What we experience—these hills, lakes, valleys, forests and rivers—must be understood as a single moment in the history of a continually-evolving landscape. The Adirondack Mountains are rising while the Taconic and Green Mountain ranges are slowly being eroded. The land beneath our feet is continually disturbed as the continental plates shift ever so slightly over long periods of time.
Millions of years ago, as these mountain ranges took shape on continental North America, a narrow band of slate, nearly eighty miles long, was formed along the Taconic range; creating the Slate Valley of Eastern New York and Western Vermont. The “Valley of Vermont” lies to the east of this region, and separates the Taconics from the Green Mountains. The Adirondacks rise thirty miles to the west, Lake Champlain lies to the northwest, and the Hudson River to the southwest.
The ecosystem of the Slate Valley shares characteristics with the St. Lawrence and Champlain Valleys as a transitional zone from the boreal forests of the north to the Appalachian deciduous forests of the south. This land of hills and valleys created opportunities, and obstacles, for the earliest inhabitants, as well as the Europeans who followed. The north-south axis of the mountain ranges and valleys made transportation and settlement difficult, impeded social and political organization, and created a region that is still found to be rather secluded from the outside world.
When slate began to be quarried in the mid-nineteenth century, the slate industry, and the people who came to work in that industry, had a profound effect on the physical and cultural landscape of New York and Vermont. Today’s communities of the Slate Valley reflect the heritage of the people who came to call this place home. The working landscape, dotted with charming villages, numerous small lakes and rivers, diverse wildlife habitats, and outstanding recreational opportunities creates a rich experience for residents and visitors alike.