Open Space Institute buys Marion River Carry

BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE – The Open Space Institute announced Wednesday that it has bought the Marion River Carry, a historic portage in the headwaters of the Raquette River near the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake.

The carry drew attention in recent years after owner Dean Pohl announced plans to build several homes along nearby Utowana Lake. He vowed to leave the carry trail intact and publicly accessible, but the news still brought concerns from some that the land would one day not be open to the public. Paddlers still use the property to carry their boats around rapids, and the private landowners have traditionally permitted the public to use the carry.

The Open Space Conservancy, OSI’s land-acquisition affiliate, bought 295 acres overall in the Hamilton County towns of Arietta and Indian Lake. It includes the carry trail, about 280 acres of forest lands, 3 acres of the Marion River and 14.5 acres of Utowana Lake frontage. The nonprofit land conservation organization paid Pohl’s Marion River Carry Railroad Company Inc. $2 million for the land, OSI spokesman Jeff Simms told the Enterprise this morning.

“The potential for development made the Marion River Carry a higher, more immediate priority for conservation,” OSI President and CEO Kim Elliman said in a press release. “With this acquisition, we can now guarantee the continued availability of this historic and important public recreational resource.”

The carry has been used by Adirondack paddlers since at least the 19th century. The 4.5-mile Marion River connects Blue Mountain Lake to Raquette Lake via Utowana Lake and Eagle Lake.

In 1899, William West Durant built a rail line along the canoe carry, which, at 1,320 yards, was the shortest standard-gauge railroad line in the United States. Operating until 1929, the railroad carried tourist passengers between steamboats and to a country club Durant had built in the Blue Mountain Lake area.

More recently, the canoe carry has served as an important link in one of the Adirondack Park’s most popular canoe routes, the 90-mile Adirondack Canoe Classic from Old Forge to Saranac Lake.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation listed the property as an acquisition priority in its 2009 Open Space Plan. New York state has classified the Marion River as a scenic river.