Island In The Sky

Few places on Earth match the brutal conditions that define life on Whiteface Mountain.

The plants that still live on the 16 highest peaks of the Adirondacks once covered most of this region. Now they are living reminders of the ice age that buried this land. The Adirondack High Peaks are the last places you will see this life in New York. Dig In here, and see just how tough this mountain is, and explore stunning stories of survival in this harsh place.

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Live Whiteface Summit Cam

This current view is from the summit of Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks. Click or tap to get a full screen image. The image reloads every minute, so hit refresh to get the latest view.

If you are seeing white frost it means we have had some extreme weather. Staff travel only once a week to the summit to clear the window. Check out the view of Whiteface Mountain instead

Conserving Bicknell's thrush

A rare and threatened songbird survives on top of Whiteface. 

During summer the upper reaches of Whiteface Mountain are home to a small population of Bicknell's thrush. Brown and indistinct in plumage, this thrush may not look extraordinary. But, every summer birdwatchers flock to Whiteface to hear the Bicknell's flutelike song and to try to see the elusive bird in its native habitat. 

Fewer than 100,000 of these rare songbirds exist in the wild. Nearly a quarter of Bicknell's nesting habitat is in the dense spruce-fir thickets near Adirondack mountaintops, and Whiteface is one of the largest and most imortant sites. 

Whiteface Live View

This is a current view of Whiteface in New York's Adirondack Mountains. Click or tap the image to get a full screen version. The image reloads every minute, so hit refresh to get the latest view. The camera is sheltered by The Lake Placid Lodge.

You can see the mountain make its own clouds, watch winter storms, and then look at the view from the summit on our twin Whiteface Summit Cam. 

This view was captured by The Wild Center as a part of a NYS Scenic Byway Program project, managed by the Adirondack North Country Association, funded by the Federal Highway Administration and administered by the NYS Department of Transportation. 

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Visiting Whitefacek

You can visit the summit of Whiteface to see the highest museum exhibit in New York. The picture above shows the opening celebration.

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Whiteface in Winter

Check out the top of Whiteface in winter in these on site interviews about the science of life in this freezing and windy spot.

Bat Hockey

Whiteface is home to some serious athletes

Hockey goalies need fast muscles, and be able to catch things they can't always see. Watch this movie and see why any goalie thinking shutout would like to see like a bat.

A Mountain's Wake

Imagine you are standing on the peak of a great ship instead of a mountain. 

Ahead you see water rushing toward you and behind you see v shaped wakes. The only difference on Whiteface is that the water is air, and it moves while the mountain stays still. Like the moving ship Whiteface makes a wake too. Sometimes, when cloudmaking conditions are right, you can see the wake in the form of stripes of clouds trailing behind the peak.

The image above shows a similar wake, easy to see blowing off Amsterdam Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Image courtesy of NASA.

A World Wide Wind

One reason Whiteface is such a hard place to live is the wind, which can blow as fast as a major hurricane or typhoon. The picture here shows the North Pole in the center, the red line marks high elevation winds that can blow round the whole world, and smack into Whiteface. It's also the reason the mountain is home to measuring equipment that can detect pollution from across the Pacific ocean.

A Frozen Name

Why Whiteface?

Whiteface is unusual in the Adirondacks because it stands alone. That’s part of the reason for its name. In winter a glazing of white attaches itself to the mountains upper reaches. 

On cold nights when the wind blowing into Whiteface is just a breeze, the trees and structures on the mountain can be colder than the air. As the wind wafts by, the moisture in the air hits the cold surfaces, and like your breath blown onto a winter window pane, it turns to frost. That coating of crystals is why Whiteface's extra white peak often appears to shimmer in the winter sun.  

 

You Don't Need a Weatherman

...to know which way the wind blows.

These one-sided balsam firs tell you the direction of the prevailing wind. During winter, condensation in the air causes ice to build up on the windy side of these trees. The ice-covered branches get brittle and break off. New branches struggle to grow into the alpine wind, especially in winter when it carries blasts of gritty ice. But on the other side of the tree, where the branches are sheltered, they can continue to grow.

Easy to spot

Constant strong winds kill branches on the windward side, giving the tree a flag-like appearance, blowing away from the wind.

Forests have reclaimed the Adirondacks

If you faced north from the summit of Whiteface at the end of the 1800s, you would be looking at a landscape filled with patchy parcels of stumps as far as the eye can see. In that era millions of logs were cut and floated out of the region on rivers. As a result, forest fires became widespread and runoff from over-logged areas polluted the water supply for cities downstate. These concerns led in 1892 to the formation of the Adirondack Park, one of the first well-protected ecosystems on Earth. Logging is still an important part of the economy in the Adirondacks, but only occurs on a smaller scale on private lands. State protection and new logging practices have allowed the forest to recover.

Falcon Downhill Racer

The fastest olympic downhill skier would have a tough time competing with a bird that has a few million years of training under its talons.