constructed by several local craftsmen in the Adirondacks. The guide-boat was fast and weighed little by the day’s standards. Now highly collectible, an original Adirondack guide-boat can fetch tens of thousands of dollars.

You can find a list of local guides on our Adirondack Guides page